Years, not degrees.
Please don’t misunderstand, that sigh was a good one. It was the satisfied sigh of someone watching a sunrise bloom over a resplendent mountain peak or holding their baby for the first time. Or akin to the musical hum of a soul in perfect alignment.
You see, I almost did not live to see this day.
But, praise be, I’m gloriously still here. And deliriously satisfied.
In the late spring of last year I desperately cried out to God for something I could not do for myself. When Jesus gave His blessing to those who “mourn” He used the strongest of the nine words for sorrow in the Greek New Testament. If I wasn’t in that category I was doubtlessly moving in its direction.
As the mucus seeped and tears leaked and it all seemed to catch in my throat, I pled through racking sobs for God to be my Health and Healer. The weight of my burden had so pinned me to the mat that I truly, at the risk of sounding too Paul-een, “despaired of life.” Twenty-six years of undisciplined living were stealing years from my life but I always managed to swat such thoughts away with a flippant “if I die, I’ll be with Jesus, which is far better” (here’s me, waxing Paul-een again) response. But that warm afternoon I decided I did not want to die after all. Oh, that’s hardly accurate! Actually, I cried up from the bellows of my heartsickness for God to add years to my life and life to my years!
And then, something shifted internally.
We’re talking seismic in scope here.
The Voice of Many Waters that thunders, quakes and flashes, shouted through an eternity of universes and struck against the bondage of years that were in me and freed me from my enslavement. The God who keeps covenant with them that fear Him—and turn to Him in their ‘cast-down-edness’—will with certainty be to them a Healer and Refuge.
“I have heard You, Scott. The life in your years that has been taken will be restored. I AM to you your Health and your Healer.”
Instantly, the mourning in me was transformed into soul-deep consolation and new, unbitter, tears began to flow.
“The means by which this Healing will be realized must be a very difficult path. Perhaps the hardest road you’ve ever traveled.”
I listened intently, but without fear.
“But I will be beside you in this journey and, in the end, you will look back with joy upon the road and praise Me for it.”
When God speaks, He acts.
When He acts, it is for keeps.
Over the next few weeks, I underwent a change in discipline of self and lost some weight. Nothing noticeable, almost imperceptible to others, but Sandy and I knew. And our hope grew. Then I had my September physical. Prostate, good. Blood pressure, good. Heart, good. Pulse rate, good.
“I’ll call you in the next 48 hours with the results of your blood work,” Dr. Kiley informed me.
I felt better. I was honoring the Lord with my day-to-day schedule, so I almost forgot about the follow-up call until the phone rang and I saw Dr. Kiley’s name on the caller screen.
“Everything looks normal, but there’s been a new development. You’ve become a diabetic since your last physical.”
The D-word. Type 2.
He gave me the name of a personal friend of his who practiced endocrinology and told me to make an appointment as soon as possible.
“Your A1c level is almost 12,” he warned me.
A1c? I had no clue what that was but I could tell the way his voice dropped when he said ‘12’ I was very sure that the number was way too high. Or way too low. Whichever, I made haste to call my new doctor.
When Dr. Wolffe saw me, he told me we could lick this thing but I would have to follow a strict diet and regimen of exercise. No problem, doc, already begun…
My blood sugar was in the upper 300s so he pulled out a syringe and told me the liquid inside was a kind of ‘booster’ to lower my sugar dramatically over the next 24 hours. Such a calm demeanor, but I was sure it was hiding a great deal of uncertainty as to where I might end up in all of this. His southern gentlemanly drawl warned me of blindness, sores that won’t heal requiring amputation, heart disease and stroke.
And I feared not one whit.
By God’s grace I knew when I saw Dr. Wolffe again, there would be a much different scenario.
So I went home with my new glucose meter, test strips, lancets and prescription of metformin (My doctor told me the latter would also cause weight loss. Hooray!) and thus began my journey with diabetes.
When I began crying out to the Lord for His power and might to transform me a few months prior, I added that I needed a few months away from ministry and more ordered days for my lifestyle to have even a remote shot at recovery. Well, now I had it. I had preached my final sermon as pastor of my little flock in Douglasville and the calendar was ceremoniously clean and sterile. As such, I could attack this little issue free of any other expectations and tug-o-wars. God was proving faithful yet again.
The day after my ‘booster shot’ my blood sugar fell below 100 but the next day it rebounded to the mid-300s. A call to my doctor assured me this was expected. Void of alarm, his soothing tone could calm a coon dog bawling at his treed prey!
The next couple of weeks proved to be the proverbial calm before the storm. Sange and I were positively giddy about the coming holiday weeks. She had taken two vacation weeks in November around Thanksgiving and the first weekend of November we were being treated to a freebie weekend at a 5-star hotel in Huntsville, one of our favorite cities in the southeast.
Under such warm and oozy feelings, we piled into the van on October 31st and made for a special night out, not wanting to be around the house for the evening’s inevitable trick-or-treaters. We both love Italian and while we have other more favorite Italian restaurants, the Italian Oven on the East-West Connector, a half hour from our house, isn’t bad.
We were served that night by a “witch” complete with black fingernails, lipstick and eye-dark. Gratefully, she wasn’t practicing but just dressing for the occasion. Even still, well…just, even still.
I ordered the lasagna, or as I like to say: “lazzag-na” (pretending to be a redneck; Sange just loves when I do that), and several bites in, lost my appetite. I knew that my stomach had shrunk because the Lord had given me grace to push away from the table the previous months, but this was different. I literally quit after about three bites. Sandy was not alarmed as she had been “proud” of me for aggressively competing against my hypothalamus and chalked it up to discipline.
As we climbed back into the van, my precious asked me to take her to the Hobby Lobby craft store behind the restaurant so she could see if there might be new stock for the upcoming holidays. I elected to stay in the van and listen to the Georgia Bulldog game on the radio.
“How long do I have?” Sandy asked as she jumped out of the van.
“As long as you need, baby,” I told her. She waved and smiled and I turned on the radio.
The radio did not stay on long as Florida was rolling up the points and hammering my ‘Dawgs to the ever-loving turf. ‘Nuff of that. The sky turned granite-gray and there was only a slight chill in the air. Very slight. But I suddenly got a little frigid inside the van. I started the engine and turned on the heater full-blast. It helped, but then the symptoms of a urinary tract infection began following one after another like cars on a choo-choo train.
My head began to turn ill and “sparkly” (kind of like being dizzy).
I started to dry-heave.
I reached for my cell phone and dialed Sandy. She had only been in the store for about a half hour but when I told her I was feeling very ill and we may need to head home, she left her purchases behind and was out the door. She is my angel.
We mercifully got home and I made a beeline for the bedroom. It was Saturday, so I’d have to wait 36 hours before I could get in touch with my doctor. The best thing I could do now was get in bed, take some flu medicine and sleep. Sometimes when I get hit with it, I could be better by the next morning. Other times, a few days.
When I laid my sick body (I didn’t have a clue how sick) on my low-air loss mattress, I had no inkling that I would not leave it until the next Sunday—and then in an ambulance.
I would not eat another meal for the next eight weeks.
There was no way I could have known then, but the road—the real road prescribed for me—had just gotten a whole lot harder.