FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK: If there is one thing we have all learned over the past few months thanks to the Coronavirus it is that life does not always go according to plan. I’ve certainly learned that. As most of you know, I made it known a few years ago that I would be retiring from full-time ministry on August 31 of this year. And while those plans are still in place, something else I was planning on shortly after I retire isn’t. And that is a once-in-a-lifetime-dream-come-true trip to the Holy Land that was scheduled for mid-October but has now been postponed to a year from this coming November. To be honest with you, I’ll be surprised if we’re even able to do it then, especially with the shape the world is in right now.
Our high school graduates certainly learned that life doesn’t always go according to plan. A year ago they were looking forward to that final year of high school and all that goes with it: the sports, prom, graduation, and so on. But all of those highly anticipated events and activities had to be postponed, canceled, or altered in some way or another because of that brand new term that we’ve all learned this year: social distancing.
Well, one thing that we often find ourselves doing when we’re facing a time where life isn’t going according to plan is waiting. So how good are you at waiting? Be honest. I imagine that if there was a class in school called “Waiting 101” most of us would probably fail. I know I would, especially after an extremely difficult time of waiting Marilyn and I and our family went through on Thursday, July 9. That was the day our daughter Kim had another brain surgery, exactly two years to the day when her original tumor was discovered. Because of the Coronavirus, only one family member was allowed to be with her…and that of course was her husband Micah. The surgery got started about 9:00 a.m., 1½ hours later than it was supposed to. We didn’t know that, however, so we were already well into our waiting mode before we got that news. Nor did we know how long the surgeon was anticipating this operation was going to last. We assumed they would give periodic updates to Micah. At least that’s what happened during her first surgery two years ago, but that was St. Louis University Hospital and this was Barnes. After more than 4 hours of actual waiting we finally got our first update which was four words: “Surgery still in progress.” Not exactly the kind of update we were hoping for. The next one came about 1½ hours later with a bit of hope attached to it: “Surgery still in progress but things are going good.” Wow! Did we ever need that little tidbit of good news! As many of you know, the longer you have to wait, the more your mind plays tricks on you. You find yourself asking questions, like “Why is it taking so long? Something must be going wrong.” “Why aren’t they giving us more updates?” “How long are we going to have to endure this?” It was nothing but sheer torture for us. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just telling you like it was.
As best as I could remember, Kim’s last surgery lasted five to six hours. So when we got past the five hour mark I figured we were just about through the waiting part, but I was wrong. We would have to endure two more hours of waiting and we knew that once the surgery was over we would be facing the toughest wait of all…the wait to hear what the doctor told Micah. It was almost unbearable. But finally my phone rang and Micah’s name showed up on the caller ID. I put him on speaker so Marilyn could hear him and he shared with us what the surgeon told him – that the suspicious part of the tumor cavity was in all likelihood a mixture of necrotic or dead tissue and some new growth, all of which he removed. Using a special MRI procedure that lights up any areas where there is cancer, he was able to locate and remove it all. When I asked Micah how he felt about what the doctor said, he said it couldn’t have gone any better. And just like that, the tears of worry and anxiety we’d been shedding were instantaneously turned into tears of joy.
The class of waiting that I referred to earlier is not without its lessons. And we learned several, one of which had to do with you, our church family, and other Christians all over our country who were aware of Kim’s surgery. I can’t begin to tell you how many people we heard from who assured us they would be praying for Kim and for us. Just knowing that our names were being lifted up in prayer before God’s throne of grace was so comforting and so humbling.
Secondly, we learned that when we have to wait, God is very much a part of what goes on during that wait. In our case, he provided us with a wonderful doctor whom He blessed with the ability to perform delicate operations like this. And even though we didn’t get as many updates as we would have liked and the surgery went longer than we anticipated, it was only because that doctor was being as thorough and cautious as possible.
Then lastly we learned that not only did we have a whole family of God’s people with us and a very wise physician performing this surgery, we also had the greatest Physician of all, the Giver of good news, and the Savior of all who place their faith and trust in Him. And you can’t do any better than that! In fact, listen to David’s words in Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
In this article I’ve talked a lot about the subject of waiting…and for good reason. As you face a time of waiting during our current call process that my upcoming retirement necessitates, please know that the God we’ve served together over the years is with you in the midst of the waiting and, as the Apostle Paul puts it in Ephesians 3:20, He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” I am confident you will see evidence of that power in the man He will send to replace me.
As I draw this, my final opening newsletter article, to a close, I do so with an immense amount of gratitude in my heart for the privilege you and the good Lord have given me to serve you for all these years. What a wonderful family of God’s people you are! And once we get past this Coronavirus pandemic, I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with Salem Lutheran Church! I pray that each and every one of you will be a part of it.
Blessed way beyond what I deserve!