On Sunday, Feb 6, I was in an early Sunday morning prayer meeting when my phone rang. Our local fire department informed me that my wife had fallen, was in great pain, and they were breaking in the house to get to her. I said, “tear the house down – just get to her.” That phone call enrolled me in a new class in the school of discipleship.
During the last two and one-half months, my life has radically changed. I have been the primary care-giver for my wife. The nature and location of the break means she cannot put any weight on the leg for about three months. For her, this means being restricted to a wheelchair and walker, physical therapy and constant care, pain and helplessness. For me, it means laundry and house-keeping, grocery-buying and a hundred small details that are necessary in care-giving.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:
1. Jesus is building the church – not me.
I am planting a church. We are only a few months old as a church – and now, I am extremely limited in who I can meet, where I can go and what I can do. Caring for my wife and the home is sometimes all-consuming of my time and attention.
Several months ago, I had asked our Student Pastor to preach on that particular morning. It is God’s grace and providence that allowed me to be able to leave that morning with no worries about preaching or the church. In fact, at least one conversion took place that morning!
My staff and the lay leaders of the Orchard have stepped up to the leadership challenge and led well over the last several months. They have been understanding, patient and hard-working. I lead a high capacity and dedicated group of people.
2. Trials are synchronized.
This happened three days after moving into a new and smaller house. Imagine boxes and chaos in every room! In addition, my aging parents live 500 miles away and are rapidly declining in health. And, we are at that all-important, all-consuming stage in church planting when we establish membership, place elders in place, and launch community ministries. It is difficult to imagine a more “interesting” time for this to happen.
3. I really am more flawed and “high maintenance” than I thought.
Testing reveals the truth about us – and sometimes, it’s not pretty. Sins have sprouted in me like dandelions in my yard. My emotions have swung from anger to jealousy, from fear to self-pity and pride. It has been a battle to pray, to stay God-centered and Ruthe-oriented. The truth is – I preach better than I live. I am being humbled.
4. I am more loved than I dared think.
God has sustained my strength. We have had wonderful meals provided by so many people. A number of women have volunteered to stay with Ruthe when I needed to leave. We have been the object of a prayer chain involving dozens of people each day. And God has not killed me for my sins. Ruthe has not fired me because of my irritability. It’s all grace!
5. God is a God of process
Healing is often not instantaneous. Nor is growth in Christ-likeness. Marriage is a day-to-day, “poco-a-poco” deal, as is church planting, evangelism, leadership development and most other important things in life. This is cause for hope!
6. I delight in my children, and God uses them as a means of grace.
All of our children are married and have lives of responsibility and pressure of their own. Two live out of town. Yet, each one has found unique ways to be present, support, encourage and help. Each one has been in constant contact and prayer for us. Each one, together with their spouses, have traveled to be with us. Each one has put his or her agenda on hold in order to assist us in practical and creative ways. Each one has helped us smile, laugh and forget out troubles. Each one has encouraged us in the Lord.
More to come.