By the time I send this posting out, some of you would have already received an e-mail informing you of my newly discovered kidney condition and the ensuing battle that lies ahead. I want to say at the outset that my e-mails and postings regarding my condition are not a plea for sympathy - They are merely an earnest attempt on my part to be transparent about the realities of life that are being manifested in my personal experience and how my faith in Jesus Christ shapes my responses to those realities. My hope is that in some way I will encourage others as they face all sorts of personal challenges with the truth that Jesus loves them and Jesus cares and can see them through any situation. I also need to add that my condition will not be the primary focus of all my blogs, preaching, etc., but it will certainly increase the intensity of my focus and my desire to touch others in the Name of the Lord. Having said that, I will offer some personal perspective on my condition in this particular posting.
As word has spread, friends have been incredibly kind, supportive and encouraging in response to the news about my kidney ailment. There have been many commitments to pray for me and numerous offerings of comforting Scriptures and words of uplift and wisdom. One note that I received from a dear friend, Chris, whom I have known since seminary days and now serves as a missionary in Poland, particularly caused me to do some self-inspection. Aside from significant challenges he and his family must face on the field, his wife Kasia is battling Leukemia. It is an intense day in / day out, up and down struggle that would derail the faith and resolve of many. Chris and Kasia soldier on not in denial of their situation, but with an acute awareness of the sufficient grace and power of Jesus Christ in our most difficult situations. Chris had this to say to me and it helped focus my perspective in a marvelous way:
Thanks for sharing this need with me. I will pray for you. Kasia is also having trouble with her leukemia and we are looking at another round of chemotherapy. We also need your prayers. One thing is sure, that none of us can live one day longer than God has appointed or one day less. These things are bad for our bodies but good for our souls. They focus our heart on heaven, not earth and teach us greater and greater daily dependence on His grace and mercy. This is not a bad place to be. When all is well in our lives we tend to gravitate, although subtly, toward trust in our own abilities, means and efforts. Facing an illness which can result in our departure from this life, rightly focuses our eyes toward our loving Savior. On the other side of the coin we are all facing an appointment with our demise. It is just when someone puts it in some sort of concrete time frame that upsets us. Again, God can intervene and extend our lives according to His will.
What a wonderful balance of the reality of the here and now juxtaposed with the reality of eternity! These circumstances are "good for our souls!" "How?" One might ask. Well, as Chris stated, trouble generally helps us to focus on eternity and the Lord of Eternity. There's nothing like a troubling health report to remind us in an unmistakable fashion that our lives as we now live them are temporary - not just for the people who suffer tragedies in a headline or the names in the obituaries, but for each of us personally. These types of trials also focus us on making an impact on this world beyond ourselves. Facing our own mortality makes it clear that we were created to make contributions in this life that would bless others in a way that would outlive us. Even more importantly, however, these trials humble us to realize that we were created to need the Lord. We are not collectively or individually self-contained. We are only complete when we humble ourselves to the point of realizing we are here because of the Lord and He wants us to understand our dependence on Him and His call on our lives to bless and care for others. Trouble is definitely good for the soul - which brings me back to my trouble!
5 years ago, at my 40th Birthday party, my girls put together a slide show of snapshots of my life up to that point with the Sam and Dave 60's classic "Soul Man" playing in the background. Of course,it was meant to have a double meaning - I'm a "Soul Man" as a African American and a "Soul Man" as a minister of the Gospel. My current situation has served as a powerful reminder of the more powerful of the 2 definitions - I was put on this planet to be a "Soul Man" for Jesus Christ and to invest my time, talents and treasures in things that will outlive my natural body to bless others and to feed my spiritual body which will live forever! It's hard to be sad with great news like that - a legacy that will outlive me no matter what my lifespan will be and a naturing of my soul that will accompany me thorough an eternity I will spend with my Lord Jesus who loves me and gave Himself not only for me, but for the whole world! Being a Soul Man never felt so good! Until next time...