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When the game is over, it all goes back in the box…almost

March 30, 2014

“When the game is over, it all goes back in the box,” that’s the title of a book by John Ortberg that I have been reading through over the last few months. In the book, Ortberg likens our lives to a board game such as Monopoly, when upon conclusion of the game, the board must be cleared of all property, houses and motels, the money all goes back to the bank and all the pieces go back in the box. The same thing happens at the end of our human existence here on earth when we die. It’s the whole idea of, “You can’t take it with you.”

Well early last week it almost “went back in the box” for me you could say. It all started when my daughter came down with a stomach virus on Wednesday, a week previous. The nurse called from her school saying she had vomited and was not feeling well and was resting comfortably in her office. Could I come by and pick her up sometime? Young people, they’re so resilient. She bounced back and was fine within a 24-hour period.

Fast-forward a few days to Saturday a week ago. I had spent most of the day that day preparing my adult bible study class lesson taking a chapter from the aforementioned book by Mr. Ortberg and reinforcing it with scripture verses. I had finished my preparation early for once and even got to watch some of the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament on television before bed.

monopoly boardHowever, not long after my head hit the pillow, I began to feel nauseous. Winter had come and gone this year without me getting sick for a change…NOT. I thought I had escaped the torturous stomach bug this year…NOT. I went on to spend the majority of that evening hugging my toilet (that’s as graphic as I’ll get).

By the time Sunday morning arrived, I was in no shape to attend church or teach my bible study class. I asked my wife to phone our class’ co-teacher and ask him to fill in at the last moment. The wife and kids went off to church without me and I rolled over and went back to sleep.

My body continued to reject everything via one orifice or another throughout that day and evening and into the next. Monday came and I had to call in sick because I couldn’t even get out of bed without seeing stars. My wife, bless her heart, tried to no avail to encourage me to eat some crackers and drink something, sternly warning that I was going to get dehydrated.

Sometime during the middle of the night Monday evening/Tuesday morning, things got even more complicated. While sitting on the commode, apparently I passed out, banging my head through the opposing sheetrock wall and putting my top front tooth through my lower lip. I awoke sometime later on the hard tile bathroom floor freezing cold and unable to move for the longest time. I somehow managed to get myself to the couch and wait things out until morning.

I’ll finish my story in a minute. Allow me now to teach a little:

 

 

Look at life this way friends. Remember the old audio or videocassette recorders from the 1970’s and 80’s and the control buttons on such devices: play, record, fast-forward, rewind, and pause? Well here’s how our lives are in parallel with those controls:

We are all right now in the record mode. Our lives are being recorded. Presently, the Divine author of our very lives themselves is recording every word, thought, action and deed that we do, whether good or bad. The recording time is very short for some, and a bit longer for others.

Someday we will all encounter the dreaded stop button. No one likes the stop button. That’s the one that means things are all over down here. Most of us live life trying to ignore the very existence of the stop button. We don’t like to think of when life as we know it will end.

A good friend of mine likens life to a test. We are filling in our answers right now to the questions. The questions are how we handle things that we encounter along life’s way in the here and now. Then someday we will hand that test in and it will be graded and scored. Will we be satisfied with our scores? I doubt it. For most of us don’t think the test is real or that it won’t count in the end.

We are just the recording tape folks. The recorder/player is owned and designed by God and he is the only one who has access to the control buttons. We like to think we are in control of something down here, but in reality, we’re not. No one has one shred of control over anything that happens. God is the one in control. Rich folks try to buy it, kings like to think they have it, but the wise know that it can never be possessed.

Then there is the fast-forward button. Remember, we don’t have access to the controls here. So although the fast-forward button does exist, it’s greyed out, it’s not an option for us. We sadly don’t possess the ability to see what will happen in the future. I heard someone say one time that the ability to not see into our future was a good thing for it would probably scare us. I tend to agree.

One thing that we do have available though is the ability to partially read other’s recordings who have long since stopped. People often retell another one’s story in various forms. We can learn from others who have gone before us. That’s one reason I love to study the Old Testament bible characters. They were people just like us who lived, laughed and loved. We can look at their lives and see cause and effect and then apply that to our own recordings.

How about a rewind button you might be thinking? One thing most of us do possess is this ability: to recall things or replay, so to speak, past events in our lives. The problem however, is that we can’t go back and change the recording or over-write it in any way. A life’s moment, once recorded, is immutable. It’s forever there to relive but not reclaim. Most people know this anomaly as regret. Regret can be used positively or negatively to effect future recording segments of our lives. If used correctly it can effect things in a positive way and effectively change future outcomes producing better future yields.

So is that it? This rant doesn’t seem very positive thus far, you say. Well there is still one button we haven’t discussed. What’s that, you say? Why the pause button of course. Do we really have the ability to put our lives on pause? Frankly…NO. Remember, we don’t have access to any of these controls. But once in a while our maker will hit the pause button on our lives for us.

The pause button usually takes the form of some life altering, seemingly catastrophic event that sneaks up on us out of the blue one day. We are cruising down life’s highway, things are going well, the weather is nice, the birds are singing, fresh breezes are blowing, et cetera. Then…BAM. An unplanned obstacle appears out of nowhere and blocks our path. An individual may experience one of these “pause” occurrences only once in a lifetime, maybe twice, rarely more frequently, sometimes never (remember, we’re not the ones in control). But it’s what we do with them that count!

This last week of my life was effectively spent in that “pause” mode. For my gracious Creator saw fit in His infinite wisdom to send one of those potentially life-altering moments my way. We often think of these life moments in a negative light, effectively referring to them as a “crisis” or a “wakeup call.” Mine came at 2pm on Tuesday, March 25th when the pain in my gut got so bad I felt compelled to call 911 because I didn’t even have the strength for a car ride to the hospital. Then I found myself flat on my back, face upwards toward the ceiling of the hospital ER, eyes squeezed shut, lips cracked and parched from days without hydration, wondering if my recording had ended then and there after what I felt was a brief 47 years.

Thankfully, God had other plans. After being stabilized and a battery of scans and tests, the doctors explained how I had ended up in this predicament. As they explained, it was a near-deadly combination of three factors: the aforementioned stomach bug, a severe abdominal infection brought on by a known chronic colon condition and some usually well-intended high-blood pressure medication that had become the fuel for the dehydration fire.

The doctors further told me that I was being admitted to the hospital for acute kidney failure, and that they would know over the next 48-hour period whether or not my kidneys had experienced irreparable damage, requiring a lifetime of dialysis, or whether they would restart themselves and I could resume a normal life. I remember thinking, “Wow…all this…seriously? I have never even been inside a hospital before in my life. Why is this happening to me?”

I wish I could impart some great wisdom or gained insight here. But instead I will leave this post a bit open-ended. What have I learned from this experience? What am I going to change moving forward? I don’t know for certain the answers to those questions yet. The Bible says however, to be thankful in all things (the good as well as the bad). So God, “Thank you for this pause moment in my life and help me to use it to change my own recording for the better and to help others change their recordings as well.”

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