FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK: Two-word phrases…they punctuate our days as we hear them and use them all the time. Consider just a few of them: Thank you. You’re welcome. Bless you. Love you. Let’s go. Be nice. Let’s eat. How sweet! Watch out!
Well, recently I’ve been hearing one two-word phrase in my ongoing battle with plantar fasciitis that I wrote about in my last opening newsletter article. After three cortisone shots, purchasing three new pairs of shoes, trying a number of different orthotics and inserts in my shoes, doing exercises to stretch the ligament that was causing my heel pain, applying ice, being barely able to walk out to my car after being on my feet all Sunday morning, and missing basketball for more than four months, I finally decided to opt for the last resort: surgery. But I only did it because of a hope-filled two-word phrase that I kept hearing from those who had been through the surgery. And that phrase was: INSTANT RELIEF. I was told that when the doctor cuts that ligament, there would be instant relief from all that heel pain I had battled for so long.
As I write this article from my recliner in our living room with my left foot elevated, it has been less than 24 hours since my surgery which was performed by my wife’s employer for the past 25 years, Dr. Nolen. I can’t say enough good about him. The shots he gave me to numb my foot were painless and throughout the surgery he kept asking if I was feeling any pain and all I could say was no.
So was there that instant relief that I heard others talk about and that I was looking for and hoping for? Well, I would have to answer that question with both a yes and a no. There was initial relief from the heel pain primarily because of the anesthetic that was used to numb my foot. I knew, however, as the doctor had told me, that once that anesthetic wore off there would be some pain caused by the incision and the cutting of that ligament. And he was right, though in all honesty it wasn’t unbearable. The only time it hurt was when I tried to walk on it and that was primarily due to the fact that there was a big wad of gauze covering the incision site. So when I walked on it, it felt like I had a big round rock in my shoe. But once we changed the dressing and that gauze was replaced by a simple band-aid, it felt much better. Though I had pain, I never did take any pain medication, not even Tylenol or Ibuprofen, because I just didn’t feel I needed it.
So I am very thankful for how things went. And I thank all of you for your prayers. I anticipate that by the time you read this I will be well on my way to recovery and hopefully getting back to playing basketball and other types of exercise real soon.
But let’s get back to that two-word phrase, INSTANT RELIEF. As I thought about that, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a time that the Bible speaks of when there will indeed be INSTANT RELIEF, not for everyone, but only for those who believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior. And oh what relief it will be! The Apostle John speaks of it in Revelation 21 where he says that God is going to wipe away all tears from our eyes forever and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. Imagine that, if you can. No more sickness. No more suffering. No more cancer. No more wars. No more terrorism. No more family conflict. No more violence. No more accidents. No more hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or other natural disasters. No more Satan. No more sin.
The only drawback to all of that, at least from our human perspective, is that we have to die in order to experience it. And I don’t know too many of us who are standing in line waiting to do that. Most people, including many Christians, fear the inevitable reality of death. Or maybe it would be more proper to say that they fear the process of dying, the means by which death ultimately snatches them out of this world. And I understand that. But while many people fear death because it is the big unknown, we who know Christ as Savior really don’t have to have that crippling fear because He’s already gone through death for us. That’s what we’ll observe on Good Friday. But He also came out the other side of the tomb when He burst the bonds of death through His glorious and victorious resurrection which we will, of course, be celebrating on Easter morning. All of which is why the Apostle Paul could look death square in the eye in 1Corinthians 15 and sneer at it as he wrote these powerful words: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Let me close then with an email I received recently from Betty Pieplow of our congregation about how one man was looking at death as he sat by the bedside of his dying wife:
The process of shutting down has begun. It’s so hard to feel so helpless when someone you love has to go through a process like this. I keep reminding myself that the struggle to enter the next life is not that different than the one to enter this one was. Only the perspective of us as spectators is different. Birth and death for God’s children are so very similar. Extreme stress and pressure force you out of your safe, familiar world into a strange new world where your arrival is anxiously awaited and applauded by those who have preceded you. They are so excited about the wonderful new life that you’re about to embark upon, that they barely even consider the discomfort you are experiencing. But you are overwhelmed and freaked out as you get closer to arriving, because it is a real struggle going through the birth process. — So much of what has sustained you up until now is abruptly shut down or cut off. It has to be in order for you to be equipped to function in the new world. Your heart and circulatory system reconfigure themselves in an instant so your blood can be oxygenated in a whole new way than before. I’ll bet that hurts!
You have to breathe air instead of water which must be a whole lot like drowning only backwards. But does anybody really care about that? No!! You take that first awful breath and scream out in pain and terror and they actually erupt into cheers and laughter and light-hearted excitement while you continue to scream at the top of your lungs. They actually rejoice that you are crying! The more you kick and scream the better they like it! How rude!!
But watching someone enter the next life – being on the back end, all we see is the pressure, the stress, the pain, and the fact that they are entering a world that is completely alien to them and to us. And like the proverbial twin left in the womb, we feel empty and alone and traumatized by the negative side of what we have just witnessed and by the ominous sense that it will soon happen to us too. Yet, while we struggle to make sense of it all, our brother has already calmed down, been embraced by his heavenly Parents (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and is looking with wonder and amazement into their adoring eyes. He has already forgotten the struggle he just went through only minutes before because of the love and comfort of his Parents. He has been launched into a broad, bright, wonderful world that we, still cowering alone in the womb, cannot begin to fathom.
Wow! What a beautiful analogy! What a wonderful way to look at death which is really only a birth for the faithful child of God into a new life made possible only because of Jesus’ death-defeating and death-defying resurrection. He is risen! He is risen indeed!!
A blessed Easter to all!