Friday, July 21, 2006

5 Weeks After My New Kidney

Five weeks and two days ago, I received the priceless gift of Izaak’s kidney. Each week my body grows a little stronger, and I feel a little better. Soon I will be back to full strength. Every morning and evening, I record my blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and temperature. At different times through the day, I take a variety of medications.

Part of the challenge is checking and rechecking medications when I leave the house. Twice I’ve had to turn around and come home because I forgot one, and these medications are time specific. Gradually, all these little things are becoming part of a routine.

The doctors say my progress is great, and the dietician was amazed that I’ve lost weight. Apparently, weight gain is more common. Overall, the road to health has been blessed and I am grateful.

Five weeks ago, Izaak and I were surrounded by friends, family, and oddly enough the media. There was a rush of excitement complete with crying, hugging, and hand shaking. Izaak and I spent the first to weeks recovering: falling asleep during movies, falling asleep after lunch, and just generally falling asleep.

But then quiet.

I thought I would do more during this time off from work, but I haven’t done much at all. I thought I might watch lots of movies, but something in me feels strange watching movies at home during the day, so I have not watched movies.

I thought I might make progress on my book that has been on hold since the start of the year, when my kidney problems began to take over my focus. But alas, little progress. I’ve done some research but not much writing.

I thought I might have time to think some profound thoughts and write some profound essays. Once again, nothing.

My days have been rather ordinary. I am creature of ritual, so I’ve had my daily rituals of rising, checking vitals, shaving, showering, dressing, eating, some time set aside for prayer and meditation, then reading, listening to music and of course, checking my email and updating my blog. Then there’s an occasional trip to the store but mostly at home, resting and recovering.

While the activities have been slightly more low-keyed, it has not been that different from my normal working life. Many of us follow a basic set of rituals each day. The rituals differ from person to person but they often include things like dressing, eating, possibly checking the news, driving to work, and so on.

Most of our lives are rather ordinary. On occasion, we break from the ordinary. During holidays or vacations, we follow different rituals or no rituals at all. We may dress different, eat different, sleep less or sleep more. But at some point, most of us are ready to get back to the common, ordinary rituals that our bodies have grown accustomed to.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy fought in World War I, and the most striking comment he made about the war was that in between battles much of the time soldiers were bored. It was not constant excitement. Rather long lulls in between bursts of activity. Much like the rest of life.

We live in culture of 24-hour news cycles, unnatural celebrity lifestyles, exorbitant wealth, and the illusion that something spectacular should be happening all the time. But life really isn’t like that. G.K. Chesterton once observed that one of the signs of fallenness is our inability to exalt in monotony. We continually want something new, more exciting, more stimulating.

Our sensual cravings may be directed toward food, entertainment and even spiritual quests (Christian and otherwise), but there is a drive for something more spectacular. Chesterton’s observation continued that children and God are similar in that they both exalt in monotony. Children can do the same thing over and over and over with amazing glee. God creates billions and billions of daisies with absolute delight.

While spectacular events do happen to each of us, much of life is lived in the ordinary, common habits of everyday routine. And this is the realm where God works out his dramatic plan of redemption in our lives. In the midst of ordinary living, He transforms us.

Abraham, in a flourishing challenge to the culture around him, leaves the land of his fathers and follows the Lord’s command to go forth. God promises to bless all mankind through this simple sojourner. The story of Abraham records several spectacular encounters with the Lord and the world around him. But actually, in light of Abraham’s long life of over 100 years, these encounters are relatively small in number.

Most of Abraham’s life was lived in the ordinary issues of caring for his flocks, taking care of his family, and working through the challenges of relationships. His life wasn’t that different than ours: it was ordinary.

The kingdom of heaven is often slow and hidden. God may spend hundreds if not thousands of years working out his purposes. In our own lives, we often want his work to be faster and more visible. Then we would feel like we’re making progress! And who knows, we might write a book about our own spiritual encounters, and we might even get to headline conferences.

But the transforming grace of God usually penetrates the secret places of the heart and often works in and through the most ordinary circumstances.

If I understand him correctly, Kierkegaard suggested the true knight of faith is not the crusader embarking upon another adventure. Rather, the knight of faith is the common man who is faithful to the common tasks of his ordinary life. In this ordinary existence, he finds meaning and redemption.

If we could learn to embrace the commonness of our existence instead of endlessly searching for some new form of stimulation, we might finally have eyes to behold the wonder all about us. Instead of ignoring the boring people around us in search of someone more exciting, we might actually look in their faces and realize the honor of standing in their presence.

Instead of cursing our present circumstances in hopes of a better job, newer house, a bigger car, and more luxurious lifestyle, we might rejoice in the simple wonders of each hour. The sunlight flickering through the trees across the front yard; the gentle breeze of early morning, the neighborhood children clamoring down the street; the exhilarating smells of fresh cut grass.

Right in the middle of our ordinary existence, shines the glory and wonder of God in ways we cannot even begin to count. May we have eyes to behold the beauty of the Lord hidden all around us and lift our hearts and voices in thanksgiving.

1 comment:

Milton Stanley said...

Fine word, Doug. Glad to hear God is blessing you through the ordinary. I quoted and linked to your post at my blog today. And I'm continuing to pray for your recovery. Peace.