August 25, 2018 (our 34th wedding anniversary). My life changed ten minutes after this photo was taken. I’m the tall guy in the middle. I had been standing around talking to all these people pictured. They are friends I made 40 years ago at Christian Life Church in Long Beach California. It was both a happy and sad the reunion of people from our high school youth group. We had gathered to say goodbye to one of our own who passed away a week earlier after battling cancer for nearly a year. Most of us hadn’t seen each other in a very long time. It was fantastic to get caught up with one another. Little did I know that just minutes after this photo was taken that I would lose complete control of the left side of my body.
God was very gracious to us, and we were able to get to the hospital in record time. I was calm most of that initial experience. It wasn’t until late that night that the gravity of the situation hit me as I laid in a hospital bed and I cried.
The past couple of months have been like the memorial we had attended the day this happened. It has been both sad and joyful. For the most part, once I accepted the idea that it was this going to take a long time and was going to require much of both Judy and me, my attitude has been relatively good. Am I anxious? Absolutely. Am I hopeful? Definitely. Do I have spells of depression? Yes. Do I believe that God has this? No question. Like the leader of a local faith community who approached Jesus and confessed he was dealing with both Faith and doubt, I am dealing with uncertainty as I am confessing my faith.
Some people have asked me “What do you think God is trying to teach you by this?” My response has been that I am learning a lot by the experience, but I in no way believe that God caused this to happen. We live in a fallen, broken world and our bodies simply break down. There are lessons to be learned, and for me, most of them have been spiritual. I try to see what the possibilities are in any situation. The neuropsychologist I have been seeing warned me that I should not be a counseling situation with people from church. Basically, he was telling me “do not get in a position where you’re having a listen to people because you possibly will be emotionally unstable.” The funny thing is, the people I did spend time listening to were not from our church or not from my friend groups, but from people on the hospital staff. I got known around the rehab as Pastor Perry and had numerous conversations that led to Jesus. Honestly, I don’t think I could have avoided any of them, and I’m glad it did not.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that I have amazing friends and am reaping the rewards of investing in people. Pouring into people is something that I tried to avoid when I was in high school and early college until the Lord grabbed hold of me and showed me that I needed to take the risk of loving people even though they may leave (I moved around a lot as a child). I learned that lesson on a trip to Australia back in 1980 when my fellow teammates were saying goodbye to the people we had spent a month with, and I was looking forward to going home and was glad that I was not crying and saying goodbye to people I’d never see again. That experience changed my life. It was one of many moments that I’m reflecting on now and seeing how God moved me from one place to another for his purposes.