Well, greetings Friends – it certainly has been a busy and interesting January so far! Allow me to give you a bit of an update, and then to take some time to reflect on all that has happened.
First of all, one week after New Years Eve, I ended up at the downtown clinic for a double-header procedure of endoscopy and colonoscopy. I certainly don’t need to go into detail about it all, except to say I fully expected them to drive the Golden Spike where the two procedures met deep inside me. What I will say, however, is that everything went very well, and the results showed the complete absence of anything foreboding or even terribly serious. My hemoglobin is on the rise, and I have about triple the energy than I’ve had for the last number of months. I can drink cups of coffee again, and as long as I lay off popcorn kernels and other nuts, I should be good to go for a number more years. That is why I use the word, “blessed” – I don’t consider myself blessed because nothing bad happened. I think we commit a sad error when we equate good things that happen with the idea that we are blessed. With that mindset, it wouldn’t take much to then assume when something bad comes to our lives, that somehow God withheld blessing from us, and we are simply living forsaken and alone. No, instead I believe that “blessing” and “blessed” mean that in the course of our lives, we are aware and depending on the very presence of God with us, in whatever we are going through. I’m not blessed because somehow I believe God waved a magic wand and fixed everything – but I will truly claim to be blessed in this world because I know Who holds me, and walks with me on the path of my life. Whatever happens, I walk in that faith, and not making deals or trying to convince God that somehow I deserve or try to barter for a different outcome. Blessing is far more fundamental to our existence than looking for beneficial results.
So, all of that was Part A of my month of medical stuff. One week after my procedure, I turned 65 years old, and one week after my birthday, I was set up to have shoulder surgery that promised to take me out of commission for six weeks, and then six months of rehab. Again, not something I was really looking forward undertaking. So, before I could have the surgery, the medical folks required that I have a “Pre-op” physical. I wasn’t very happy about one more trip to see someone, since for the last three months, I’ve been thumped and listened to, and blood drawn and pictures taken by a rather large number of medical people, any one of which I’m sure could have just signed off on the ok for surgery. Therefore, I grumped my way once again to the clinic, to meet with someone I had never met before, and to wait for him to listen to my heart, check my blood pressure, and charge my insurance a few hundred dollars – again – to give me the green light to go ahead and get operated on.
However, something happened on the way to the operating table. The doctor who saw me is also an adjunct professor as the medical school, and so he actually sat and reviewed my records, especially over the last several months. He then asked me two very simple questions that changed everything. One, he asked if I could actually move my right arm. Now, it's true that back in November, my right shoulder was just taking up space in the world – nothing was working right, and anytime I did move it, I had searing pain that went on and on. Oh, that was the second question: did my shoulder hurt? Well, I answered that it did hurt for a number of weeks, but it didn’t anymore. And, as I showed him, I could raise my arm easily above my head, extend it in any direction, even to the middle of my back, with complete flexibility and no pain or even stiffness whatsoever.
He watched my gymnastics, and then he sat back in the chair. “What are you doing here?” he asked. I simply repeated that I needed the pre-op check done before the surgery. He knew that, of course, but he then proceeded to tell me that if I had come to see him first, he would never have referred me to a surgeon for shoulder repair. He did some different types of tests on my arm and shoulder, and then once again asked me if I really thought I needed surgery. I began to realize that he didn’t think so at all.
He explained the physiology of the shoulder, and that surgery seems necessary if there is significant pain, lack of motion, and if the shoulder was making it impossible for me to go about normal daily activities. I did tell him that I no longer shovel snow, which in my book was kind of a plus, and that I was constantly being mindful of how I use my arm and shoulder, leaving it to my left side to do the heavy lifting, and how I used my right arm and shoulder more for balancing items, even if they were above my head.
Once again, he asked if I truly wanted to have the surgery and to go through all that was involved. Before I could answer, he offered that if I did not want to go through it, that he would be the heavy and in so many words, wave me off from the operating table, opting instead for a few months of physical therapy and exercises to strengthen the part of the shoulder that wasn’t torn. Then, if after that time, I believed it wasn’t better, or functioning as it should, that they could reschedule a surgery. He was quick to say that I could move my arm as well as anyone could, and that, just as if someone where a hammer, all the world looks like a nail, so a surgeon sees, with reasonable credibility, that the world is in need of the surgeon to cut it open and fix whatever there is to be fixed.
A few minutes later, I had an appointment to see a physical therapist the next day, and instructions to call the clinic and cancel the surgery.
Now, I’ve lived a pretty comfortable life, with the only other time I ever had surgery was on a wrist when I was 17 years old to remove a bump. I guess nearly fifty years later, the surgery I thought I “needed” was set aside, because somebody in the medical field took time to look at what I needed from a different perspective.
So, the surgery has been deleted from my calendar, and in its place are a number to visits to the guy who gives me crazy exercises to strengthen my shoulder. Apparently, there are four rotator cuffs in your shoulder, and it is possible to have a fully functioning shoulder with 3 of them made strong. That’s my new song for this winter and spring!
A second opinion turned out for me to be more evidence that just as God’s eye is on the sparrow, I know God watches over me as well, and sent someone to give me a different path to walk on.
You know that one of the concepts of life that I mention frequently is to live intentionally, and not accidentally. This experience opened my eyes to see that truth as clearly as I ever have. Where I could have very simply and accidentally gone through a tough time of hurt and healing, I have instead taken an intentional path toward healing of a different nature, with the guidance and insight of a second opinion.
Everyday of our lives, as soon as we open our eyes, we are greeted by a nearly infinite number of paths our day could take. One choice leads to another, and then another that depends on the previous choice we made as to whether it is even something we could choose. And granted, there are those days when we really do make grand and glorious mistakes in our lives – “wrong” paths, or ones taken only accidentally, without thoughtful decisions made. The good news in all of this often complicated and potential pitfall of a daily life, is that we can always stop – pause for a moment, look at where we have been, and maybe where we might find ourselves careening toward. We can stop, and think again, because we aren’t lost – we just don’t know quite where we are. Before we take the next step, we are given the opportunity to choose a different path, and intentional path, and one that is more abundant in its joy and hope.
That, my friends, is also the definition of living blessed.
These writings may not be daily, but I will work at making them more regular, and I hope you will join me as we move through our world, making a difference, and offering the love and joy that is ours to give. See you soon!
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.