It’s 11:21pm and I’m sitting here at my computer watching seconds tick away in the top right corner of my fairly recently purchased iMac computer, and I can’t help but be overwhelmed by a sense of….utter cluelessness. I am 25 years old, but really still feel like I was in college, high school, junior high, elementary school…just the other day. I was thinking tonight, man, I wonder if I could go back in time to the moment that my Dad asked me if I would like to go on a hunting trip to South Dakota, would I say no? I nearly did. I really didn’t think I could do it, with homework deadlines approaching and a lot of reading to do, not to mention the financial cost of getting my license and all the gear that I would need to acquire to replace my outgrown stuff. Then my Dad said in his sly way something along the lines of “weeeell maybe your mom and I could assist you a little bit…” and it became a reality.
Of course they didn’t assist me a little bit, they paid for every penny of the trip. I didn’t have to spend anything at all. I’m no genius but when you are 25, married, and in Seminary and your parents offer to pay for ANYTHING, there is only one answer. That answer is YES, PLEASE. I’m not going to spend any time on the hunting that we did, or the walking through fields, or the beauty of God’s creation on a crisp fall day with no sign of civilization in sight, but believe me I could. Instead, I’ll answer my initial question. Knowing what I know now…would I still do it? And the answer is an unequivocal yes. Not much compares to a hours-long drive down on a hunting trip with your Dad, even if you don’t agree on everything. I still remember driving to different hunting spots with my Dad, particularly one trip to Burman, Nebraska (population approximately 7). As I sat in the passenger side of the Jeep with my Dad this time, with Blade in the back, we talked about theology, family history, we laughed and cried…well we didn’t cry, this isn’t a Lifetime Network Movie, but we laughed and had many serious discussions as well. We talked economics and social justice and then listened to some intellectual podcasts and nodded affirmation at different times, and also at the same times, but really what we did, was communicate. We fellowshipped. It is a rare experience for a lot of 25 year old sons to have real genuine fellowship with honest conversation when their Dad is concerned, me included.
So that being said, I wouldn’t take the pellet out of my eye if it meant that I wouldn’t have been able to experience those moments with my Dad.
If I have learned anything from this experience, it is that life does not always go your way. At least in the traditional sense. But I have also found that my faith in God has given me the resilience to withstand earthly trials. To be honest, as I’ve said to numerous people the past few days, I greatly surprised even myself with how I reacted to this situation. I mean, I am the kid who would quit a race as an elementary age student if I wasn’t close enough to the lead. Not only would I quit, but I would run off the race track crying a mixture of angry and sorrowful tears, trying to figure out if there was a way I could be sure that all those guys who were faster than me were cheating like I knew they had to be. I lived my life aghast at the unfairness of it all. Now take that kid, keep in place those same feelings, and introduce him to Jesus Christ as a 22 year old in Rome. I feel that I began the process of meeting Jesus Christ while cowering in Rome, drowning thoughts of home in alcohol, doing my best to put on a good front while wavering uncontrollably as I found myself woefully inept at living out this flimsy five-dollar faith that I had clung to since preschool. I felt the utter lostness I had never felt before, as I struggled with the dichotomy of my life at the time: In my nerd heaven, the “Eternal City” of Rome…while really just struggling to get outside of myself most of the time.
Upon my return home, I flailed at this and that, I tried to be a “good example” time and time again, even returning to youth ministry with the junior highers at my church. But it kills me to this day that even then I was still trying to manufacture goodness out of a tragically incomplete picture of my Savior. My Savior. Who? I had the lingo down, but my heart was too busy blaming other people for the woes I had and continued to experience.
Then, I experienced life, not all at once, but gradually. It was as if my bones were the dry bones in Ezekiel. My dry bones were slowly coming back to life. It wasn’t the friends I had, or the girl I was dating, or memories fading, but it was Jesus Christ that was filtering into my life and completely altering my perception of the world around me, but more importantly, my perception of who I was. God’s grace became not an abstract idea, but a felt, touched truth. I was born again, and although the exact moment when I trusted Jesus Christ with my life and truly understood what he had done because of me and for me on the Cross was in a single moment of time, it was a process that started completely out of nowhere. You could call it my life’s equivalent of the big bang. But that is just the thing. It isn’t just a “big bang,” it is a providential moment that my Father in heaven had prepared for me from day one of my life and even before.
Now I ask myself again, would you take the trip back? What if you could go back to ten seconds before you got shot, and turn and run the other way, thus avoiding harm??? Good question. NO.
You see this whole eye injury is certainly not fun, and I most certainly am not looking forward to heading into surgery tomorrow (perhaps that is part of why I am writing this…), but I have seen with my own eyes, the fruit of God’s grace in my life through this trial. Surely there have been other moments where God has had astounding grace towards me, never in my life have I ever experienced what God has allowed me to experience in the 9 days or so.
I cannot explain in words how humbling it is to see the vast number of people who have touched base through facebook, text message, voicemail, phone call, or any other means (EVEN SNAIL MAIL! I’m looking at you, Abbey Schmitz), just to let me know that they are praying for me. I hope that I am not alone in seeing just how rapidly the body of Christ has gathered me up in prayer since this happened. Family, friends, “facebook friends”, people I don’t even know…it is just remarkable, and using words to convey it seems so inadequate.
I’ll finish up with this. Tomorrow I go into surgery, and I know full well the risks that are involved. It is surgery, after all. I may never regain full sight. Or any at all. Or I could deal with constant pain the rest of my life. I could lose my eye. I could even lose my life (Highly unlikely). Regardless of the outcome of surgery, this experience has blessed me inexhaustibly. So I have a challenge for you, the reader. If the worst happens, or even not the best, don’t have a pity party for me. Don’t send me a sorrowful letter explaining that you have sympathy for me and my poor eye. Rejoice at the working out of God’s grace in my life through the prayers that have been offered up to my perfect heavenly Father, who knows more than anyone ever could just how much He needs to work on me in order for me to fully trust in Him.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” -Hebrews 12:28-29
So now I bid the internet adieu. Continued prayers are welcome, both for surgery, and the aftermath. God is good, and He always will be. Rejoice in that. Amen.