Galatians 5:6b – The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
I don’t remember anything from Saturday morning, August 29th. I was overwhelmed. I remember getting ready for Brad and Becca’s wedding the night before, so I’m sure I was thinking about that beautiful day of celebration when I got up. My wife tells me I went out for a short jog. From upstairs, she heard the front door shut when I returned, and she was just about to get into the shower a few moments later when she heard a clank. She called down to me, “Are you alright?” She got no response. Down the stairs she came to discover me laying over the top of my lap-top computer with my face down in the metal wood holder ($3 at the CPC Parking Lot Sale) on our fireplace. 911. CPR. Shocked heart back into rhythm. Ambulance ride. I was overwhelmed by the realities of fragile biological life, but something bigger was yet to overwhelm me.
Five days in medically-encouraged coma and paralysis. Concern about brain function. Concern about heart function. Concern about function in general. Main lines and multi-function monitors and breathing tubes. I was overwhelmed by the dramatic abilities of modern medicine to create optimal circumstances for preserving and prolonging life and health, but something bigger was yet to overwhelm me.
Then I awoke. Slowly. Arduously. And that was when I was truly overwhelmed in a way that has stayed with me to this day. I awoke to find my family all around me. My wife, whose CPR likely saved my life. My sons and daughters and their spouses. All of them. From Reno and Seattle. I was overwhelmed by their love and care. My brother and sister-in-law from California. My sister from Carson City. My grandkids dropped by the Cardiac ICU to say “Hi,” as did some dear friends and colleagues. I was overwhelmed.
I learned that churches all over Reno had taken time to pray for me during their Sunday services. I heard about Covenant’s prayer circles all around our sanctuary on Sunday morning. My friends, my church family praying fervently for me. And the overwhelming sense of underserved love caused me to weep. I read the stacks of cards and e-mails from so many of you and from folks I knew and worked with decades ago. I read the poster cards from our Sunday School children: “Our hands are busy praying while God’s hands are busy healing! We love you, Pastor Jay!” The faith of our children stirred my heart. And I cried again. And again.
A few people have asked if I caught any 90-minute glimpses of heaven or heard any almighty voices or saw any bright white lights. The honest truth is, I did not. But in the hospital I believe I caught sight of something better, something firmer, something the Apostle Paul told the Galatians is what truly matters: Faith expressing itself through love. I saw faith expressed in love—for me—from every corner of our church family, and seemingly from every corner of my life. It was overwhelming. It Is overwhelming.
At the moment in my life when I did the least to warrant any reward—I was simply conked out by a life-threatening heart attack—I discovered the love of God expressed through His people like never before. And I was overwhelmed.
To be the recipient of such love and concern is humbling. To say I am grateful to God and to you is such an inadequate response to such an overwhelming experience, but they are the only words I have: Thank you.
And may our good God bless you with similar glimpses of His love and grace in your life.
Yours in Christ,