“Maybe we should go see our family doctor,” said my wife, Kat. I didn’t want to. If I agreed to go to the doctor that morning, it meant I was acknowledging that there was the slightest possibility that, just maybe, there would be a change. Little did I realize that change had already taken place, and I--along with my family, friends and associates—had no choice but to embrace that change. It has now been one year, a year of endless change.
We constantly hear that people don’t like change, yet when I look around change is constant. From the moment we are born there is change, every day, every moment. We don’t resist it. In fact, we embrace it. We are reliant on others for everything. We are at their mercy. We know nothing of idleness or control. I believe this is why Jesus Christ often refers to children in His stories.
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt.18:3 (NIV)
As we grow and get a little older, we are taught by our culture that we need to have input on everything, and that you, and you alone, control your destiny. This is in direct opposition to what Christianity teaches us:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
This speaks to me. I gave up control when I accepted Jesus’ never-ending gift of salvation. I am His, and He is mine. As an ambassador for His Kingdom, I am taught to follow His directions for my life. I no longer have control. Many of you reading this have made the same commitment, the choice to follow Jesus Christ, to let Him have complete control. Yet we do not let Him have complete control. What holds us back? Fear of Change.
Let’s go back to Friday, August 1, 2014—two days before our Sunday morning service at Musikfest. I woke up early with a headache, and I knew something was wrong with my body. There was numbness, hypersensitivity and difficulty swallowing among a few other symptoms. I thought perhaps it was a pinched nerve. How could it be anything more serious? I was only 47 years old, way too young for anything more serious. When I finally agreed to go to the doctor, she took one look at me and sent me to the emergency room to investigate the possibility of a TIA, Transient Ischemic Attack or a mini-stroke. It wasn’t. After four hours of poking, prodding, various imagery and blood tests, and no answers, they sent me home. What they were sure of was that it was not a stroke. I thought, “See, nothing more than a pinched nerve, and I will be back to normal in the morning.” I went back to life as usual and continued my prep for Musikfest.
The next morning, I was not back to normal. I still couldn’t feel my right arm, I couldn’t swallow, and I couldn’t sing. Even so, I continued to move forward doing what God has called me to do, and that is to lead people into His presence. So, on Saturday, August 2 at 9 a.m. I went to practice with the Musikfest team. I picked up my guitar, and I sang. The next morning, on August 3 at 10 a.m. I led people into His presence with the rest of our team under the Festplatz tent.
It wasn’t until two weeks later, after 29 more blood tests, 7 MRIs, and an Echocardiogram, it was determined that I, indeed, had a stroke. That news stopped me cold. Had I known that I suffered a stroke on that Friday morning, I probably would have not been at the Musikfest service. It was fear, fear of what happened and fear of what might still happen. Even so, I have to believe that God had a plan that involved me and the Festplatz crowd. His plans were not just for that Sunday morning. According to my neurologist, playing my guitar the day after my stroke was the best thing I could do to kickstart my recovery. Fearless by default.
Recently my wife asked me to watch the first two installments in the Divergent series-- action-adventure films set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues, one of which is Dauntless. I found the Dauntless’ dedication to courage and fearlessness to be both profound and applicable to the Christ-follower’s walk. We don’t control the fear but rather hand it over to God, our parent. We should not fear change. We should let it wake us up.
My biggest fear now is another kind of change. Will I fully recover? Will I ever be normal again (whatever that is)? Regardless of the answer, I should embrace God’s change, be free of fear, and fully awake. Fearless by default.
Be Fearless with us under the Festplatz tent on August 9, 2015 at 10 a.m.
First Published at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem blog.