Thursday, November 18, 2004

Purpose Driven Life: thoughts from a hospital bed

I started reading the Purpose Driven Life (PDL) in early October. I even joined a small reading group to go through the book with. We met once. The following week on Tuesday (our scheduled meeting time) I called to say I wasn't feeling well and would miss the second meeting. That meeting was on October 12 which was when my stomach ache started which lead to the October 13 just after midnight ER visit and the afternoon surgery.

I had not gotten far in the book. But I had gotten far enough for Rick Warren to introduce what he believes to be the five purposes of our life from the Bible. (1) Worship God (2) Love People (3) Grow to be like Jesus (4) Serve Others (5) Tell Others about Jesus.

When I was in the hospital, I slept irregularly. About every 4 hours my vital signs were taken (temperature and blood pressure). Sometimes I would fall asleep quickly after the vitals check up but sometimes I would remain awake and stare at the ceiling wondering ... hmmm... what is the "big picture" to this experience of surgery and tubes and needles in and out of my body?

I thought about the PDL book and those five purposes.

Well... I guess talking to God constituted a form of worship! I thanked God for various things (especially people who are a part of my life) and expressed my worries about what was happening. One part of worshiping God is recognizing that God is God and I'm not.

As for love... I was at the receiving end of a lot of it. I was at a place where there was little I could give to others than to pray for them at 3am in the morning and thank them when they would talk to me. So in some way, for that moment, my purpose was to allow others to love me.

As for maturity... I hope I've grown as a human being as a result of this brush with mortality. I hope I am a little more like Jesus because of what I went through.

As for service... I was at the receiving end of a lot of it. There was little I could do for myself at the hospital. Outside of the hospital recovering at home for the first couple of weeks, I could do a bit more but still not a whole lot. I confess I alternated between frustration that I was so helpless and grateful that there were people who would help me.

I have to say I found myself thinking about what my life will be like when I'm old and everyone I have known and loved has since died and there would be no one to care for me when I am unable to care for myself. I really admire deacons in the church who serve the elderly because they simply want to fulfill God's command to love others!

As for sharing Christ... I hope people can see that Christians care for each other and pray for each other and I hope the way I reacted to my ailment was a testimony for Christ.

I recently saw part of the film Braveheart. At the end, William Wallace has to face a painful death. He does so with faith and courage that only confidence in God allows.

I didn't face death in what I went through but it was at times a bit scary. In the not too distant past one could die from a bowel obstruction. And in many parts of the world today where there are no hospitals my obstruction of the small intestine would have resulted in death. But here in the USA, it is quite treatable.

Death may come suddenly in our modern world (auto accidents or heart attacks) but it could also come in a lingering way (a stroke that doesn't kill but disables or a long struggle with cancer). I hope I will be able to face death well.

In the meantime, I hope live life well for God and those God places in my life.

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