I am reprinting a few posts that I wrote four years ago during an extended stay at the Cleveland Clinic. The trip involved a helicopter ride, a heart attack, a week in a coma and 6 weeks learning to walk. Many of you know the story and those that don’t can read about it here. Toward the end of the process, I began writing about the experience and this time of year I go back and revisit those posts. I am sharing a few posts from those days that have been helpful to me and others.
As the title implies, this post was written in January 2015.
For several days as I was coming out of the coma, I couldn’t move more than my arms and hands. There is no TV in ICU and, while Mary Ann was with me most of the time, she needed to sleep and do other stuff (mainly stuff for me). As a result, I had plenty of time to think. And one of the things I thought about is why this would happen to me. At that point, I had nearly died twice, first because I couldn’t breathe and then because I had a heart attack that required about 30 minutes of CPR to get my heart started again. (There would be a third time in about two weeks when I went into septic shock.)
I found myself asking, “Why me?” Not the whiny kind of why did this bad stuff happen to me? But, why did God spare my life, not once, but twice? As I said in an earlier post, two Relapsing Polychondritis patients died from respiratory failure while I was in the hospital and people die from heart attacks every day. It is rare for someone to spend thirty minutes in CPR and live to talk about it. So, the big question on my mind was, “Why did God save my life?” I suppose that a psychologist would say that I was suffering from survivor’s guilt. Which, is an OK explanation for someone who doesn’t believe that God works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. I knew that God had saved my life and I wondered why.
This time of reflection led to time in prayer. I thanked God for the opportunity he had given me. Like Isaac, when he got off the altar after nearly being sacrificed by his father Abraham, I knew that my life no longer belonged to me. From June 13th (2014) on, I have been living on time that has been added after my clock ran out. The experience makes a nice illustration of what it means to be a “living sacrifice” (see Romans 12:1 and 2). But, my goal was to find some answers and not to have a good sermon illustration someday.
Over the next few days, I began to get some answers. I sensed that there were changes that would strengthen each of the major areas of my life: my relationship with God, my marriage, my family and my ministry. In some of the areas, I set specific goals. In others, I am still working on the goals. None of the revelations were earth shattering. But, all of them were important and helped answer the question of why I had a second chance.
This leads to the title of this post. I am a regular listener to a podcast by Michael Hyatt called “This is Your Life.” Michael is the former CEO of big Christian publishing company and is now a speaker and internet entrepreneur. In one of his recent podcasts, he talked about New Year’s resolutions and cited a study that found that most people abandon their resolutions after about 6 days. If you are reading this post when it goes up, and you made New Year’s resolutions this year, you have about 2 days left with them. So, that means if you hold off for just a little while longer you can forget your resolution about losing weight and go back to eating chocolate cake for breakfast. Or, you can take a different approach.
You see, it isn’t necessary to nearly die before making decisions about how you will live. The fact that my life isn’t really mine was driven home to me in a dramatic way. Maybe because that was the only way I would get the message, maybe because that is the only way that I could be moved to share the message with you, and maybe because it would take that kind of dramatic story for you to care what I have to say about life and death. Actually, there is a fourth answer, which is “all of the above.”
While God showed me these things in a way that was hard to miss, the fact is that we all wake up and do whatever we do every day because God has granted us another day to live. The real question, then, isn’t, “What resolutions will I make this year and keep for an average of 6 days?” But, “How will I live my life for God and not for me?” That’s a harder question because we’re not talking about private promises you make to yourself, but decisions and commitments that you make with God.
My goal is not to make you (or me) feel guilty, which leads to paralyzed inaction, but to stir convictions that will lead to personal and spiritual growth. Are you ready to live your life today as if you died yesterday? If you are a Christian, will you put into practice Paul’s attitude that his life was not his own, but he was revived from spiritual death to spiritual life by God’s grace. (Read Ephesians 2:1-10) This is the same grace that has changed us and now sustains us.
If you want to get beyond New Year’s resolutions, try living like a dead person. What would you do differently if you really believed that each day is a new gift from God that you have the opportunity to use? Don’t just recycle your annual resolutions but spend time in prayer and reflection about how you might live your life differently and the impact that could have on yourself and others. Then, as God shows you the new directions, write them down and refer to them often. I pray that this is the year that I will move past resolutions and make lasting commitments that will alter the rest of my life and the lives of those I care about most. I also pray for you; that you will make the same decision