The last time I sat down to write was the day before I went in to have spinal cord surgery. I shared my fears, as well as my trust. Well, I'm happy to share with you that my surgery went absolutely as planned. As soon as I started to come out of the sedation, I wiggled my fingers and wiggled my toes and they both wiggled. Then, I did my little "happy dance" (invisible, internal edition) and smiled wryly. It was a good moment. It was a VERY good moment.
So, what did I learn from this experience. It might not be what you'd expect (it certainly isn't what I expected), but I'm glad you asked.
1. If God can't slow me down long enough to get my attention, He will lay me down, by any means necessary.
The Bible says that our God is a jealous God. We struggle with understanding exactly what that means. The problem is that we hold jealousy in such a negative light. And, how can you attribute a negative characteristic on to a perfect and holy God? When His Word identifies Him as jealous, I believe it's saying that God wants to be our "one and only". He demands to be our "one true love". He wants to come first. He demands our attention. And, He will have our attention...one way or another.
In other words, we can do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way...but, we're going to do this. He WILL have our attention...undivided.
This is where I fail and fall so stinking many times. I (this is hard to write) fail to see prayer as productive. Don't misunderstand, I believe strongly in prayer. I pray every day. But, my definition of prayer and my definition of productivity rarely intersect. In my warped little mind, productivity is reserved for something you can describe in terms of "this is the list of things I accomplished today". Can't write it on the list? Then, you can't call it productive.
Contrary to me, God defines time spent alone with Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, dare I say, hanging out with Him, as one of, it not the most productive thing we will do in our brief stint on this planet.
And He doesn't just want it....He demands it! He WILL HAVE MY ATTENTION. The easy way or the hard way. Too often, I chose the hard way. He has to cut open my neck and play with my spinal cord and lay me on my back to get my attention...so, He does. Oh, that some day I'd pick the easy way. Maybe. Maybe not.
2. It is not just OK (especially for us guys), it is actually GOOD to say, "I need your help".
I am a hard-headed, testosterone-infused male. Since I was 2 I've been saying, "I can do it". Somehow, my identity as a male of the species is caught up in my personal independence. "I need your help" is a sign of weakness. It is a sign of the loss of masculinity. You can lose your hair and you can lose your good looks, but don't ever ask for help or directions. It's part of the Man Code.
Who wrote the Man Code? I have no idea. Is it actually written? No, it's more of a spoken code. Actually, it's not really even spoken. It's more simply understood. There's no Man Police to take away your Man Card. It's not necessary. When you have to start asking for help, you just kind of know it's over and you give it up without even being asked. Bye. Think I'll bake a quiche now.
What BUNK. "I need your help" is not only what a real man does, its what a real man with a brain does. Its what a real, godly man with a brain does. How did your relationship begin with your God? Remember? Ours all took different routes, but they all actually began EXACTLY THE SAME. We said, "God, I've sinned and I can't un-sin". "I'm broken I I can't fix me". "I'm lost and I can't save myself and I NEED YOU TO SAVE ME". "I need your help". And, funny thing, that's how our relationship with Him has progressed too. "God, I need your help with ________". Just fill in the blank. And He does. And we love Him. And He loves us. And that's how our relationship grows.
And God says, "Tom, I love these people who don't know me. I NEED YOUR HELP". Wow! "People are starving or hurting or whatever...and I need your help". And, we say OK, I'm in. We say that to God! And, God says it to us!! So, why can't we say it to one another? Really good question.
3. It really is the little foxes that spoil the vineyard.
If you're not aware, that's a quote from Solomon...the wisest man that ever lived. So, what's he saying? It's not always the hurricanes or the wildfires or the plague of locusts that spoil (destroy, render useless) the vineyard. Sometimes it's the little things we'd never suspect...the things that we pay no attention to that wreak the most havoc in our lives.
I went into surgery scared of losing the use of my limbs. That didn't happen. But, I was really concerned about post-operative pain. None. I was really concerned about sleeping in a neck brace. Borrowed about 8 different recliners. Sleep in a neck brace? Piece of cake. (in my bed)
But, what I wasn't looking out for or prepared for, were the vocal and swallowing problems I incurred. I've been out of my neck brace for over a week now...with no neck pain. But, I just visited the ENT today. Let me tell you, I doubt seriously that many of you give much thought to your ability to swallow food or talk. Neither did I...until it was taken away. I never saw that coming.
And, that's just the way life is. What hits us the hardest are the things we never think about. The things we take for granted. We're blindsided. We're caught off guard. We're unprepared. And, it all goes back to..."I TOOK IT FOR GRANTED". What do you take for granted? When was the last time you told God how much you appreciated and how grateful you were for the ability to swallow? How about the joy of smelling? Or, the unbelievable miracle it is to walk to the kitchen every morning, smell the aroma of the coffee and then taste its deliciousness? Again, fill-in your own blank. I believe I worry about 5% of my life regarding things that MIGHT happen, 99% of which NEVER happen, while taking for granted the 95% of my life that is a blessing and a gift that could be taken away at any moment. Because you know, it is the little foxes that spoil the vineyard.