365 days ago today, I went through the worst physical pain of my life. It was a Tuesday afternoon. Out of the blue, with no warning, I had an attack of acute colonic diverticulitis along with an abscess and perforation in the colon. As I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, I experienced such pain I thought I would die. I nearly did. I recall very little about the first few days in the hospital. I later learned that the doctors administered major antibiotics in an attempt to fight off my fever and to keep the infection from reaching my blood stream. I spent 9 days in the hospital, and by God's grace, I lived through the ordeal. After another flare-up of diverticulitis 3 months later, the doctor recommended colon re-section surgery. The surgery occurred 4 months after the initial episode and my recovery was complete earlier this year.
I didn't plan for any of this to happen. I didn't want any of this to happen. The doctors have assured me that there is nothing I could have done to keep any of this from happening. They don't know what caused it. Yet, it was a consuming physical battle that took quite a toll on my aging body. I don't think I can expect to operate at the pace I did before. It is a whole new life season.
In addition to the physical ordeal, I've experienced a roller coaster of emotions over the past year. It's frightening to experience pain that could take your life. Additionally, it's worrisome to wonder if you are ever going to feel OK again. I've had some amazing emotional highs as I've experienced relief from pain and healing after surgery. But, I've also had some deep lows. I'll spare the details but at the same time I was going through my physical challenges, major decisions were made regarding my role at the church where I pastored for 32 years. It was one thing to deal with what was happening physically. But I also struggled with what was happening regarding my calling to shepherd the flock entrusted to my care. Through tears and deep anguish of soul I tried to cope with all that was happening around me. Some days, I handled it well. Other days, it handled me. My body wasn't the only thing that needed healing. So did my heart.
The combination of the physical and emotional challenges led to spiritual challenges as well. As I wrote on my blog earlier, I was never mad at God. But I wondered what He was doing. I also wondered what His people were doing. As a shepherd of souls for so long, my soul needed shepherding. Yet, it was elusive. Thank God, I have a deeply devoted and spiritually vibrant wife who kept pointing me back to the Word and prayer. Good friends did the same. Yet, as we cried out to God, there were long periods of silence. You know how that is. There's just a breath between the experience of God's silence and the assumption of His absence. I confess that it was difficult to pray and read the Bible, but God did break in through music. We listened to the song - "I've Been Through Enough to Know He's Enough" - hundreds of times. Same for the song, "He is Here." I want to be clear. I know God was present with us through everything. However, I struggled to wait and trust that He was going to make something good out of all of this. I know He will. I just can't see it yet.
It's been quite a year...physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Like all of you, I'm still growing, learning, and waiting on God. I'm grateful for all that I've learned in the past year. I'd like to thank some people on this one year anniversary.
1) Almighty God - Thank you for sparing my life and for healing me. Thank you for reminding me that my life is completely in your hands. You have all my days numbered!
2) My dear wife, Jan - Thank you honey, for standing at my side, and my bedside, every day during the past year (and the past 44). You are the great wife I prayed for so long ago.
3) Family - Throughout the last year I've said this over and over - "Friends are great but family is best!" I can't imagine what the last year would have been like without you.
4) Friends - God blessed us with a tremendous community of friends within FBC and also outside of the church. Thanks to social media and word of mouth, we have experienced love and support from thousands we have known and loved through the years. Your prayers and kindnesses carried us through.
I have no idea what is ahead in the next year. I've adopted a couple of Twitter hashtags to express my hope for this next chapter in my life...physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Here they are: #NotDoneYet #NotHomeYet