Friday, October 05, 2012
Grace In The Trench
I was up all night last night, vomiting and watching my bedroom spin like a top. I went to sleep a little before nine this morning and am just now waking up at 1:00. Thank God, the world is standing still! :) The words of prayer and encouragement from so many of you from around the world have helped to walk me through these past few months. People say that Internet connections are impersonal but I've learned it doesn't have to be that way. I've made some friends here who I loved before we ever set eyes on each other. I look forward to meeting those of you who I've not seen in person yet.
Vertigo is only one of the symptoms I've had since I was rushed to the hospital in April. Many of you know that my other symptoms have been a sudden drop in blood pressure accompanied by a sudden increase in my heart rate (which causes me to black out) and severe fatigue. Until this episode, I 'd dealt with the other symptoms but hadn't had Vertigo in several months.
I've seen teams of doctors over the past months and they all agree that my "condition" is Autonomic Failure but nobody knows what causes it and the meds aren't handling it as well as they should. (Yes, they have tested me for the thing you're wondering about :) AF can be caused by many things, from the manageable to the terminal. For those who've asked why I'm being sent to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, I'm going there because they have an Autonomic Center. Doctors send people to Vandy from all over the U.S. because the doctors there have seen practically any disease that can cause AF. The medical people here in Atlanta believe they should be able to give me a definitive diagnosis and I'm praying that's the case.
Because so many people are sent to Vanderbilt, my appointment isn't until March, 2013. However, a doctor in Florida who has been impacted by my ministry has put in a call to a key person at Vanderbilt to try to get my appointment moved to an earlier time. That's what we're praying will happen. Needless to say, this whole thing has become very, very debilitating to me.
Thankfully, I've been able to keep up the Sunday Preaching program and with my writing. I thank God for that because those two things have helped me to not feel completely disconnected from "the outside world" these days.
I'm not felt one second of fear about this. I have a wonderful family and friends who I see and talk to frequently who are a real grace-gift in my life. I find tremendous encouragement right now from them as well as from reading theological books (right now, it's Frank Viola/Len Sweet's book, "Jesus: A Theography), listening to music and meditating on my Father and the things His Spirit is teaching me, and... ready for it... watching Doc Martin on Netflix :) (Melanie said, "I can't believe you're watching this. You don't watch anything on TV anymore!)
As any human being would do, sometimes I find myself allowing my thoughts to drift to the future with "What if?" questions but overall I live in this moment. The biggest frustration for me is that I'm a Type A personality who is used to a very active lifestyle and finding myself at a place right now where I can't "go and do" like I'm used to is something I hate. The Apostle Paul learned "to be content in whatever condition I'm in." I haven't quite gotten there yet.
Finally, why do I post all these personal things publicly? It's not because it's my nature to do so. Truthfully, as a local pastor for 21 years, I kept personal things private for the most part. But when I began to understand grace, the Holy Spirit showed me that it isn't a book or pulpit or camera that is a man's platform for ministry. It's his life. Grace is best seen in the day-to-day ups and downs of living in this world.
So, as much as I can, I try to be transparent about my personal life in an attempt to say: "This is how grace looks. It doesn't shine with a bright luster on a perfect life. It is best seen in the brokenness, the pain, the doubts and the struggles of life. Grace can't be seen in religious professionals who attempt to project that we're all grinning our way to glory-land. The strength of grace is best seen in the trenches, amidst the mud of misery and mystery. Grace reaches down to where we are and doesn't always lift us up out of our situation, but rather holds and hugs us right where we are. Grace knows where I am and where you are. He was tested in every way, like us. So, having been here, He knows how to guide us through it until we find ourselves on the other side. In the meantime, the Gentle Hug of Grace sustains us with the certain sweet assurance, "I will never leave you or forsake you." And oddly enough, at times like this, that assurance is enough.