Posted by: ritagone | November 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Phrases

I have discovered that there’s a big difference between saying “I’ve learned such and such a thing” and “God has taught me.”

I have learned implies that most of the work has been on my part: I’ve studied, gotten out the books, done my research, googled, talked to people, been observant, listened, whatever is necessary to the learning process, because I’m such a willing participant in the process, you see, and therefore aren’t you impressed by me (is part of the implication).

God has taught me says that out of the blue, something comes to me when I least expected it, wasn’t looking for it, didn’t ask for it. But God wanted me to hear it and listen to it, He turned my head, whispered in my ear, caught my eye, and whether I liked it or not, whether I wanted to or not, I learned something, some small lesson in life, at age 67, that changed me a tiny bit more.

The lesson for this week has been, once again (I sometimes have to learn it over and over again, like the multiplication tables, which didn’t come easy as a child), that our days truly are numbered and God has them somewhere in His mind or on a page somewhere with our name on it. And because this is true, there truly is no need to worry about when and where we’re going to meet death.

My friend Tom Kendall was out for a late afternoon walk a few weeks ago. He has a history of heart problems. Actually, to say he has a history of heart problems is like saying that the Titanic had a minor collison. He’s had two open heart surgeries, seven stents put in. But Tom’s one of the most upbeat, cheerful guys you’ll ever meet, married (for over 50 years) to one of the most cheerful, upbeat women you’ll ever meet, his wife Linda, and they just literally move on and move forward, enjoying life and their three kids and a myriad of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So Tom’s out walking and collapses. Hits the ground hard.

Tom is basically dead. Flat-line dead. No heart beat. No pulse dead. The kind of dead where you pretty much — if you’re a believer — soon wind up before the pearly gates and get ushered into the presence of Jesus.

However — and it’s a big however — a woman happened along. I say happened because she usually didn’t drive that route. But that particular day, there she was, driving along, and she spots Tom Kendall hitting the concrete. She’s a nurse. She pulls over, quickly gets out of her car and goes over to Tom, starts CPR. Someone from the daycare comes out, and the nurse yells to call 911. It so happens — there’s that word again — that the paramedics are right across the street. They are there in record time. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, they comment that he has no pulse, but because of the quick action of the nurse and the fact that they were so quickly able to get him into the ambulance, they get the pulse back. In the hospital, his body temp is lowered to provide the best possible environment to bring his heart back to functioning, but of course, there’s no knowing if there’s brain damage due to the time he had no pulse.

I’m cutting to the end of this story, not the end of Tom’s story. Tom’s fine. He’s back at church, back giving those delicious Tom hugs and kisses, savoring every day, telling his story to all who will listen. They’ve thanked the nurse, thanked the paramedics, who are relishing the fact that every once in a while, they actually do get to save someone’s life and hear about a happy ending!

You see, it just wasn’t Tom’s time to die. Oh, it may be today or tomorrow, but on that particular day, it wasn’t.

And so what God taught me — not what I learned, because that implies that I was actively seeking the lesson or was in a learning posture, and I was not — what God taught me was that it’s not your time until it’s your time. He’s in control, He knows what He’s doing, and I can relax when I get on the plane this afternoon to fly home from Oakland because of this, I can be calm when I see the doctor. I can do all the right and healthy things, of course, but ultimately getting behind the wheel of the car or flying or losing weight, any of those things still fall under the jurisdiction of the King of the Universe.

He’s the boss.

That’s what He taught me.

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