A bit of a philosophical / theological take this morning….
Yesterday was a pretty big day for me. It started with a regular follow-up visit with the psychiatrist. We didn’t get close to covering everything I wanted to tell her, as the practice is set up where the doc only gets 20 minutes with each patient. (I believe the reasoning is that if you require more time, you probably require a therapist, which sort of makes sense, and I do have a therapist.) The drawback is that I really like my psychiatrist and wanted to keep her updated on all the changes in my life since I last saw her in November. We spent the majority of my 20 minutes talking about my weight loss. I am now officially down 80 pounds since my annual physical in May of last year, including 58 pounds off since the surgery on November 28. I have no problem saying this – I am very dadgum proud of myself. By the time my next physical comes around on May 29, I will weigh less than 200 pounds for the fist time since the 20thcentury. It was a lot of fun talking about this with the doc. We also talked about my wife’s litany of health issues that have shown up since I last saw the psychiatrist, and that talk was productive. We didn’t get to talk about my recent leaving of my corporate job to start my own business. I guess I’ll just have to email her with that update. 😊 But seeing that weight and the crossing of another mile marker, if you will, was a great feeling. I walked around with a big, stupid grin on my face the rest of the day.
Next up was a visit from the Salvation Army truck. I had accumulated 4 larger lawn-size trash bags of clothes that were now too big thanks to the weight loss, as well as a couple of household items. The truck arrived and hauled everything off, and that gave me a good feeling too. Charlotte was recently cited in a survey as being the worst among the 50 biggest cities for upward mobility – in other words, people in poverty in Charlotte have the worst chance to get out of poverty in the US. The biggest reason for that is just about every house and apartment that was built before 1999 is being bought and remodeled into a super-luxury, Robin-Leach-TV-show-style dwelling that only wealthy and NY/New England transplants can afford. Knowing this, it has been on my mind and heart recently to find more ways to contribute to charitable efforts. We of course have the weekly contribution that we give to our church – an amount that is less than the standard Biblical percentage of a tithe, which is a level I aspire to get to – but we also want to give to other groups. We have the Crisis Assistance Ministry, which my wife had to call on a few times when she was single, so helping them is personal for us. Next door is the Second Harvest Food Bank, where I volunteered a couple of times as part of community service projects I joined while working for Duke Energy. I originally wanted to give yesterday’s donation to CAM, but they don’t have the resources to pick up your donations, and since I can’t drive I couldn’t get the stuff to them. The Salvation Army can pick up, so I went with them. Either way, I fell that some man and his family can get some things they need now, and that’s a good feeling.
Which leads me to my larger thought: God loves to use things that make no sense to us humans for good. Human nature is to look out for #1, take care of yourself first, at the exclusion of taking care of everyone / everything else if necessary. This isn’t just about meeting needs, it’s about satisfying pleasure as well. It affects our behaviors. “I have to get there first. Food in the break room? I have to get the biggest portion. I can’t wait 1 more second, so I’m running this red light. Success is a zero-sum game; anyone who has a success is getting something I can never have, so I must prevent it or sabotage it. There is a finite amount of money in the universe; every dollar someone else gets is a dollar I can never have, so I must prevent them from getting it or taking it from them.”
Everything I just put inside those quotation marks is 1,000% false. When you put the exact opposite into practice, you see this very clearly. Duke Energy, for all its faults, is as much of a community service-focused company as I have ever worked for. May and June are designated community service months, with dozens of projects in all 6 states of its service territory. Even the other 10 months of the year, it is very easy to find a community service project to join in on, or to create and lead yourself. It produces a wonderful, peaceful feeling when you finish those projects. Our church also has a special contribution drive each year to support our churches in eastern Africa. Netta & I have not been able to contribute some years. We were this year. It felt really good to write that check.
If you look through the Bible, you will see many examples of God taking situations that made no sense and using them for great victory. Look at Jericho. Here are the Israelites outside of a city that can easily crush them if they attack. So what does God do? Tells them to walk around the city for a week and the walls will fall down. Imagine the US Secretary of Defense trying to employ that strategy if we had to go to war with North Korea.
As my wife has fought battle after battle the last 5 months – spinal chord injury, spinal stenosis, SMA Syndrome, we-will-only-treat-you-according-to-our-prewritten-script doctors, insensitive and bordering on incompetent hospital staff, and the never-ending insurance bureaucracy – the one thing we have been able to hold onto is our faith. None of this crap makes any sense. That is probably exactly the way God wants it. Senseless situations are what he uses to bring about great victory. This is going to be one of those situations, we are convinced of it.
It’s not like we haven’t been frustrated. The insensitivity, lack of knowledge, and bureaucratic-based treatment decisions literally reduced her to tears recently. This made me decide to go sit in a corner, on my hands, to prevent me from causing thousands of dollars in structural damage to the hospital room. I am not kidding. I can’t accurately describe how badly I wanted to wreck that place when I heard that the manager of the nursing department ordered her to stop asking for help more than once per hour, because he didn’t have the staff to cater to her every whim. He’s extremely lucky he pulled that crap before I arrived that day. If I was present for that, the way I treated him would have made any observer believe that I had never had any contact with Jesus for even one second of my life. The police would likely have been called to haul me away. But there again is evidence of God being in control. God knew hearing that was more than I could bear, so he made sure it happened before I arrived. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV) Netta quotes this verse repeatedly on the worst pain days. We continue to hold on to the promise that this will make sense one of these days, and that God, existing beyond time as He does, is not bound by our finite limitations but will reveal it when it needs to be revealed.
Keep this in mind whenever you are confronted by a situation that baffles you. Seeking the needs of others before yourself, doing what seems to be the opposite of what feels good, trusting that a senseless situation WILL work out for your best…. That doesn’t make sense. Do it anyway.