January 17, 2000
17 January 2000
Dear friends and family,
Last fall, in Russia, during a conversation on future plans, I remarked to a friend that I felt there was a turn in the road, the path, coming for me. He asked what I thought it was. I said I didn’t know.
Three days ago, on Friday, the 14th, I went down to Rochester, to the Mayo Clinic, to have what I had self-diagnosed as a “familial tremor” in my right hand checked out. This runs in the family. My father and grandfather both have it. I can remember my great grandmother’s hand “trembling” the same way mine does. I didn’t think much of it.
At the clinic, my primary physician agreed that it was probably a “familial tremor”, but wanted me to see a Neurologist to make sure. If I was willing to wait, they might be able to get me in yet that afternoon. I decided to wait.
While I was waiting, I started to read a book I had grabbed from my started-but-not-finished book pile. I picked up where I had last left off, months ago, at chapter four (I had already started at the beginning twice before). The title of the fourth chapter is “The Life That’s Left Is Future Grace”. The chapter starts with this: “The only life I have left to live is future life. The past is not in my hands to offer or alter. It is gone. Not even God will change the past. …All the possibilities of faith and love are future possibilities.”
I continued to read, making no connection between what I was reading and my day. I had no idea the new meaning these words written, and the scriptures in them, were about to take on in just a few minutes. Some of the things I was casually underlining:
“Christ answered, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ …-one grace given in the circle of another grace denied.”
“…to trust God’s wisdom in giving the grace that is best… We should not be surprised that God gives us wonderful graces in the midst of suffering that we had asked him to spare us.”
“…‘God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed’ (2 Corinthians 9:8). …Trust the promise that ‘God is able to make all grace abound to you’ in every future moment…”
“…‘He gives a greater grace’ (James 4:6).”
“‘…God alone knows what is good for human beings and God alone knows what is not good for them…’”
“If you ask, ‘Who are those to whom you show grace?’ the answer is: ‘Those on whom I show grace.’ …God does not look outside his own will for an impulse to move his grace.”
“…It is the glory of God and his essential nature mainly to dispense mercy on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God.”
The last thing I underlined, as I went in to see the Neurologist, was this: “…the freedom of grace is emphasized by the inexhaustibility of its source and the eternity of its outpouring.”
It did not take long with the Neurologist for it to become obvious that he thought it was much more than a “familial tremor”. He became more and more solemn as he asked me various questions and did more tests. In the end, his conclusion was that, while unusual for someone of my age, I seem to have some type of Parkinsonism, with the most likely culprit being actual Parkinson’s Disease.
Since Parkinson’s had not previously entered my mind as a serious possibility and I knew very little about it, I went right for the bottom line. I asked, “Since I know little about what it means to have Parkinson’s, what is the worst case scenario?” (I do not recommend this question if you are hoping to “ease into” the realities of your doctor’s preliminary diagnosis.) He carefully looked at me and replied, “Well, in the old days, people usually died within 15 years.” I opened my mouth, but all that came out was “Oh.”
There are still some other possibilities in this (such as a brain tumor – the Neurologist did not point this out, but I’ve been doing some reading). I’m scheduled for a MRI, the head-in-a-magnet experience, tomorrow, the 18th; then with a Neurology specialist two weeks later.
As I walked out of the clinic, with a thousand thoughts racing through my mind about what this all meant for the future, Someone brought into these thoughts the book that I now know He, in His future-knowing grace, had me grab that morning. I looked down at my hand. My hand was clenched around the book, around the title, around the words: “Future Grace”.
It was so wondrously of and like God that I could not help but smile. There came a beautiful peace in the midst of that sea full of huge waves of now great unknowns. His “future grace” was, at that instant, “now grace” …and it was more than sufficient, it was abounding.
These past three days have been ones of contemplating and praying over the “life” changes this bend in the road may mean. It’s a BIG bend (as a Londoner would say). While I know God has His purposes in this, I can’t say that, at this point, I know what they are, to say nothing of understanding them. I also cannot say I have always been “up” or “excited” about this. I do know, though, that God’s purposes are, ultimately, good and even glorious.
This morning, as I spent time with God, I went to where I “was at” in the Bible. I had left off, in my last time with God, at Philippians 2:9. As I started reading, I soon came to verse 12. It is as far as I needed to read (I know the rest of the chapter). These words have been my prayer these past days as I have been on long and beautiful prayer walks that God, in His unique ways, provided for by not letting the car work. God is very good at, and capable of, telling us what we need to know when we need to know it. My prayer, and Philippians 1,verse 12:
“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.”
There is no greater calling. There is no greater purpose. There is nothing more worth one’s life, in whatever form that may mean, than “the greater progress of the gospel”. It is the only thing that matters after this short and temporary life. It is the only means for one to pass into eternity with God and not into eternity with satan in a place that even God calls hell. And …eternity is forever.
It is worth giving up a temporary life, a life already having eternal life, if it helps, in some way, just one other in his or her “progress” in the gospel, in his or her finding life, and with it, God’s eternal life.
So, if this is what this is, I can sincerely say to God, and have said to Him since Friday night, after dropping my car off at the service station, during my walk home through a beautiful winter’s night landscape, “Thanks”.
I would very much appreciate your prayers in this. I don’t know where this is going. If this bend in the road turns out to be the bend it appears to be, I know there will be times when I will need His grace to trust His grace. And, I don’t know where things like learning Russian fit anymore.
But, please, pray also for the Russians. If you don’t know what or how to pray for them, pray for them as you pray for yourself. Pray as you would have someone pray for you. Go to God’s word and take His words and turn them back towards Him, in the form of prayer. Pray using the words of God Himself. He’ll hear them.
Here are 12 Russians it would be great if you could do this for: Irkutsk – Marina, Dima, Sasha, Seseg, Serosha, Oxanna,; Omsk – Anton, Zhenia, Sergie, Andre, Nickolai,; Moscow – Vlad.
And pray for laborers.
In His sufficient grace,