When you go to bed at 11 p.m., you don’t expect to see three of your best friends five hours later.
When you get up to go to the bathroom at 3:20 a.m., you don’t expect to be welcoming total strangers into your home ten minutes later.
When you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you don’t expect that half an hour later you will be back in bed, but in another part of the county.
When you swing your feet out of bed to make a trip of a few feet to the bathroom, you don’t expect that you are venturing off on a journey that will test your theology and stimulate your faith.
But all those things were my reality two nights ago. And what ensued over the next hours were multiple manifestations of God’s grace that I could not have anticipated as I put my head on my pillow and drifted to sleep Monday evening.
Awakened shortly after 3 a.m., Tuesday morning, I sleepily made my way to the bathroom. But I wouldn’t make it back to my bed for several more hours. Before I could turn around to return to bed, I passed out, smashing the back of my head on the tile shower and my eye on the tile threshold. Like Sonny Liston to Cassius Clay, I was down for the count — and out.
I awakened to find my head propped on a towel, broken tile underneath me, and my wife saying, “Don’t get up!…don’t you fall asleep!…” while also talking to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. Minutes later paramedics would be in our bathroom examining me and getting me onto a stretcher to take me to the hospital for blood work, a CT scan and chest x-ray.
Given that my mother, maternal grandfather and a maternal uncle all died from sudden heart attacks, Raye Jeanne could well imagine a “worst-case scenario.” Instead, what we received was much grace and kindness from the Lord.
After undergoing exams at the ER and a follow-up exam at a cardiologist’s office later that day, it was determined that because of my significant recent weight loss (about 80 lbs in 9 months), my body — and my blood pressure in particular yesterday — is still adjusting to the dramatic changes in my physical condition. So quickly moving from a prone to standing position, something that ordinarily would not cause a problem for most of us, resulted in a sudden drop in my blood pressure, with the further result that I passed out. The solution? Eat more salt at meals and before getting out of bed, sit on the side of the bed to allow my blood pressure to equalize.
That was quite a different outcome that Raye Jeanne and I might have anticipated at the beginning of our middle-of-the-night adventure!
So, as I have reflected on the past couple of days, I see not only God’s kindness to us in my physical condition, but many other evidences of His grace as well:
- The grace of life. We blithely acknowledge that every moment of every day is a gift from God. But rarely do we think about it. But on Tuesday morning I was given a clear demonstration that I am not master of my fate or soul but that if I stand or if I fall (literally!), it is God who enables me and I do nothing in my own power. As a pastor, I have visited hospital rooms more times than I can recount. And I have always been amazed at the resiliency and strength of the human body. And I have also often marveled at the micro-thin line between life and death. Tuesday we received a reminder that it is the Lord that determines who lives and who enters eternity by death. I am grateful for His grace for another day.
- The grace of marital love. After almost 26 years of marriage, Raye Jeanne and I are secure in and sure of each other’s love. There is never is a question that we will do for each other all that we can to minister to each other and serve each other. Whatever the need of the moment, we will do. But hearing her act on my behalf when I could not act for myself and then recounting with her later in the day some of the things she thought, did, and said in those moments overwhelmed me with gratitude for the grace of such a gift from God. She loves me. I am unworthy of being loved and yet she does. This is grace.
- The grace of familial love. When we talked with our girls later in the day about these events and saw and heard of their fears and love and compassion similarly made me grateful for the kindness of the children the Lord has graced us to have. And in like manner when I talked to my father and brother later in the day, I was thankful for the Lord’s kindness in giving me family who love, knowing all they know about me. The Lord’s sovereign work in designing our family is a great gift of grace to me and Raye Jeanne. I knew that Monday afternoon. I knew it better on Tuesday afternoon.
- The grace of the church. I arrived fairly quickly to the hospital in my ambulance ride — and it seemed like just moments later when three of my best friends walked into the room. When someone makes a hospital visit at 4:00 a.m., that’s a friend! And to see their concern and hear their prayers on our behalf was humbling and gratifying. What can knit hearts together in such bonds of love expect the common bond of Christ? This is God’s grace at work.
- The grace of providence. It’s too long to recount here, but the circumstances that led us to the particular cardiologist we saw Tuesday afternoon was remarkable — an evidence of the kind grace that God works in His providential orchestrations of the details of our lives. He is sovereign over every event of life. He is good in all He does. He is trustworthy. And He is worthy of our worship.
So as I sit at my desk a little more than 24 hours after being released from my unexpected trip to the ER, with the best black eye I’ve ever had and a pretty good lump and abrasion on the back of my head, I give thanks and worship the God of magnanimous and infinite grace.