On Monday I will fulfill a mini-goal… I will have walked over 9km per day for everyday of the last month. It’s not a big distance, but a year ago on the evening of the same day, September 7th, my lovely wife’s birthday, I had a stroke and for a few days I was unable to walk without support and things to hold onto.
I’m posting this a couple of days before that anniversary, because Monday will be a family celebration… but I wanted to tell a story; to say “Thank you” to Jesus and to all those that helped us make it through the year; and to reflect on the beauty we find in the rubble of our broken world.
It is interesting that when I set myself my mini-goal I had not thought about when it would end, but during the month, Judith challenged me to be actively thankful for the good things we have, and as I have the pleasure of being able to walk (with my dogs) each day, the blessing of ambulation has really come to the fore in my mind.
But walking is simply one of a host of pleasures I have in life, all of which are a direct testimony to the grace and place of Jesus in it.
I nearly died at birth. Then, as a four year old I was hit by a truck in Serbia, (Yugoslavia back then). I still have a “dent” in my head and big scar, covered by what little hair I have left to show for the event. I know from my parents the shock of watching my limp body being carried to the side of the road… and I can’t help thinking about the image of the young Syrian lads who’s drowned bodies have in the last few days said so much about the tragedy of human history. So I want to touch on gratitude that finds the love of God in a world that seems to deny the truth of that love, but first I’ll finish my personal reflections. I am grateful for my mental health and the childhood I was able to enjoy.
Then at 15 I was given just months to live, my body full of Non-Hodgekins lymphoma. In obedience to the instructions on praying for sick church members in the Bible, I was prayed for. And my doctors had to convene a special meeting to discuss what had happened to me after the cancer spontaneously disappeared from all areas of my body including the spinal fluid. I’m grateful for that too. Sometimes people say to me “God must have great plans for me because he healed me” but I think differently, Jesus came to “give us life in all it’s fullness”, life is the wonderful plan he has for us all.
At 34 a mistake in a minor procedure left me, (a father of three young children) in a coma in intensive care, Judith was put on alert to rush into hospital in case I slipped off this mortal coil. But I’m still here! Thank you Jesus.
Then this last year I‘ve had two strokes and while the year has been a real struggle for us as a family I’m walking, driving, teaching and still convinced of the goodness and kindness of God.
Not in a fluffy, cloyingly sentimental way that is based on my personal favour and blessing. Jesus was never called a little lamb, He is a slain and sacrificial lamb, the desire of God, ravaged and bloodied by the need for mankind to be free if they are to truly reflect God’s likeness. God’s goodness and kindness are found in his faithful but co-operative involvement in the life he has truly gifted us with, he respects our choices to do it our way even when he knows we will screw up and that we would be better off saying “not my will but yours”.
So most of what happens in the world has not been specifically planned by God, but every broken heart and stolen destiny has been lovingly planned for by Him. I realised it while under my own death sentence as a fifteen year old, I met Jesus in my fear and anger, and while I didn’t want to die back then, I knew the encounter had made me ready for it. I didn’t die, but I’m now grateful for the life I get to live not the death I avoided.
Whether we get 15 minutes, 15 year or a full three score and ten, human life is a fleeting vapor even by the standards of the universe we live in, let alone compared to the full stretch of eternity. And yet life is so eminently precious that the creator Himself just had to experience it for himself, and not in it’s perfection but in all it’s messed up layers and contradictions and he goes on experiencing it in and through us making every shaky moment matter and mark eternity in Him.
I don’t know the eternal destiny of the boys who drowned this week, nor of the 300,000 children that die from hunger each year, but I do know that their “Angel’s behold the face of the Father” and that their lives mattered. Because “not one sparrow falls from the sky that your Father doesn’t notice, and you are worth more than may sparrows“.
So I am so grateful for the life I have, the life I’ve had and will have, I don’t have life in Spades to use a phrase, but I do have it, and I have it in Christ! and so to quote Paul (sort of):
“For me to live- is Christ, and to die – is even more so!”