Thursday, February 18, 2010

Understanding True Blessings

I hear the word "bless" used a lot, to the point where I've become rather annoyed with it. A sneeze is followed by, "God bless you." A common way of saying good-bye is, "Have a blessed day." And we all know that we should count our blessings, and certainly say a blessing before eating a meal.

But when a doctor used the word the other day, it hit me in a totally different way. I was sitting in my hospital room last week when the doc was going over my file from the car accident I was in Feb. 1. I suffered a broken collarbone, a cracked rib, a bruised lung, and a lacerated spleen. All seemed to be going well with my recovery, though, until Feb. 7. A blood clot worked its way through my heart and into my left lung, which became flooded by fluids.

Five days after that episode, the doctor looked at me and said, "You're very blessed that you're not dead." I knew it had been a close call, but the way he said it made it more real. And I found it curious that he didn't use "lucky" or "fortunate" – he said I was "blessed." And that helped me understand exactly what that word means.

Luck and fortune are capricious and impersonal, and I'm not even sure how much of either exists in this world. I don't believe our existence to be a series of random, undirected events. There is a purpose for each of us, and recognizing that helps us to recognize when a blessing comes along. A blessing is a gift, even if it's not what we necessarily want at the time. While not dying was certainly a blessing, I'd say the accident itself was a blessing (in disguise, if I may).

I've had a lot of time to myself these days, and it's helped me refocus on my relationship with God. I'm realizing how much I've been ignoring important things while ripping my hair out over worldly concerns. I keep forgetting He is in control, even when I'm spinning down a highway – especially when I'm spinning out of control, unable to do anything but shout his name and wait for the nightmare to end.

This situation has shown me just how blessed I am. So many people dropped by to visit, gave us food, helped watch and/or chauffeur our children. I was on prayer lists in four continents, and I even had some Lutheran nuns in Arizona praying for me. I could never have imagined so many people caring so much. That is what you call a blessing.

And my faithful wife, Rachel, stayed with me nearly every night in the hospital, tending to my needs and showing me just how committed she is to me.

A true blessing is not merely some random good happening to us; it's a directed action that produces massive spiritual and emotional ramifications. That my body was so damaged was a blessing; that the doctors and nurses were able to preserve my life was a blessing also. Those two blessings are forever intwined, and it's my prayer that they will bear the kind of fruit I never thought possible, fruit that will be a blessing to others. I hope it's as real to them as it has become to me.