In the next few months, our calendar will be spilling over with exciting events. Some are first time happenings. One, at least, is a once-in-a-life-time kind of event. God permitting, I plan to enjoy each one.
Here is what I anticipate when I look at the calendar:
- On April 27, I will officiate the wedding of our oldest granddaughter, Keyara.
- On May 7 my book, God in His Own Image: Loving God for Who He is Not What We Would Like Him to Be, is slated for release from Moody Publishers.
- On June 8, Faith, our youngest granddaughter, graduates from Bend Senior High School.
- On July 23, I celebrate my three-quarters-of-a century birthday.
- On September 7, our youngest grandson, Kordell, will be married.
- Meanwhile, we anticipate the birth of our first great grandchild. Kendra, our middle granddaughter, recently announced that she and Jacob, her husband, are expecting a baby in October. I can hardly wait.
Frankly, any one of these happy events would be enough to make 2019 a very special year. But what makes all this even more exceptional is that I could have—possibly should have—missed all of them.
When the scaffolding collapsed at Powellhurst Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon on August 25, 1984 and I fell approximately 30 feet, I could have been killed—or at the least permanently paralyzed. Six weeks in the hospital, several surgeries, and months of therapy followed.
It was a life-changing experience on several levels. I have been reminded of that event literally every day of my life since 1984. After 35 years, I continue experiencing physical problems as a result of the fall. In fact, that is why I had another spinal surgery a few weeks ago.
Although less obvious than the physical complications from the accident, I was also deeply impacted emotionally. Being more of a stoic temperament—a “just do it” kind of guy—I was always able to control my emotions. Especially the more tender ones.
I first realized how deeply the accident had also affected me emotionally when we were attending our oldest son’s high school graduation. As I watched Dan cross the platform to receive his diploma, tears slipped down my cheeks at the thought I could have missed this precious moment.
The birth of Keyara, our first grandchild, was another one of those events that gutted my strong exterior to expose deeply tender emotions. After her birth I went home from the hospital to compose a poem about my new granddaughter. The birth of one’s first grandchild is, and ought to be, one of life’s greatest moments. It is as if life has come full circle with the emergence of the next generation. It’s as if this was what marriage and life was meant to be.
Looking back, I realize I would have (should have) also missed the birth of each of our grandchildren as well as seven graduation ceremonies, counting our two sons and five grandchildren. Then there are the marriages—and now the birth of our first great grandchild.
When I shared a rough draft of this blog with my son, Dan, he commented that had I not survived the accident almost everything listed above would not have happened. It was during my six month recovery that a friend visited me while I was still in a full body cast; Jim brought one of his friends, David, with him to meet me. The result was that David began to attend Powellhurst Baptist Church along with his wife and daughter, Tammy. Short story is that Tammy met Dan in the youth group; they dated and eventually married. Their four children probably would not exist today had I died in the accident so scratch the all the births and the weddings and the future great-grandchild. Had I died, we would not have moved to Bend and Faith would not be graduating in June because she would not exist.
Back in 1984 gravity thrust me to the floor near the spot where I had once stood to preach. It would be six months before I would again preach from that spot, but this time in a wheelchair.
My accident wasn’t anything as dramatic as the blinding light that dismounted and blinded Saul of Tarsus, but it certainly changed the course of my life. Looking back, I see events as Before and After. By the kind and gracious will of God I survived the fall. Just a few weeks afterwards, I read how a man had fallen ten feet off of a loading dock, killing him. I realize that every breath, every day, every year and every special family event has been a gift to enjoy to the glory of God. Graduations, weddings and childbirths are always special, but for me they have been extra special because I could have missed them.
My story may not be your story. You may never have dived off a scaffold or been severely injured in a tragic accident, but we are all facing the same event. Unless Jesus returns first, we will face death. The challenge is learning how to live life in the interim. How to experience every precious moment in this brief journey called life.
Moses, having ground out 120 years (most of them rather lonely and difficult), composed a song about the brevity of life. We know it as Psalm 90. Moses presents a beautiful and mind-stretching contrast between our eternally existing God and His mortal creatures. God is more enduring than the mountains; we are as fragile as wildflowers that wilt under the summer sun.
Listen to Moses’ song:
All our days pass away under your wrath;
We finish our years with a moan.
The length of our days is seventy years-
Or eighty, if we have strength;
Yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
For they quickly pass, and we fly away.
What a realistic description of our fragile human lives. Another wonderful poem about life, death and aging can be found in Ecclesiastes 12.
Both Psalm 90 and Ecclesiastes conclude with a similar reminder. Life is brief. Death is certain. Judgment follows life, so live wisely. Invest every moment, enjoying it to the glory of God, because someday the fragile crystal plate will break. Someday, the soul, like a bird, will fly away to meet its Maker.
That is why Moses prayed (and I pray), “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
I don’t profess to have aced the exam on living life wisely. I still fritter away opportunities to glorify God. I can still treat something very special as mundane. I can still allow Midwest stoicism to overrule the emotions that I could and should express. But each of the events I mentioned at the outset call me back to express thanks to God, because I could have, even should have, missed them all.
Come to think of it, the book, God in His Own Image, would never have been written. I would not be anticipating May 7, nor would this blog have ever seen the light of the day.
But God, in His sovereignty and great kindness, has allowed those events to be.
I intend to make the most of them.
By the way, I am still reading The Essential Jonathan Edwards and The Storm Tossed Family. Both are good reads, the latter is easier and very relevant. I have just concluded reading Ezra and have begun Nehemiah today. What amazing men these were! Their prayers of confession on behalf of their nations is a model for us today.
Why not share what you are reading with rest of us on the front porch?
Also, have you an experience that has influenced your perspective on life?