I’ll admit: I didn’t see this one coming. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I would have serious trials again. But I wasn’t expecting to be in harm’s way again while I was still recovering from the last go-round. Little faster than I would have anticipated. And a lot more intense. But here I am on Christmas morning, one that I had no business seeing, pondering my inventory of afflictions and blessings.
The afflictions are easy to count. Since this time last year, I’ve had antibiotic-resistant pneumonia, in both lungs. The pancreatitis took my major organs off line. Did that dying thing. The monster cyst. That crazy nose bleed during the summer (blood coming out of my eye sockets was a nice touch, by the way). The operation that went wrong. The aneurysm. My numb leg. 11 scars on my torso. Numerous scars on my hands and arms from all of the IVs. Considerably less hair than I started the year with, and a greater portion of it grey.
Yeah, I’ve aged about a decade this year. Been rode hard, and I see it when I look in the mirror. I feel it, but only when I move, sit, or lay down.
The blessings? Those are harder to count. They always are. While afflictions pout, yell and gesticulate for attention like a petulant three-year old, blessings have a way of creeping up next to you quietly, doing little if anything to announce their presence. You have to look to find them, and who wants to go to all of that work when you have the bratty problems of your life right in front of you?
But I have learned that the blessings are there. I’ve written about several of them over the last twelve days. So much for which I have to be grateful. But one blessing I’ve said little about, and it’s one of the greatest that you have given me this year. It was a message hidden behind all of these other blessings, one that I needed to hear, and that I have paid so little attention to over the years. It was a simple, whispered assurance of a truth that I have rarely believed:
I have felt more than a little like Ebenezer Scrooge as I have gone through this process of fading and recovering. I have had the opportunity to be reminded of some of the good things I have done in the past that have helped other people, and I have been given a glimpse of how things would be without me. I have seen that despite all of my faults and failures–and they are legion–the blessing of life has not been completely wasted on me. I’ve been able to do enough with my life that I would be missed if I were gone.
I have not always felt that way. There have been a few times in my life when depression has taken me down dark paths that could have led to scary results. I felt more than once that few would mourn my passing, and that some might be better off as a result of it. The scariest of those demons were slain some time ago, but I still question my relevance.
You showed me something different this year. I’ve seen, or at least heard of, the scores of people who visited me or my family in the hospital, who stood at the wall with my wife, and who prayed for my survival and welfare. I’ve had people offer help because, according to them, they felt some sort of obligation to me or my family as a result of mostly forgotten small acts of service that we had done for them. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying we deserved the kind of help that we received. No one does. But the things said by those giving us help reminded me that I along the line I had done enough to bind me with people in the way that only service can bind you together. You have showed me that little things add up, and that we all need each other. Every little act of service given to me has made a difference and has irrevocably changed how I see the people who offered them. If their service makes a difference, then so can mine. I’ve mattered to good people. I’ve sometimes been a helper.
On top of that, I have seen the genuine and heartfelt relief expressed by friends (old and new) when they find out that I was able to cheat death and find a path to recovery. I cannot and will not doubt the sincerity of those expressions. More than ever before, I had an appreciation that if I weren’t here, that loss would be felt by others. It imposes on me an obligation to validate their expressions of relief by ensuring that my preservation serves a purpose. I matter, and I need to make sure that I find ways to continue to matter.
Then you gave me the final assurance of my value: You saved me. I have no idea why I have been preserved through multiple threats to my survival. I am clueless as to why so many people, including countless people who are much better than me and make a bigger difference than I ever have, are taken back to you under less severe circumstances. I cannot pretend to explain why you have performed one miracle after another to keep me here. I just know that you have. For whatever reason, I was worth the rescue, several times over. I matter to you.
Thank you for that repeated whispered message. And thank you for the message that echoes behind it:
We all matter.
Everyone is worth a rescue. Everyone is worth the effort of service. Everyone means something to you, and therefore should mean something to me. If the likes is worth a miracle, then everyone is. This journey of life is a struggle, sometimes a mighty one. Understanding that we matter, that everyone matters, means that it is always worth stopping to offer a kind word, a lifting hand, or a supportive shoulder. We need to believe and have faith that our little contributions make a difference, that our feeble strength can be magnified through your grace in such a manner that it moves people in lasting ways. We need to remember that we matter, and we should cultivate sufficient compassion that everyone matters to us.
Thank you, God, for the miracles. Thank you for the rescue. Thank you for the reminder.