Today, my brother-in-law shared that he found out that his brother has Bell’s Palsy. That turned into a conversation about our own pasts that included M.S. scares. And that led me to remember that I had once written something about my medical situation. Though I’m not a fan of Rick Warren any longer, I did not omit the wonderful statement of his dad at the end. So, anyway … here it is.
Originally written in 2005:
The hand tremors and facial spasms began in mid-year 2003. At first they were things that I barely noticed; slight glitches in an otherwise healthy-feeling body. But, over time they noticeably persisted. My thumbs would begin to twitch uncontrollably as would my eyelids. Then came the facial spasms on the left side of my face. My left cheek began feeling tight and the left corner of my mouth began to draw down. Some mornings I would awaken to the realization that I could not open my left or my right eye for several minutes. “What is happening to me, Lord? I’m getting a bit concerned, here,” I asked.
It was shortly after the start of these problems that I was hired at a new company after a lengthy and financially trying period in my life. It felt like with the relief of one situation a second supplanted the first. What is going on? Is my life to be one trial after another? The funny thing is that the answer is actually supposed to be yes to that question, as my church is learning during our 40 Days of Purpose campaign.
One of the most profound things taught in The Purpose-Driven Life, in my opinion, is “God is more concerned with your character than your comfort.” These physical anomalies were another character development opportunity. Finally, toward the end of the year I decided to go see a doctor.
My general practitioner evaluated my situation and referred me to see a neurologist. He asked me a bunch of questions and even asked me what I thought it might be. I told him I did some research on the web. He said, “You believe that it’s Multiple Sclerosis, don’t you?” I replied that the symptoms seem to have quite a lot in common with MS. He said that the thought had crossed his mind too, but that he thought it was a long shot. He scheduled me for a battery of tests. The first test was in Cincinnati where I got an EEG performed on my brain. This test detects abnormalities in the brain based on light stimuli and over-oxygenation of the blood via hyperventilation. After an hour appointment and finally receiving back my test results, it was determined that I had slowing on the left side of the brain. Even though my friends and family have always thought I was a little brain damaged, I was becoming concerned that they may actually be right!
This new information began playing hard on my mind causing me to have some newly developed fears. My doctor became a little more concerned with the results and ordered a CT-Scan of the brain, followed by an MRI of my brain, then, last, a wonderfully disturbing test called an EMG which is where they used electrical stimuli to check out your nervous system – boy o boy.
During the waiting period that I endured to get my results back for these tests that occurred weeks and months apart I began to let some close friends know what was going on. I needed prayer, and I needed my Christian family to supply it. And, you know what started occurring within me? Peace; blessed, comforting peace. God was showing Himself in the midst of all of this. I began asking one of the “right” questions that The Purpose-Driven Life says to ask: “Lord, what am I supposed to be learning or doing with this situation?”
Eventually I started getting the results back for these tests. To add to the perplexity, every single one of these tests came back negative and the major problems that I had been encountering in my face and my hands had died down considerably. They were persistent enough, though, for my doctor to schedule a follow up test several months down the road … yet another EEG test in Cincinnati.
The date for my test approached, and the symptoms that I had been having had pretty much stopped. So, I really didn’t want to drive two hours for what could be just wasted time (in my opinion). So, Thursday morning, the day of my test, I sat at work and went through a bit of a mental debate. “Do I or don’t I drive down there?” “Don’t” was the answer that won out. I looked up the medical center’s phone number on the Internet and called the EEG lab. A woman answered the phone. I explained that I wanted to cancel my appointment. She said, “Okay, I can take care of that. Would you like to reschedule?”
Now, at this point let me say this … When I called to cancel this appointment I had total peace about it. The only thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to drive down to Cincinnati that day.
Now, when she asked if I wanted to reschedule I sighed to myself and thought, Not really. But, I knew that I needed to get the test done, so I acquiesced. “Sure, let’s reschedule.” What she said next made me shake my head.
“How about tomorrow at 1 p.m.?”
Oy vey. Not what I wanted to hear. But, I resigned myself to her calendar and said, “Sure, why not?”
Friday morning I drove down to Cincinnati and got there right on time for my appointment. The lady that I had spoken with on the phone ended up being the actual technician for my test. She was new at the lab since my last test, and she was the only person who worked in the lab.
Now, this was the Friday that I was to lead a home life group in the evening, so I had brought into the clinic a printed copy of what I was going to teach that night. Anne, the technician, asked me to go into the testing area and to lie down. I did so and began to review my lesson.
Anne walked in and said, “What are you reading?” I told her that I was reading what I was to teach that evening. She said, “Are you a professor?” I chuckled and said, “Actually, I teach a Bible study for singles every other Friday night.” Her response made me chuckle.
“Are you one of those tongue-talking Christian types?”
With a laugh in my voice, I began to answer, but I was cut off when she continued with, “It’s kind of weird that you’re here. I’ve been going through some things, and last night I got out of bed at 2 a.m. and cried on my knees to God for three hours asking Him to help me.”
I asked, “So, you believe in God?” She answered that she did, but that she wasn’t sure who He was.
Can you imagine how exciting this was getting for me? I LOVE to share Jesus with people! She was opening the door for me to talk with her. How often does this happen? Also, think about the timing. I was smacked “right upside the head” when I realized that it was probably God who gave me the desire to not drive down to Cincinnati and to cancel my test until the next day.
I asked her, “Have you ever heard of those people who call themselves ‘Born Again’ Christians?” She answered yes.
“Do you know where that term ‘Born Again’ comes from,” I asked? She said no.
I said, “It’s pretty interesting. At one point I didn’t know where that term came from either, but it came from a conversation that Jesus was having with a religious leader. He said, ‘Unless a person is born again, that person can never see the kingdom of God.’”
Anne said, “Wow, that’s pretty heavy coming from Jesus.” I chuckled. “Sure is.”
I said that Jesus went on to say that a person has to experience two different births to get into heaven. A person has to be born both of water and of the Spirit. “Anne, do you know what Jesus is talking about when He says that you have to first be born of water?”
She said, “I guess it means when a mother’s water breaks so she can give birth.”
I’ve got to tell you, I was stunned. She’s only the second or third person that I know who has gotten that answer correct when I’ve asked it. I said, “That’s right. That gets you into this world, but you have to have a second birth, according to Jesus, to get into the next world. You have to be born … again. That means you’ve got to allow God to do something inside of you, inside of your spirit, to give you a new start … a new life. Now, have you ever watched a sporting event and seen someone holding up a sign with ‘John 3:16’ written on it?”
She said, “Yes.”
“Know what it says?”
“No, I sure don’t.”
“Jesus was still talking to the same man when He said, ‘God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that whoever will believe in Him will have everlasting life.’ He went on to say that He ‘did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but rather so that the world might be saved.’”
She was listening intently, so I asked a series of questions that had been so effective for me years before. I’m not sure why I had stopped using them, but the thought to ask these questions came quickly to the forefront of my mind.
“Anne, do you believe in God?”
“Do you believe God loves you?”
“Do you believe that God wants to save you?”
She was taken aback for a moment, but then responded with, “Well, I guess as soon as possible … right now.”
“Anne, after these tests will you let me pray with you?”
“Yes. I’d appreciate that very much.”
Well, I lay on my back blowing on one of those children’s pinwheels for ten minutes, then had strobes flashing through my eyelids for the next twenty. When the tests were completed she said that I could sit up. No sooner did I do so, then she reached out both hands for me to take hold of and asked, “Can we pray now?”
With joy in my heart I led Anne to Jesus. I went down to my car and brought back up to her a Bible. I told her about how important it is for her to get plugged into a good Christian church that teaches about the salvation that she just received and also believes that the Bible as completely true. She told me that she was going to spend time reading her new Bible everyday to get to know God.
It’s been many months since that day. My symptoms are now gone. My test results came back still indicating that I have slight slowing on the left side of my brain, but now I view that imperfection with a new mindset. “God, if my body needs to be used in a way that I would otherwise not prefer, it’s okay. My character and other peoples’ salvations are more important than my comfort. Just keep using me in the lives of people to win them to you. Let my life continue mean something. Let my life’s continuous motto be the same as that of the father of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life: “Got to win one more for Jesus.” In all situations that I encounter while walking through this brief period of time on earth, be it sickness, or frustrations, or temptations, or just symptoms of a non-existent ailment, may God help me … may He help all of us … to count it all joy.