Do you ever feel liked the cards are stacked against you? Mine was a routine six-month dental exam. Somehow I had forgotten this was the appointment when x-rays are taken. The process always leaves me with a gag-reflex. You may find this difficult to believe, but I don’t have a big mouth. I know, I’m a man of many words, but my mouth isn’t all that big. In addition, my passage way for breathing isn’t all that large. In a day of high technology, why do they still have to use the big plastic things with the x-ray film? They stuff them in your mouth, tell you to bite down and hold that grip until you hear the buzzer. Color it anyway you want, but the process “hurts like crazy” (I could have expressed it differently, but I’m generally a man of discretionary judgment). Am I the only person who finds the pain in the roof of one’s mouth excessive when your biting down on the plastic containing the film? In addition, I’m hearing impaired. I never hear the buzzer and I’m always in the middle of a gag reflex with the dental hygienist retrieves the film.
On the good news side, my teeth are ugly but great. Actually Dr. Laura didn’t add the ugly part, but she did confirm that my teeth are fine. She was fairly cautious in how she expressed it. In fact, she was perceptive enough to know that she could wind up in one of my blogs and said as much. Of course, it always makes me feel good to know that someone of her standing would take the time to read the mostly nonsense that I write. That is always a feel-good for me and it doesn’t require pain medication to make me feel that way.
Even with the fear of appearing in my blog, she took the plunge. After all, at the end of the day Dr. Laura’s professionalism and commitment to quality care takes precedence. So she gave me the full picture: “Your teeth look great but your gums are a mess.” Then she asked, “What’s going on with you?”
Talk about a loaded question. How would you answer a question like that? Seeing the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face, she offered some possible sources from which an answer might come. “Are you taken any new medications? What about sleep patterns, are there any changes there?” Presto – you’ve just asked the $64,000 question. Wouldn’t you know it, a dentist had just asked the identical question that two other doctors had asked in as many weeks. Obviously, insufficient sleep patterns result in more than feeling groggy the next morning. Obviously, messy gums can lead to unhealthy teeth. I get it, I really do.
Sign me up for a Twelve Step Program: “Hello My Name Is Don And I Don’t Get Enough Sleep”. I went to bed at 9:30 last night with the hope of sleeping soundly through the night. I set my alarm for 4:30 knowing full well that I would wake up an hour earlier than that. I am a man of predictability or so I thought. I was really groggy and tired when I woke up, but I couldn’t drift off back to sleep. I looked at the time on my iPhone. It was 11:00 p.m.
No wonder my gums are a mess. I don’t sleep. As I attempted to go back to sleep, I thought about several people that I know who are in the midst of great difficulty and overwhelming circumstances. I thought of people whose circumstances reflect loss and grief, loneliness, workplace difficulty and a lack of clarity in making life choices. Instead of counting sheep, I opted to pray for the folks who came to mind. In fact, I had the thought: “Maybe God awakened me at 11:00 p.m. because these folks needed prayer. Consequently, that thought helped me reframe my circumstances.
A grandmother was attempting to teach her granddaughter about God’s involvement in our lives. At one point while the two played together in the back yard, the grandmother pointed out the beautiful flowers and asked: “Do you know who made the flowers?” The grandmother then offered the answer: “God made the flowers.” They subsequently had the same conversation about rain: “God made the rain.” Later that day the granddaughter made a horrible mess on the living room floor. When the grandmother asked, “Who made that mess?” the granddaughter proudly answered: “God made the mess.”
Sometimes we mistakenly credit God for the messes in which we find ourselves. We forget that ours is a fallen world and that there are two forces at work in our world. On the threshold of adulthood, in my college years, I worked the 3:00 to 11:00 shift as an orderly in the emergency room of the town’s primary hospital. By the way, it was a Baptist Hospital. The experience proved to be a crash course in how suddenly and abruptly people’s lives are shattered and forever changed.
One night, I was working the 11:00 to 7:00 shift. A car pulled into the portico outside the emergency room in the very early hours of the morning, but no one came inside. I walked out to see if I could be of assistance.
From the back seat of the car, they passed out to me the lifeless body of a four- year-old. I will never forget holding her lifeless body in my arms. Earlier in the evening, both she and her younger sister had ingested rat poison. They found it under the kitchen sink at their grandmother’s home. The family was from California. They were visiting grandparents in Abilene. The family immediately had taken both girls to an emergency room where they were given Epicec to make them regurgitate. Both girls were then released to go home. During the night, the mother found that her four-year-old daughter was not breathing.
I was present when the grandparent’s pastor made his way to the hospital and counseled with the family. The words he shared didn’t carry a ring of truth to me. Yet they were the same empty words that I had repeatedly heard other pastors use as they counseled grieving families in that same waiting room. He said this: “We don’t understand it, but this is God’s will.”
The empty words shared in the context of providing comfort didn’t resonate with truth for me. Some of you may disagree with me and that’s okay, but if I live to be a 100 you’ll never convince me otherwise. There are two forces at work in our world. Consequently, there is a very big difference between God’s perfect will and his permissive will. God isn’t surprised by life. He has the ability to see the big picture, but he’s not pulling the strings and orchestrating the awful stuff of life.
He is a loving God that comes along side us at the point of need. He weeps with us in the midst of our sorrow and he provides the strength and support to find the will to go on. He provides comfort and hope to those in the midst of difficulty. Who’s to say? He may awaken others at 11:00 p.m. with the thought that friends need prayer.
All My Best!