A Journey of Faith: The Beginning of the End (Of Me)

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

  Revelations 22:13

Just a few short years ago, I was living the perfect “Land of Gracious Living” suburban life.  I owned a small insurance agency, had a wife who loved me (most days), 2 kids that were doing well, a great big dog that was trained not to kill my grass, lots of friends, and was a regular attendee at a large well known church in the area.

One day I began to feel the seeds of discontent being sown into my life.  Although I had achieved what many would consider to be the “good life”, I still found myself devoting an inordinate amount of time and energy to swimming in a sea pettiness each and every day.  I was angry, self-centered, arrogant, prideful and judgmental……and this is the short list (scary).  I had become hard and ugly inside.  For everything I had worked so diligently to gain, there was a sacrifice I had made in exchange (a choice).  In soooo many ways, my life had become everything I had never wanted it to be, ordinary and routine, devoid of passion, pursuit, and purpose.  I wasn’t a part of anything bigger than myself and when you are the biggest part of your life, then you become your own god.

As those seeds of discontent were taking root in my life, I had this constant parallel awareness of God’s presence.  He was not present in a burning bush or parting of the Red Sea kind of way, but in a much more subtle benign kind of way.  It was a peaceful presence, not loud or boisterous, just whispering, “I am here, time in this world is finite, is this it for us?”  It is hard for me to describe this “sense” but there was NO accompanying judgment or harshness, just a gentle questioning wanting to know if I had given all I was going to give, if this was the pinnacle of our relationship.  Inherently, I know where this was heading, but I remained in my cocoon of silence.  I wouldn’t say I was ignoring the question, I would prefer to describe it as the art of avoidance cleverly disguised as “contemplation.”

Well, by now you should know how God reacts when I test him.  He laughs at me!  About two and a half years ago, His message to me began to change.  My agency was consuming me 24/7 and I was having a hard time finding the energy to stay with it.  I distinctly remember feeling that if I did not get out, that it would be the death of me.  So in December of 2010, I sold the agency keeping a small offshoot business and moved into a home office.  A few short months later, around the end of the summer 2011, I was on the phone walking up the stairs at my house when I realized something wasn’t right.  I can’t remember who I was talking to or what I was talking about, but I clearly remember how I felt at the top of those stairs, like I had just climbed Kilimanjaro.  I remember directing the conversation so that the person on the other end would have to do the talking thus giving me a few precious moments to catch my breath.  I moved the mouthpiece away to avoid any potential awkwardness associated with the sudden onset of heavy breathing that might be transmitted to the person on the other end of the line.  Although I had mastered the art of heavy breathing years ago I only used sparingly back in the days before caller id.  But I digress……..

Over the next days and weeks, I began to monitor myself to see if this would be a new constant in my life.  Unfortunately it was and this brought me to a harsh reality that I would wrestle with for many months to come.  In addition, I also began to notice “aches” in my neck, upper chest and shoulder area, but like most rational people I simply attributed this to “sleeping funny”.  As the months passed it became clear that I was “sleeping funny”…a lot.

I continued my wrestling match until April 2012 when the men’s leadership group at my church was scheduled to go on a Wild Edge retreat (http://wildedgeadventures.org/) in Panguitch, Utah.  We would be spending time with God, shooting a variety of guns that would make John Wayne envious, hiking to streams and fly fishing, riding quads, and of course, feasting on food that would give even the healthiest person heart palpitations.  Did I mention that we would be doing all of this at an elevation of about 7,000 feet?

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart”

1st Corinthains 1:18

 “Never be wise in your own sight”

Romans 12:16

Again, as I called upon my great and infinite wisdom, I took all my health issues and all of the trip factors under consideration, and using a matrix of very complicated algorithms calculated the probability of my safe and healthy return.  Basically, I made a deal with God and did what any pride filled, logically thinking male would do, I went to Big 5, bought some thermals and off I went.  My deal with God?  I would go see a doctor if he would bring me back in a condition similar to the one in which I left.  After months of “wrestling”, I knew God had brought me to a place where I was ready to deal with whatever it was that I was going to need to deal with.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

Most of my Saturday’s begin at Mary’s Kitchen.  A non-profit organization known as Joy Squared, provides breakfast and lunch at Mary’s on most Saturdays.  It is there that I met Pam who just happened to be a nurse at a large local hospital.  One of my main excuses for not seeing a doctor for so long was that I did not want to get stuck with a “quack”.  I wanted an assurance that whoever was going to be in charge of my care and well-being was highly competent and well regarded in the medical community.  So, I emailed Pam and asked her for a referral.  Although I did not know it at the time, apparently getting Pam to check her email is a minor miracle in and of itself.   Fortunately, God intervened and Pam not only checked her email, but responded with the names of two physicians.  Yes, two.  Of course it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out what kind of new fiasco that this created for me.  The net result was just replacing one dilemma with another.  I was paralyzed…paralysis by analysis…which doctor should I choose? (It is almost scary how easily I can find my way out of a good solution).  Well, if I must say so myself, I came up with a brilliant and intricately ingenious solution to this problem.  I “eeny, meeny, miny, moe’d” my way to a selection.  I walked to the edge of the diving board, curled my toes over the edge, took a deep breath and jumped.  And so it was after months of wrestling and procrastinating (both skills that come very naturally for me), for the first time in years, I was going in for a “routine” physical….or so I thought!

 “For God’s temple is Holy, and you are God’s temple”

1st Corinthians 3:17

“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

2nd Corinthians 4:16

At the physical, my primary care doctor, Dr. G. set me up for a stress test (treadmill) and sent me down to the lab for some routine blood work.  A couple of weeks later, I returned for my scheduled stress test.  I remember that day vividly and not because he stopped the stress test before it’s completion.  He began by asking me a few benign questions about my diet and if I knew that I was anemic.  He then asked if I was a vegetarian or a vegan (those who know me or have seen me can appreciate the humor of that question).  To add insult to injury, he waited until I was actually on the treadmill (on an incline) to begin this line of questioning.  (Suddenly, I remembered why I wrestled with my decision to go see a doctor for so many months.)  I was not a pretty sight!  Picture if you will a middle aged, pot-bellied little Buddha on a treadmill trying to look cool for everyone in the room, gasping for air while answering questions about my impending veganism!  It was all I could do to not lose my grip on the treadmill bars, faceplant and be flung clear to the other side of the room.



A few moments later, as I was recovering from humiliation of it all, the good doctor walked me over to the appointment desk where I was to be scheduled for a nuclear stress test with a cardiologist.  Once that formality had been taken care of, there was an immediate and noticeable change in the Dr. G’s demeanor.  There was a corresponding awkwardness that had come between us as he inadvertently telegraphed “the moment”.  His eye contact was short as he looked more away from me than at me.  He began speaking quickly, almost rushed, as he began to lean his body away from me in order to facilitate a quick escape (before I could ask any intrusive questions).  Even though he was standing just on the other side of the counter from me, it was as if he had already taken 10 steps back towards the examining room.  I have never seen a doctor so anxious to get to his next patient.

“But this happened so that the work of god might be displayed in his life”

John 9:3

“I want you to send you to another doctor….a specialist.  Some of your levels (blood) are a little low, and I just want to make sure that we are not missing anything.”  With that, I was handed a card and told that they would be in touch to schedule an appointment.  As I turned to leave, I looked down at the card to see what kind of “specialist” I would be seeing.

My heart sank.