We received a Thanksgiving surprise Sunday evening when the elder of my two younger brothers, Dave, and his wife of 37 years, Joyce, appeared at our back door.
We hadn't seen Dave and Joyce for several years -- another quick visit before they traveled to the Mayo Clinic searching to discover what ailed my little brother. (Little is a bit of a misnomer, Dave is well over six feet tall.)
Many years ago, Dave injured his back when an overhead garage door caught the wind and threatened to crush one of his co-workers. He held it against the wind until the co-worker was out of danger. His back never fully recovered.
Thus began years of doctor visits, accompanied by multiple prescriptions as they sought to ease his ever-increasing pain. The Mayo Clinic was largely unsuccessful in treating the cause of his pain and the new symptoms, which included extreme dizziness, a trembling that couldn't be controlled and other unexplained afflictions.
They did, however, discover a malignant tumor on one of his kidneys, and dealt with that forthwith.
Fast-forward to early 2012, when Dave sought out a new primary care physician. His health had continued to deteriorate and his prescription drug bill was out of this world. The physician was aghast at the list of drugs Dave was taking -- and immediately knew he needed help, help she was ill-equipped to provide. She sent him to a pain specialist who told him matter-of-factly that pain was part of his life, period. He needed to learn how to live with it, not mask it. The list of drugs, doses and length of time he had been taking some of them was very problematic and the specialist designed a detox program for him, weaning him off many of the pharmaceuticals he was ingesting daily. That began in February.
The change we saw Sunday night was nothing short of extraordinary. Yes, he still suffers debilitating pain. He still has serious balance issues and the tremble remains. However, he is able to play his guitar again, praise God, and is looking forward to regaining his driver's license. He's even working on restoring an old Dodge pickup. (We squeezed a lot of catching up into their all-too-brief visit.)
Dave suffered from a common human malady. The doctor says "..." and he, in desperate need of help and healing, did whatever they said. They're the doctors, after all. They've gone to school, they have the diploma and they wear such nice, crisp, clean, white coats. And we have all heard absolutely glowing testimonies about how doctor so-and-so "saved my life." For many doctors, their work is more of a calling than a vocation -- to help, to heal, to restore what has been lost through injury or illness. However, they are still mere men. I have always been grateful to my physicians through the years, those that attended me during pregnancy and those that attended my children as they traversed childhood, including stitches, casts and one stomach-pumping after Patrick got into Mom and Dad's medicine cabinet. I have resisted the urge, however, to deify them. In fact, they really don't like seeing my name on the appointment list, because they know I will grill them mercilessly
Now that Dave has successfully overcome the mental fog inflicted by too much of everything, he is firmly in control of his health and will be able to question the various whys and wherefores of this or that prescription, avoiding a potentially fatal recurrence.
But that wasn't the only change we saw. Somehow, through the long years of drug-induced fog, the kernel of faith served daily in our non-church-going childhood, took root and has produced a vibrant faith and utter reliance on the Great Physician, a hunger for the Word which became flesh and total confidence that God is in control and that God is good.
And the skills Dave is honing at the doctor's office are the same skills he can apply to his deepening faith, given the opportunity to question the person in the long-flowing robes with a pristine white collar or the casual T-shirt and jeans street preacher. Yes, they have the diplomas, the book learning and most see their ministry as more of a calling than a vocation -- to help, to heal, to restore what was first lost in the Garden. However, they are still mere men. And although I have always been grateful for the preachers, the teachers and the ministers that are a part of my life, I have successfully resisted the urge to deify them. In fact, they really don't like seeing my name on the appointment list. They know I will grill them mercilessly.
All that is needful has already been provided. John speaks at great length about the promise Jesus gave his followers of "a comforter," who guides us into all truth, and bears witness to the truth of who Jesus is, what he taught, and the things that are yet to come.
Dave and Joyce shared a story Sunday night that we hadn't heard before. When their daughter, Traci, married a few years ago, Dave nearly died of an unintentional overdose of morphine, delivered through the "patch" system. Only Joyce's quick thinking and immediate call for help deterred tragedy that day. A tragedy that would have been all the more shattering because death would have preceded that moment of submission, when Dave, in abject poverty of spirit, called on the Name of the Lord. His life was off-course and he was in desperate straits, headed straight for destruction.
When we reach that moment, there is only one thing left to do. And that is to follow the One who has reached out with his strong right hand and plucked us from pits of our own making. Sometimes, as he did with Danny, he leads us to the Word. Sometimes he leads us into fellowship. Sometimes, he leads us into isolation. The only thing we need to know, each morning upon awakening, is that we are called to follow, wherever he leads, even as we question everything, even as we measure every teaching against the plumb line set in place by God the Father. Challenge. Investigate. Study to show yourself approved, rightly dividing the world of truth, as Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15. And, when the One I've come to call the very heart of God speaks, listen and obey.
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17 (ESV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know and love the One who does. Let's walk in his love and discover him together.