On January 3, 2017, I awoke from a medically-induced sleep to find a cardiologist staring into my face saying, “You have to have open heart surgery!” I said, “You’re joking, right?” And he said, “No, if I were joking, I’d say ‘two men and a horse go into a bar’.”
Well, actually, he didn’t say the thing about the horse and the bar, but I did ask him if it was a joke. You ever hear the phrase “as serious as a heart attack”? Well, that was the demeanor of this cardiologist.
Open heart surgery – triple bypass.
I was whisked off from a local hospital (via a speeding ambulance with which my wife could not keep up in her car) to a major medical center that performs heart surgery. The rest, as they say, is history.
No horse. No bar.
Never been really sick in my life. Never any major medical issues whatsoever. And now I’m being cracked open like a coconut and some surgeon is holding my ticker in his hands stitching in some pieces of vein that he stole from my leg.
And my family is thinking I might bite the big one. (And I’m thinking I might bite the big one!) And I make my peace with God. (Don’t ask the details. As is commonly reported in the South it’s just between the Lord and I.)
And God starts talking to me. And to my great surprise, He wasn’t talking about me and my heart. As a matter of fact, He wasn’t talking about me at all. I wanted to make me the topic, but He had some other things on his mind. I was, after all, a captive audience, flat on my back in a hospital bed. Who was I to argue with God, right?
God starts talking about Himself. He is talking to me about His eternal plan. About how much he loves his creation. He’s telling me about the beauty of the trees of the woods, and the fluffy clouds in the sky. He’s telling me about people around me who are hurting – really hurting, and that I might just be that cool drink of water that they need in a dry and thirsty land. He shows me how self-centered I can be; how I tend to think about me and mine, and us foe and no moe. And he’s loving on everybody. And nobody is unimportant to him.
So, something funny begins to happen. I start to change.
One of my nurses seems like a real pill, but I ask her about her family and she starts to smile and talk to me. She becomes one of my favorite people in the hospital. A petite young Hispanic woman comes to clean my bathroom and I address her in Spanish and chat for a moment in her personal tongue; and the day I left the hospital, she made a point of waiting so she could see me leave, and she waved good-bye and smiled. The shy young girl who delivered my food on the food cart learned that I like coffee and would bring me a second cup without my asking. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and told her how special she was to God. She broke out in a huge smile and squeezed my hand. One of my medical technicians told me that she had always wanted a foyer on her house with huge windows. I told her maybe God would give it to her. Seems simple enough. I actually asked God to give her a foyer.
I couldn’t wait for the sun to come up the next morning so I could watch that glorious sunrise in all its majesty reflecting on the face of the King of Glory. How many sunrises have I experienced in my life? And yet the one after my surgery was bright and new – like I had never seen a single one before.
When I was finally allowed to go home, I rode in stunned silence, staring at the trees along the highway, all gaga over how beautiful they were. Had I ever really seen a tree? And the clouds! Giant, fluffy clouds! Those magnificent, floating art galleries painted on a baby blue background by the hand of God! I watched the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen as that giant ball of exploding nuclear reactions slipped below the horizon.
I cried. I couldn’t help it.
I had heart surgery.
No, really, I had heart surgery.
Romans 1:20 (HCSB) 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.
I forgot all my excuses. They now seem exquisitely unimportant.
I am amazed at the wonderfulness of YOU, my God! You are beautiful beyond description! You are altogether lovely, and altogether fair. You, Lord Jesus are the fairest of all! And I stand in awe of you!