Most who follow me know that I have an open heart surgery coming up sometime in the near future. Could be January, could be this summer, but who knows, really? Well, I’ve had some pains recently — pains that I couldn’t tell whether they were heart related or stress related. These pains concerned me enough to move up my January cardiologist appointment to this morning. Mary, being the devoted wife that she is, decided to join me. My two older kids, being homeschooled, tagged along as well.
So the four of us crammed into nearly every small room they had at Southeast Cardiology. The kids got to see what the inside of my heart looked and sounded like via ultrasound (…and all God’s people said “ewww”). The doctor and his nurse practitioner took great pains to explain why my pains were NOT heart related, pointing out that if they were radiant heart pain, they would manifest “here” and “here”. They also reminded me that TRUE symptoms of my condition would be passing out, shortness of breath, and swelling on my ankles. Being as I’ve got cycle training coming up (running a tactical course in full gear, shooting targets while wearing a gas mask, etc), my doctor thought it prudent to do a walking stress test on me, to see EXACTLY where my heart was and what it was doing, and to give me a good estimate on how well I would tolerate the tac course.
Still no restrictions on my activity, though. All to the good 😉
While this is going on, I’m getting feed updates regarding the shooting in California, where three people are suspected of shooting up a Christmas party and killed fourteen people. It didn’t escape my notice that the shooters were of Arab descent, or that they were Muslim. Not that that is necessarily a determining factor, mind you, but it is rather telling when the news goes out of their way to AVOID drawing that distinction, preferring instead to call this an act of “workplace violence”.
Just so we’re clear, any time you talk your girlfriend/wife into shooting up your workplace with you, dressed in what the news calls “assault gear”, armed to the teeth, and with multiple bombs in various stages of assembly in your house and vehicle… well, that’s not “workplace violence”. That’s terrorism.
Now, these two situations — my heart and San Bernardino — may seem to have nothing to do with each other, but there is a single common thread to both of them. Life can end in an instant. Whether you see the risk to your life coming, or whether it sneaks up on you during a verse of “Silent Night”, the end result is the same. Dead is dead, and you won’t see it until it’s looking you square in the eye.
This time, more than any other, we are reminded just how fragile life is. Some of us gather with loved ones to celebrate the holidays — yes, I’ve got a “Merry Christmas” cued up and ready for all of yall 😉 — and some of us pine for those who are not with us for one reason or another. This season can be uplifting, depressing, peaceful, chaotic, all at once and more! But like the situations I mentioned above, there’s a single thread that runs through them — that these times are fleeting. There’s not a single moment that will last LONGER than a single moment, so it behooves us to treat each moment as if it is our last.
In keeping with that, I want to take a moment (after what has already become a thesis paper hahaha) to say some things that I currently have a moment to say, just on the off chance that this moment is my last.
First and foremost, I thank God for giving me life, and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for saving it. Each second, I realize, is borrowed. Each second is one that I do not deserve, and yet I’m gifted with by a Giver who has no obligation to continue to do so. As the psalmist says, “This is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” No matter what this day may bring, be it pleasure or pain, it’s infinitely better than not having this day at all. I praise You and thank You.
To my wife, Mary, I say thank you as well for the gift of… well, you. You may downplay the value of that gift, and you certainly inflate my worthiness of receiving it, but the fact is that you took someone who had already had one failed marriage and gave him a fresh start at life and love. We can dicker on the details of that, but the fact remains — I was used, and you treated me as if I were new, and I love you for that and a whole lot more. Thank you for pushing me, for believing in me when I don’t believe in myself, for hoping when I feel like I am without hope, for pointing out my stupidity — and doing so gently hehe — when I’m not seeing the world and myself in the right light.
To my kids, I say thank you for the opportunity to be your Daddy, for loving me unconditionally, even when I mess up, or scream my head off like a banshee, or spank the everlovin’ mess out of you. Being a Daddy is hard. Like anything else in life, you have to consider what you’re doing and when (and why) you’re doing it, but there’s a greater risk here. When you mess up in life, you often only mess yourself up. But when you mess up as a Daddy, you might mess up your kids as well. I always worry if something I say or do might break your spirit, or discourage you, or make it hard for you to believe in yourself or others. But at the same time, I always worry about going TOO SOFT on you, about not demanding enough respect out of you — for me, for others, for yourself. I worry about not pushing you hard enough to exceed the limits that you set for yourself, to be GREATER than you ever dreamed of being. I worry about being too much… and about being not enough… because you guys are the greatest work that I could ever hope to do in this life, the greatest way that I could honor my God and Savior, and this above ALL things I want to get right.
To my readers, my fellow writers, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and those who follow my blog just because I’m a pretty cool cat, I want to say thank you for being a part of my life, and allowing me to be a part of yours. Our debates and discussions, our shared dreams and aspirations, they help to color a world that would be much more drab without them. Scripture says that iron sharpens iron (LOL Dave, you see what I did there?), and it’s inevitable that the sharpening casts off sparks. but those sparks needn’t start a fire. It behooves us to USE those times of sharpening, to recognize the rough areas in our arguments, our views, and our lives, in order that we might grow from them. We shouldn’t cut ourselves off from people who disagree, and we should NEVER discount their arguments — however asinine we might consider it to be. We never know when WE might be the idiot in the conversation, so it’s always prudent that we consider the possibility.
Make no mistake about it — I have ZERO intention of today being my last day. I have every intention of intimidating my daughters’ boyfriends, of tossing the football with my son as he enters college on a full ride scholarship (“Roll Tide”, even if you want to cry “War Eagle” hehe), of singing at my daughters’ weddings, and embarrassing (or officiating) my son at his, of bouncing grandkiddos on my knee, of living to see my loving wife ACCEPT her grey hairs. But I have no control over when I’ll die. My cardiologist is evidence of that, and San Bernardino is proof.
So if today WERE my last, this is what I’d want everybody to know…
- God is in control. All the time, in every situation. He is sovereign and just. He sees the big picture, even more clearly than we can see our own little corner of it. He knows what will truly bless us, and what prayers for blessing, if answered, would WITHHOLD blessings from others. He knows what good my healing would do, and what good my healing would prevent. He knows who I touch with my life, and who might be touched with my death. I’d be a fool to think I have a better plan than Him, and I’m no fool 😉
- Mandates are a poor substitute for true charity. As a Daddy, you sometimes tell your kids to be nice to one another, to play nice, to share their things, and you see VIVIDLY how little they actually want to obey. When they do things because they “have” to, they do them half-heartedly, and those who receive that half-hearted obedience can tell. What blesses their hearts is when you give cheerfully, eagerly, with the other person’s blessing being first and foremost. I saw this played out in stark relief today in a YouTube video, featuring a pizza delivery guy who received a $700 tip from a church. Government assistance could’ve “entitled” him to more than that, and every month, but him getting what the law says he “deserved” wouldn’t have done what this tip did. His heart was touched — and maybe, his life, changed — by the EAGER giving of a few church folk. You might make fewer enemies if you’re forced to be nice, but genuinely WANTING to be nice is where you make your friends.
- You are free — already, wherever you live, with or without the government’s help. You always have been free. And you always will be free. The only way for you to NOT be free is to consider yourself so. Even the poorest slave, bound in chains and treated like an animal, can be as free as he wants to be, because freedom is NOT the lack of chains but the recognition that, aside from God Himself, only YOU can own you. Your mind, your life, the fruits of your labors… YOU determine who you are, what you think, what you do. You cannot be forced to be something that you fundamentally are not. You may choose to ALLOW yourself to be that person or to give of yourself — to your benefit or detriment — but it is unjust for anyone to try and “make” you do so. This goes for ALL areas of life, from religion (i.e. true conversion versus swordpoint conversions) to politics (libertarian versus authoritarian) to economics (charitable giving and taxation versus government mandated redistribution). It behooves us to always strive for freedom — to maintain our own, and to give honor to that of others.
I pray that today is not my last day, but if it were, I’d want my life to matter to those who matter to me, to not grieve for my passing, but to praise God that I was here for as long as I was, and that I touched their lives in whatever way that I did. The truest mark of a Godly man — or of ANY man, for that matter — is not what he says or does, but the visible love that he has for his family, his friends, and even his enemies. To love those who are lovable is easy. To love those you don’t know — to truly love them, not merely throw money in their direction — is harder. But to love those who hate you… that’s something that God has to do in your life, and its something that has the power to change the world. Christ Himself shows us that.