Have you ever watched a baby struggle to learn to crawl? It whines, cries, shakes it’s whole body, kicks it’s feet. It gets its knees underneath and then falters. It pushes up with its forearms only to learn that something else is needed to get going. It just exudes frustration as it struggles. But…over time, after its works through all the kinks, set-backs, and fits, it prevails and learns to crawl. A milestone.
I recently was watching my six month old do this very thing – struggle to learn to crawl. As I was watching I did not intercede because I knew she was safe. I knew she was working. I knew this was something she has to go through in order to reach the goal – the baby’s gotta struggle! And the struggle was good…good for her.
In that precise moment, I heard my God speak to me and say, “Just as you attentively watch your own little one struggle for a greater good, so too, do I look on lovingly and let the struggle ensue for my plans are plans for Good.”
God’s Love is a refiner’s fire. We know this. We struggle, we have set-backs, we suffer, we endure, we fight the good fight, we lose, we die, but all of it is for God’s Glory. For His Plans are for Good. There are some plans that are excruciatingly difficult to endure…like losing a child or loved one, wars, horrific violence, diseases and illnesses. I am not God, I am not exceedingly wise, and I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I do choose to believe that if we allow God’s light to shine and glorify him even in the horrific times that Greater Good will inevitably be the outcome.
Look at Christ. He died a horrifically terrible death. He was rejected by the very people He grew up with. He was God incarnate, and yet His death was excruciating. Yet through it, we were washed clean in His Blood and salvation, if we choose to take it, was attained for all generations. Clearly, though the struggle was unbelievable during His Earthly life, the Greatest Good was attained. This is the great paradox. To die is to live.
Yesterday, I was attempting to remove huge branches from a tree that was struck by lightning the night before in my front yard. Not knowing anything about what I was doing, I ended up cutting a branch that happened to be supporting the bulk of the weight of the half of tree that had fallen down cock-eyed. I ran, but not fast enough or in the right direction because the tree came crashing down on top of me and smacked me in the head.
My wife called it a real-life whack-a-mole, only I was the mole. My wife said it knocked me to the ground and my head started to bleed profusely. Neighbors all came running, the wife called 911, my kids were screaming and asking if daddy was gonna die. Some neighbors shuffled the kids inside, others tried to keep me from moving because I was struggling to get up and really had no idea what was happening to me. EMTs arrived, and I fought them to get onto a stretcher. I kept asking what happened. My wife kept telling me that I was cutting a tree down because lightning had struck it and the tree fell on me. She said that I asked that question over and over. With neighbors watching the kids, the EMTs rushed me to UAMS, a trauma one hospital in Central Arkansas, while my wife followed behind them.
I don’t remember much about the ride except that I know I reached up an arm and asked someone to say a prayer. A strong and burly EMT grabbed my arm and we prayed to God. I have no remembrance of what he said, but I was thankful that he prayed with me. I remember spending quite a bit of thought and energy on trying to piece together the events over the last 24 hours; I was told that I went unconscious for a good 4 minutes according to the EMTs. In the most surreal way, I believed during my unconscious state that I had to piece my memories back together to reform my consciousness.
When we arrived at the hospital, I remember a huge number of doctors and nurses were all waiting for me. I greeted them saying, “Hey, everybody, I made it!”
Side Note: I am king of bad jokes. I am ruler of the universe for bad jokes at inappropriate times. Case in point.
Anyway, the docs cut all of my clothes off and, having made the smart decision to go commando that day, I was laid bare for all to see. Immediately they moved me to a gurney and wheeled me off to get X-rays and CTs. My CT was with and without contrast. Shortly after the radiology tech pushed contrast, my body was like, “Hey, you know what would be fun right now? THROW UP!” So I started to convulse, at which point two techs and a doc rushed over to me to turn me on my side as I proceeded to puke my guts out! I am happy to say that no one was struck by my bile, but the room was MESSED UP!
After radiology had their fill of me (and the scans were finished) they wheeled me to a trauma room. There I lay for hours as we waited for a prognosis. Initial reads of my scans looked promising, but the docs wanted consultations to be sure. UAMS is a teaching hospital so care there is more time consuming because you’ll have baby doctors making decisions, but wanting their superiors to back them up. You gotta start somewhere so I am not bashing anyone. Eventually, after radiologists reviewed the scans and the attending neurologist read my reports, they agreed that I did not need surgery, but I did break my neck. So they put a cast on me, pumped me full of fluids, put 5 staples in my head, and a million hours later they discharged me.
During the waiting times at the hospital when I still didn’t know exactly what was happening, my hopes were not high. Thoughts of being paralyzed for life flooded me. I became very anxious and worried. I prayed often to Christ asking Him to allow me into Paradise as the thief prayed next to Jesus during their crucifixions. Alas, I heard no response from my God, and slowly I started to sink into despair. We called our priest because I wanted Last Rights. He sent another priest in his stead. When the priest arrived the ER was on lockdown due to a safety concern with one of the patients. When the lockdown was finally lifted, my wife went out to the waiting room to see if any priest was still there. Unfortunately the priest was not there, as he left after being barred entry due to the lockdown.
In the short time that my wife went to check on the priest is finally when I heard my God’s sweet voice. He told me that He still had plans for me; my life still had purpose. It was not my time. I said in reply, “Thank you for this second chance; I don’t want to keep disappointing you.”
I knew then that my guardian angel interceded for me just enough to avoid a fatal crash to my skull. I knew that he sent the EMTs to save my life. I knew that he put me in the care of doctors and nurses and techs who were knowledgeable and eager to help. I knew My wife was by my side the whole time. I knew Grandma and neighbors were taking care of my kids. I knew that countless others were praying for me and asking what they could do to help. I knew that God in His Plans for my Good was carrying me through the entire dilemma, despite my vast unworthiness.
Today, 24 hours after all of this, I lay resting on a couch, and am profoundly thankful. Thankful for my guardian angels. Thankful for EMTs who save people’s lives EVERY DAY! Thankful for the amazing woman God gifted me and united me to in marriage. Thankful that no one else was hurt by the crashing tree. Thankful that I am alive today simply because God has a mission for me in this life that is not yet complete. Thankful for a grandmother to my children who is always there when we need her. Thankful for concerned friends and family. Thankful for second chances.
I know that God let’s us struggle because it refines us to be stronger or learn something or equip us. I know that a tree bonked me on my head to rejuvenate my life’s mission. I know that when I pick up my cross and start to follow Christ again that plan for the Greatest Good will become unveiled.
Lord, I follow.