I had spinal / back surgery a few weeks ago. I didn’t post about this on social media because, well, because I also don’t post what I’m having for lunch or my beverage selections at Starbucks… guess I’m still a bit ‘old school’ about my personal life.
I’m doing great – the original pain is gone and my recovery is at or ahead of my surgeon’s predictions!
The hardest part was the recovery: I was ‘ordered by my surgeon (who is only a few years older than my oldest son!) to take two full weeks to rest and recuperate, and I was prohibited from driving…which really sucked!
I would be lying if I said that during those two weeks I had powerful and reflective times of meditation, thoughtful reading, and soul-searching. In truth, while on pain medication, I mostly tried to find comfortable positions while lamenting the terrible choices of daytime television and, eventually, made my daily ‘trek’ around the side of our property to the mailbox.
During my prolonged R&R period I did shuffle around our house enough times to look at some photos in my study and be reminded of some of my many trips abroad and I began to reflect on one of them in particular – our first trip to India over 20 years ago.
As background, I started out in full-time ministry very young – at 22 years old. All I had ever known was adolescence, high school, college and… being a pastor. At the old age of 37, I was already feeling a bit ‘burned out’ serving as an associate pastor at two ‘mega-churches,’ and having planted and pastoring a congregation in Colorado Springs.
Then, in 1993, through a remarkable series of circumstances, Linda and I found ourselves in a remote part of east-central India ministering to over 20,000 people. During one afternoon, while we were there, we were being driven by an Indian pastor who spoke no English, but who decided to stop in a very rural village, presumably where he had grown up, and we were greeted by dozens of (very small) people standing around their humble grass covered mud huts eager to meet the American [white] “holy man” and his wife.
Nobody spoke English, which made our brief visit not much more than perfunctory smiles and nods. But just as we thought our time there was done, from somewhere in the small crowd that had assembled, a little girl was shoved in front of us. She was probably 9 or 10 years old. Unlike other little Indian girls, with their beautiful jet-black hair that was exquisitely braided by their mothers, this little girl’s hair was cut short. She was disabled, walking on all fours, like an animal. We realized that somebody wanted us to pray for this little girl, or heal her!
Linda and I dropped to our knees on the dirt, stroking her little head, crying and praying. Then, perhaps motivated by God’s Spirit, I found myself lying on the dirt, looking into this little girl’s eyes. Suddenly, beyond the blank stare, I found myself looking at a deep love, as if I was looking into the eyes of Jesus.
I have never forgotten this moment…it has been one of the defining events of my spiritual journey. I don’t know if I was actually looking into the eyes of Jesus or not (Matthew 25 might imply that I was). But I do know that at that moment, I was seeing with a clarity I had never seen before – or since.
Since that time I have made 41 trips to Africa, working among some of the poorest people on the planet. My politics have changed (nope, you’ll have to talk with me personally to find out how). My theology has evolved, but one thing remains…God’s grace is not only amazing, it is far more generous than we imagined!
The only regret I have is that it took hydrocodone and surgery to remind me!