“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” ~ Proverbs 4:18
When I was a kid, I loved playing 3-on-3 pick-up basketball. It didn’t matter where we played: on a school playground, in a park, on someone’s driveway court, or during open gym night at a high school. Usually there were other guys on the sidelines waiting to play against the winners of the game in progress. The winners would sometimes triumphantly boast and shout, “Next!” to summon the next set of players onto the court.
Thinking about those carefree days took me back to the amazing experience in the echocardiogram exam room 2 months ago when I heard my strong and steady heartbeat. For a brief moment that day, the fear and uncertainty that brought my recovery to a slow crawl faded away. I wondered how amazing it would be to play a pick-up basketball game again. Each beat was like a lyric in a hopeful song from God and another step in my long journey of spiritual discovery.
Since that moment, I’ve seriously reflected on how God and spirituality continue to make a positive impact on my life. The journey started like the morning sun 10 years ago during the dark days when a massive heart attack and miraculous recovery consumed my life. There hasn’t been one “aha” moment along the way. Instead, like the words in Proverbs 4:18, the sun continues to shine brighter each day shedding new light on my understanding of God.
I was born and raised Catholic. I’ve received 6 of the 7 Holy Sacraments, including the Anointing of the Sick several times while on my deathbed. The only sacrament missing is ordination as a priest or deacon. Despite being a practicing Catholic, I never was able to connect the dots that linked the rituals and trappings of the Church with the wisdom of God ‘s word. The morning sun that started shining upon me a decade ago changed all of that.
I’ve been witness to miraculous things that have happened to me. I regularly read the daily mass and associated Bible commentaries. I also study the wise words of philosophers who have searched for the meaning of life. One thing is clear, this stuff is complicated. I believed in God as a little boy because my mom told me it was so. My limited understanding of what that belief meant came from mom, friends, family, and folklore. There was nothing to back up what they said.
A recent question that made the rounds with extended family was, “Does Jesus greet you in heaven when you die?” There was a flurry of differing opinions on the matter, some agreed and most were unsure. It turns out that the Bible doesn’t provide the answer. The closest thing to an answer is from the Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20 where Jesus gives the keys to heaven to St. Peter. The implication is that St. Peter is the guardian at heaven’s gate and greets all who enter.
But, all of that doesn’t really matter. My spiritual journey has taught me that the whole idea of God or any other supernatural power is believing in the power of faith, hope, and love as described by St. Paul the Apostle. Those 3 thoughts provide us with the strength and determination to carry on through the darkest of times.
Faith allows us to accept the circumstances that exist in our lives. Hope assures us that whatever happens is supposed to happen according to God’s plan. Love inspires us to help others because it’s the right thing to do, not because we expect something in return.
With that said, I also believe that putting our fate in God’s hands includes trusting the tools He provides. I don’t believe that God wants us to sit back and do nothing for ourselves. Throughout my health crisis, the tools he has given me are my amazing family and the expert healthcare team at Kaiser Santa Clara: doctors, nurses, support staff, psychologist, physical therapist, technicians, etc.
God puts these kinds of heroes in our paths to enrich our life journeys. To ignore and not trust them is to not trust Him. According to the Gospel of Luke 4:12, Jesus tells the Pharisees , “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” I tested Him many times in the past without success. That’s why I decided not to do that throughout my health crisis. I believe that using the tools He has provided is a major reason for enduring the past 10 years.
Another question looms on the horizon as I’m about midway through the most challenging 18 months of transplant recovery. As my physical and mental health continue to improve on a daily basis, I’m starting to think ahead. Every time I scale Montgomery Hill or get a great progress report from the heart clinic team, my lifelong tendency to start planning and plotting the next move kicks in. Part of me wants to yell, “Next!” with the bravado of a teenage boy winning game after game of 3-on-3 basketball.
The other part of me, tempered by a decade of health trials and tribulations, will venture on with patience and no intention of prior planning or preparation. The strategy goes totally against the grain of what I learned as a kid and practiced as an adult. I won’t meticulously organize the next steps of my life. I tried that before, but God had other plans. My record of testing Him is absolutely abysmal, so the answer for a path ahead is clear.
I’ll take it one day at a time. That’s what God, His prophets, thousands of years of philosophers, and modern-day mindfulness gurus have been telling us to do. Many loved ones and friends tell me that I should just enjoy life. I must confess that I don’t know what that means. What brings joy to one person doesn’t necessarily mean that same thing is enjoyable for another.
I love to read, write, think about things that many people might not care much about, share my thoughts, and help others. While a few friends count down the days to retirement, I look forward to doing the same kinds of things I did for a living, but without timelines, benchmarks, deadlines, and compensation. I’m willing to bet that there are those who may wonder what’s wrong with me. After all I’ve been through, I’m sure they reason, why would I do anything that has even a hint of “work?”
Summer in the Waiting Room on ESEReport.com is an example of doing something that requires the same energy as a job, but isn’t “work.” The original purpose for writing the story was self-therapy to help me accept my health condition and the demons that haunted me. It also inspired me to explore the meaning of God and share, in simple terms, a regular guy’s knowledge of heart failure to educate those suffering from the disease. Putting my thoughts in a blog gave me a platform to do just that and be a source of hope for people struggling with illness or any life-changing incident.
Today’s post is the last of the Summer in the Waiting Room series. I finished writing the story and will soon begin the process of converting it into a manuscript. Although Summer in the Waiting Room excerpts are done, I’ll keep writing and posting my thoughts on a variety of issues I’m passionate about. The mission of ESEReport.com is to inspire people with faith, hope, and love as the overarching philosophy and theme. Stay on the lookout for more posts to come.
With all of this in mind, taking care of myself and Idaho is the top priority. I’ll spend most of my additional time reading, writing, thinking, sharing my thoughts, and looking to find ways to offer hope. When COVID clears up, Sandra and I will watch movies, go out to dinner, and spend time with family and friends. In the meantime, I’ll pursue with gusto my passions for documentaries, cable news, and exploring different genres of music. Right now, I’m pretty hooked on 1960s soul crooners and 2000s pop punk. Who knows what other type of music will cross my path?
The morning sun of faith that first rose that fateful moment in 2010 keeps shining brighter each day as I gain knowledge and wisdom about the world we live in and the heaven we aspire to. It may sound like the next chapter in my life has a full agenda. Will I be able to enjoy it? I don’t know. But, I know one thing for sure, whatever happens will happen in God’s time. I can live with that.