Deal With It…

Exactly 15 days after brain surgery… it’s time to blog. Thanks God for answered prayers, His love and compassion and my faith community’s support.

I decided to write this blog for three reasons:

  1. Many people have been asking for an update on the physical well-being of this blogger
  2. God has given me some new insight into a familiar passage through this experience, and personally I feel that being productive is healing
  3. My medical authorities have given me permission to write despite the fact that I am well inside the “DO NOT WORK” time parameters, or more simply put Kathy said it was OK

So, lets cover the reasons for this blog. First, what’s the physical update. For those who are feeling a tad clueless about all this and didn’t know anything had happened… please subscribe to the blog. Its quick, easy and free, because obvisouly you haven’t been checking in enough and there are some questions as to whether or not you are really going to heaven.

Alright, that was a joke. The last part of it at least, but I still would love for you to subscribe to the blog… please. Just out of pity for the sick guy… pretty please.

Seriously, 15 Days ago I had brain surgery for something called a Chiari Malformation to alleviate daily headaches and reverse the effects of some bodily damage. It was a tough decision (and by tough I mean, sit alone and cry then wet’em everytime you think about it), but if you’d like more info on the decision leading up to the surgery and more on Chiari I blogged about it earlier at EXPECTATIONS.

In the last 14 days of recovery I have had good days and bad days, but more good than bad. In fact I set the record in ICU for that breathing treatment thingy, and as soon as they told me that… it was on.

Didn’t realize there was a competition, “I’m in it, to win it, baby!”

I was told several times by nursing and doctoral staff that I was “lucky”. They didn’t see many patients bounce back like me. I had to correct them… there was no luck. People everywhere were calling out to God for me, He was answering!

In fact, I have had pain and side effects, but there had been only one occasion in which I think I had Chiari Pain (that’s down from dozens of headaches a day). They/we won’t really know anything until the three month mark and improvements could be made for up to a year, but as of today… I am more than hopeful!

Honestly, the real pains I have been battling have been fighting  extreme low back spasms, constipation (dude, seriously… it hurts. Don’t make me come over there. Stop laughing) and sciatica (sciatica on Wikipedia). It seems ironic to me that I had brain surgery, but the major pains I have are… well, on the other end.

I guess they were right for all those years. My head was up there. I didn’t have brain surgery, I had a headectomy.

Anyway, the summary is that the procedure went better than even hoped for, I am doing better everyday and I am hopeful that the results will be exactly what we prayed for during the past 3 years.

On to reason number two for this blog: God has given me some new insight into a familiar passage through this experience. As a chronic worrier, okay lets be honest, professional fretter; I received a ton of cards with great verses of courage, encouragement and trust.

By the way, there were a few who offered verses on the afterlife and how God would take care of my family… (insert wide-eyed look of, “Huh?” here) great heart, lots of thoughtfulness, but please don’t volunteer for the hospital visitation ministry at church.

Please.

But of all the great passages, there has been a verse during recovery that has been very helpful to me. It’s found in this section of Scripture from Matthew 6:25-34:

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The Holy Bible  : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Mt 6:25-34.

I know this a familiar passage, and I want to look at the common teaching from it before I show you what God has shown me.

I know that Jesus had to teach on this because humans are pendulum people. We tend to gravitate toward extremes in everything, not just worries or fears, and the people we consider moderates are really just fellow extremists who know how to play the part long enough to get in office. Still, the truth is that humans tend to lean toward an extreme.

Pendulum 1

Example: I am an all-out worrier wearing my heart on my sleeve. Why? It takes too much energy to fake it and I’m not good at it when I try. My wife Kathy is calm, cool and collected in the face of crisis. Refuses to worry or fret until she has too (that’s a quote from her), but the minute the doctor came out and said I was ok, she lost it (that’s a quote from her).

So, Jesus knows we’re pendulum people and in the area of worry we tend to either swing to the ‘Freak Out’ side (me), or the “Deny It If You Can” side (Kathy). But, He truly wants us to be somewhere in the middle.

Thus this great teaching on how to handle high-pressure situations. In short form He says, one- don’t worry, but two-deal with the trouble of today!

In verse 25 we are commanded not to worry. Yeah, that works. Like looking at your 3 year old and commanding them to stop crying. Usually makes it worse. But, it’s a good command because worry is soooooooooo non-productive and life draining.

There are two specific areas we are commanded not to worry about: Verses 25-26 says do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink (your physical body), and Verse 28 says and why do you worry about clothes? (our material possessions and life acquisitions).

On the first concern of not worrying about your body (which I made a full time job for the last year and a half… sorry Jesus), He illustrates with beautiful poetic language why our worrying is silly. But, the preacher translation is simply, “Your body is God’s business and He cares about it more than you do. He cares about it more than the Spotted Grey Owl of the Pacific Northwest. Greenpeace may not care about you, but the Lord of the universe does.” Additional proof is everywhere in Scripture. (Psalm 139:1-16)

On the second concern of not worrying about stuff and provisions, He talks about flowers and birds and kings and says it beautifully, but again in preacher terms: “Material possessions, relationship acquisitions and self advancement, again, God knows everything you need and your ‘heavenly Father’ (Vs 32) will make sure you get everything you need.”

In fact (get ready for this), worrying about things in this category is a symptom of having ‘little faith” (Vs 30b).

Ouch!

But, back up. Stuck between these two verses is a quaint little line in Vs 27: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

In Hebrew poetry they used a chiastic structure in which the most important thought, story, word, comment, etc. was not at the end like an American movie, which climaxes in the last 10 minutes. They would snuggle the most important concept right in the middle.

Could this be what Jesus was doing when between these two categories of non-worry statements He says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

  • Worry does not do you any good
  • It makes you look Pagan (Vs 32-33)
  • Its stupid (I just got that by implication)

So, what do we do with all this time, energy and soul-consuming worry we have become familiar with? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Vs33)

Turn all that energy from the futile, unproductive, life-draining spasms of fear and doubt called worry to a seeking of God, His stuff and His way.

Now that’s productive!

But, don’t misunderstand. When it says “all these things will be given to you as well,” it does not mean that you get everything you want. The passage clearly said God knows what you need, and God will make sure you get that.

Huge difference between need and want. I need food, clothing and shelter. I want unlimited/free access to iTunes, I want the hair to regrow on the back of my head BEFORE my 20th high school reunion and I want a cruise to… oh, who cares. Just any ol’ cruise will do.

See, there is a BIG difference between needs and wants. But when we seek Him, His stuff and His ways first… it changes us. We end up getting everything we want, because our wants become His wants. When those line up, “all these things will be given to you as well.” For more on this check out a previous video blog: CONTENTMENT IS SO FRUSTRATING

All this has been the traditional teaching you have heard many times, but we usually don’t focus on the last verse in this section. Oh, we read it because it’s there, but we stop the application just short of this: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Vs 34)

And this is the verse that God has given me for my recovery, a new insight I hadn’t seen before.

This is Jesus’ commandment to not be a pendulum people. Don’t swing all the way to fear, or rebound all the way to denial, but find yourself in the middle. An area I like to call personal responsibility.

Picture 5

  • Constant worry… wrong
  • Constant denial… just as wrong
  • Responsibility for today… just right, ah!

And, what does this responsibility look like? Don’t worry about tomorrow, it’s beyond your control. Besides, it’ll handle itself according to Jesus.

But, whatever trouble you have been given for today, don’t worry, scheme or manipulate it. Deal with it.

Responsibility is simply to deal with whatever you’ve been given for today. That’s your day, deal with it, handle it. Today is the day, the only day, you have to work on.

Here’s what this looks like in real life scenarios:

FEAR

RESPONSIBILITY

DENIAL

Re: what you eat or drink Become a health nut, afraid of anything not organic Be a good steward of the body God has given you Pig out and care less what you ingest
Re: material possessions, etc Be a glutton: holding onto everything out of fear of the future Understand you are blessed and operate with thanksgiving as you focus on needs not wants Be a glutton: spending carelessly, and thinking God’s provision gives you license to be an idiot
Re: Andy’s recovery Be paranoid and freak out over every little change, hurt or unknown Pay attention and do what the doctor says to do for each day Ignore everything and just say “What will be will be”

I worried about my surgery, a lot, and none of it did any good, at all. But, recovery is another matter.

  • One day I deal with the pain related to the surgical incision, so, I do what I’m told by resting and taking my meds. Because that’s my trouble for the day, and it’s all I am called to handle.
  • One day I stretch and ice my sciatica because my rear hurts worse than my head. Because that’s my trouble for the day, and it’s all I am called to handle.
  • One day I deal with the painful decision of whether to eat the lasagna, enchilada or pot roast leftovers? Or, do I wait and see what’s coming to the porch tonight…hmmm? Because that’s my trouble for the day, and it’s all I am called to handle.

What will tomorrow be like? In a week will I better or worse than I am today? Will I have fully recovered on schedule so I can go back to work on time? In a year will I see that the surgery was successful?

Who knows?

And, more importantly, who cares?

Today, I will not fret over things beyond my control, or deny/ignore my state of my affairs.

Today I will be responsible for the trouble I have…today. Which, in this instant, is that my rear hurts and I’m excited about the meatballs and macaroni coming for dinner.

This is all I can deal with and it’s all I am called to deal with.

Don’t swing too far on the pendulum, but find your center in responsibility for today.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Vs 34)

…. Almost forgot, reason number three for this blog: My medical authorities have given me permission to write despite the fact that I am well inside the “DO NOT WORK” time frame, or more simply put Kathy said it was OK.

My wife has been an amazing nurse, friend and encourager.

Even when the drugs make me Mr Inappropriate (which I am told is a hilarious version of uninhibited me), she stands by me. Usually to cup her hand over my mouth and apologize… but she’s right there.

Many props to Kathy for everything.

Many blessing on you all, and I hope to see you soon.

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