A Yokefellow’s Chronicle: My Surgery and the Good God 我的手術與美善的神
As I reflected upon my personal life the past year, this Easter is especially special because I had a “resurrection” of sorts. April 3 a year ago (2017), I was under the knife at a hospital in San Francisco and by the grace of God and under the skilled hands of a heart surgeon and his team of doctors, he replaced my aortic valve and a part of my aorta. It took him and his team about 6 hours to get both jobs done. I stayed overnight at the Coronary Intensive Care Unit and was released to the general ward the following morning. The surgery was a success. A week later, I was discharged. Praise God! But the procedure and its outcome were a God moment for me. It defined for me that God is not finished with me and that there is yet work for me to do. For you see, I had just retired three months prior and at 70, I was seeking how the good Lord was going to lead me in my retirement after being in ministry for more than 45 years.
The surgery was not unexpected but the timing of it was. I had known for quite a while that I needed one but my cardiologist suggested that if I changed my lifestyle and lose weight I might postpone the inevitable when new technology might become available to make the procedure less invasive. By God’s grace and sheer determination, I did both quite well and lost 50 pounds within a matter of 6 months and kept it off for more than 6 years. (I had to replace my entire wardrobe though, as a small price to pay!) There was no personal trainer, no expensive equipment, no fancy gear and walking/running shoes, no health club subscriptions, and no over rated diet meals. But my “quite well” was not good enough. What I had was congenital. I was born with a defective valve and it had served me well all those years but it was ready to “give up the ghost”!
But there was more bad news to come. My cardiologist advised that since she was going to fix my heart, she was going to do a more comprehensive examination to see if there were other related issues that I had so that the team could fix it all at the same time. My arteries were clear and so, there was no need for a bypass. But she found that my aorta was inflamed. Its walls had thinned and there was a real danger that it might rupture. She recommended a replacement! So, I discovered that I needed not only one but two procedures. What a bummer!
Any surgical procedure carries its risks and having two done at the same time would carry more risks. She assured me that even though I was not young, I was relatively quite healthy and I would have a better chance for a full recovery. But odds are still odds! Her assurance notwithstanding, I had a lot of peace facing the two procedures. This was because I knew assuredly and had lived it out all my life since becoming a believer as a teenager that:
1. I am a child of God and a servant of the Lord. He is my Heavenly Father who loves me and cares for me more than I or anyone could ever love and care for my well-being.
2. My life is in God’s hands. If He deems that my time on earth is done, He’ll take me home and I have no qualms about it, for as the apostle Paul intimates, “To be at home with the Lord, that’s wonderful!” (Philippians 1:23) But, if He chooses to heal me, which is easy for Him to do as the Great Physician, He has work yet for me to do and my humble response is to once again say, “Thank you God for another opportunity at life. Here I am, I am ready to hit the road again!” Therefore, whether He heals me or not, that’s God’s prerogative, not mine! My goal in life is to submit to His will for me. I am in good hands – God’s hands – either way! What a blessed reality!
But there were voices around me – yes, even from some believers – that were not so assuring. They began to ask “Why?”. Some of the louder ones were: “Why (the surgery) now that you are retired?”; “You have served God all your adult life and this is what you get from Him as a retirement present?”; “You deserve a good retirement and enjoy life and now this!”
Questions are good. But questions are revealing! The kinds of questions we ask give us an idea about some of the values we hold about life: That we are entitled to the “good” life free of worries, suffering and pain; that we really know what the “good” for us is; and that the “good” God is to serve us right. But all these values fly in the face of what the Bible teaches about life and what the Bible reveals who this God is. But was my surgery really a “bad” thing to happen to me when I had just retired and was supposedly to be enjoying my life’s second half?
By all accounts, my surgery was a good thing, even though I suffered from some side effects and an inconvenience to my lifestyle. But those were not “bad” things. Because of the surgery, my defective valve was replaced. More importantly, my cardiologist discovered another condition in my aorta which, if not remedied in time, could result in my life ending in a jiffy if it were to rupture! Because of the surgery and its aftermath, it helped me to be more careful about what I eat and what I put into my food (I love to cook!). It helped me to enjoy food as what real food is supposed to taste like without additional flavor! As a result, I lost another 30 pounds! I now have my optimal weight for my height and I intend to keep it that way! Therefore, those are not really the “bad” as we see “bad”.
The really “bad” that has happened to us as humanity is the result of sin, humanity’s willful rebellion against the good God. The effect of sin is the “bad” has become the “good” and unless the “good” becomes God’s “good” again, we will see more suffering, more pain and more unhappiness. Jesus said, “… In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) That is the message of Easter, the message of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into this world to show us how much God the Father loved us and cared for us (John 1:18), paid the penalty for our sins and died on the cross, was buried, and on the third day, rose again (I Corinthians 15:3-4), conquering death and the power of sin over us (Romans 6:1-10). And God gave us Himself, God the Holy Spirit, to empower us to live our lives according to the “good” He has planned for us right from the very beginning. (Deuteronomy 10:12-22)
The world we live in is a fallen and a sinful one. So, what are we to expect? The “bad” things that happen to us are already a given. But how are we to live in a world whose values are warped by sin and we are in the thick of it? The only way is to return to the good God and to allow Him to transform us to live what life really is about with His power and strength where the good is really good! Acknowledge to God that you are a sinner and your need for forgiveness. Believe that Christ has died for your sins. Confess that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord of your life. When you do that, life will never be the same again. You will see life with its warts and all from a more accurate perspective.
I did that at 16 when God drew me to Himself and I could never fathom then and now, how that one decision I made has brought me this far – life with so much meaning and purpose – except by His mercy and grace. You could have it too! Why won’t you?
當我在回顧自己過去一年的日子，這個復活節顯得額外特別，因為我如經歷了「復活」。一年前的4月3日（2017年），我在舊金山的醫院開了刀. 靠著上帝的恩典，在心臟手術醫生和他的團隊的熟練操作之下，他更換了我的主動脈瓣，及部分大動脈。他們用了大約6個小時才完成了這兩項工作。手術后我在特護病房過了一夜，第二天早上即被轉到普通病房。手術是成功的。一周後，我出院了。讚美神！但手術程序及其結果對我來說是 一個 「屬靈的經歷」。它讓我確定了我尚未能向上帝交差。祂尚有工作交給我。瞧，三個月之前我剛剛滿七十歲退休，正在尋求神在我事奉超過45年後，將如何預備我退休後的日子。
手術雖是意料中事，但時間卻不！早已明白這個手術是無法避免的，但我的心臟科醫生建議，如果我改變了生活方式並減輕體重，那麼或可能推遲到有新技術面市，而可避免大手術。憑藉上帝的恩典和果決，我做得相當不錯。在6個月內減掉了50磅，並保持了6年以上。 （儘管我必須更換我的整個衣櫃，成為我一小代價！）沒有私人教練，沒有昂貴的器材設備，沒有花哨裝備和步行/跑步鞋，沒有參加健身俱樂部，也沒有超級的減肥餐。但是我的 「 相當不錯」還不夠好！我的病是先天性的。這些年日它操作得很好，但是顯然它已經 「到期」了！
2. 我的生命在神的手中。如果祂認為我在世的時間已經完了，祂會帶我回天家。我對此毫無疑慮。因為正如使徒保羅所說的，“與基督同在，是好得無比的!“（腓立比書1:23 ）但是，如果祂選擇醫治我，這對祂來說很容易，因他是偉大的醫師。若祂還有工作給我，我定謙卑的再次回應說：“感謝神給我再次有生命。我在這裡！請差遣我！ 我會再上路!”因此，無論祂是否治好我，這是神的特權，不是我的！我的人生目標是服從祂的旨意。無論如何，在神的手中是多麼蒙福的！
但是我周圍有許多人的聲音！ 甚至有些信徒，都不那麼確定。他們開始問 “為什麼？”。其中一些更響亮的聲音：“為什麼手術在這時刻呢？”; “你一輩子服事神而你剛退休，祂就給你那麼大的退休禮物？”; “你該好好享受退休生活，而現在這個來臨…！”
問問題是好的。但所問的問題顯明了我們對生命的價值觀：我們有資格享受「好」 的生活、沒有憂慮，痛苦而我們認知甚麼是「好」 。而「 好」的上帝是應當給我們所認為是「好」的東西。但是，所有這些價值觀都不是聖經教導的！但當我剛剛退休時，需要動的手術是否是「壞事」呢？ 或說退休是我該享受人生的下半場的時候？
儘管手術后我遭受了一些後遺症，給我的生活帶來了不便，但動手術是正確的。這些並不是壞事。由於手術，我有缺陷的心瓣被更換了。更重要的是，我的心臟科醫生在我的主動脈中發現了另一種情況，如果沒有及時糾正，可能會導致我的生命快速結束！於手術後，它幫助我更加小心飲吃，和我放入食物的調料（我非常喜歡烹飪！）。它幫助我真正享受到食物，吃出食物的原味道！結果，我又輕了30磅！目前我的體重比較標準。我打算保持這種狀態！因此，那些不是我們看到 「壞」 的「壞」。
人類所經歷的真正「壞」是源于罪惡，以及人類故意叛逆神的後果。罪的效果是將 「壞」變為「善」。除非他們的「善」再次成為神的「善」，否則他們會看到更多的痛苦，更多的悲哀和更多的不快樂。耶穌說：“ … 在世上你們有患難，但你們放心，我已經勝了這世界！”（約翰福音16:33）這就是復活節的信息，是耶穌基督死亡和復活的信息。神子，耶穌基督來到這個世界，向我們表明天父上帝的愛（約翰福音1:18），為我們的罪付了刑罰，死在十字架上，被埋葬，在第三天復活（哥林多前書15：3-4），征服了死亡和罪的權勢（羅馬書6：1-10）。神將自己賜給我們，著聖靈使我們能夠按照祂從起初計劃的「善」來過我們的生活。 （申命記10：12-22）