We have a friend, a friend of Tracy's from college, who has an illness that keeps her in constant pain, real pain, unbearable pain. It started with an accident probably 10 or more years ago. Doctors can't stop the pain. Nothing works, spinal blocks, nothing. She lives that way every day. Committed Christian family. Pain all day, every day, doesn't stop. It has changed her. How could it not?
My dad: back and neck problems so severe, he is never out of pain and he can't work; came from that pull-yourselves-up-by-your-own-bootstraps-take-care-of-yourself-make-your-own-way generation; proud man who lost the opportunity to engage that which his generation said is what gives you pride. Then he gets throat cancer and loses his vocal cords. Then, essentially home bound, he is one of less than a hundred in Texas to get West Nile Virus. What in the world? Now, he requires assistance for basic tasks.
You know this page could be chock full of more examples.
"There but for the grace of God...".
"I complained about having no shoes until I saw a man with no feet".
I'm sure there are more maxims, but you get the point. Tracy and I have been blessed by God and man for the extreme circumstances we have been through. Admittedly, they are extreme in the sense that it is a relatively rare occurence. It is life changing, dramatic, traumatic, time and energy stealing, debilitatingly expensive, emotionally and spiritually challanging and so much more.
Our experiences, however, have been easy. They have been easy, because God allowed it to be easy and you have supported us in every way. We have been complimented on how well we have dealt with this event. We are not heroes of faith. We have been carried through this whole deal by God through your prayers. We have ridden on a wave of God's love expressed in and through His people. What if God gave us the harder path? What would we do, what would you do, if this went on for 10 years? What would I do, what would you do, if for the next many years, Tracy required constant attention? And what if she had a bad attitude about it, because that was just part of it? How long before it got old? How long before the help and assistance offered got to be a burden? What about those people whose challanges are not physical but emotional? What about those who have weak characters - they drink too much or gossip or are stupidly arrogant because they are so ego needy - because somewhere in their lives, they were hurt, and they have not accepted the strength to overcome it, yet. What about those who live in fear and those who love their things?
Are we blessed because we believe? What about those who believe, but do not receive the blessings? It is the Daniel vs. Jeremiah condition? One, an exalted prince, the other a prophet in a dungeon. Which servant of God would you choose to be?
Forgive me, please. You can see I am rambling some. But we are not special. We are just one of the many who have needs...and our needs are not so pertinent as some...and we have been incredibly provided for by this family of God in ways that make this easy, not desireable, but manageable. Tracy said the other day that she was concerned that she was forgetting to consider God, not in an eternal or angry sense, but because of the difficulty of the constant irritations of her eye, not being able to bend, being tired all the time, spinal fluid leaking, and all the stuff with which she must attend to with this condition. It must be a literal, active effort to "keep your eyes on Jesus" when it hurts, or it's hard, or you keep losing ground or get beat down by life, health, work, parents, whatever anyone's particular struggles are.
Everyone has something. And everyone's something is as bad for them as someone else's something is for them. That may sound kind of weird, but the point is our tragedies are relative to our ability to handle them and what we are given to handle them with. For instance, Tracy and I have been held gently in your praying arms and thus our struggles are lighter. But, you know that not everyone gets that. Jesus said, "the poor will always be with you." I think Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and goats, shows us that this is true about the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, etc. also. There will always be those with needs, of some kind. And Scripture also shows that not every believer lives as an exalted prince during their time on earth.
So, what is this all about, Jeff? I'm not exactly sure, except that for the last 3 weeks I have had all my focus on handling our issues. And as we begin to surface, I see everyone else... Oh, wait, a weird image popped up: The Titanic is sinking. I put all my effort into saving my family and other people help me. That is my whole world until I have them essentially safe. Then I look around at all the other people bobbing in the water and know they are struggling, too. Imagine the scene: some are just floating in the water; some on wrecks of wood, or whatever; some in lifeboats; some to afraid to jump from the sinking ship, and on and on in your own imagination. Remember Francis Schaffer's question: How shall we then live?
Maybe I am feeling a little guilty, because we got it so good. We don't deserve it this way. We didn't do anything to merit this abundance. Once again, it sounds a lot like salvation. But there are others who don't get to have it this way. I don't know why. It just is.
Here is what I know. Tracy and I have been extremely blessed; by God and by His people, we have been given the light burden (Matthew 11:28-30). We have believed His word and lived in the promises of His peace and strength. We lose sight sometimes, but God has never lost sight of us. So what do we do? Love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. This sums up the Law and the Prophets.
I could go on and on, but it's afer midnight and sometimes you just gotta stop.
See you guys Sunday, I hope.