Life on the Sidelines (How Appendicitis Took Me Out of the Game, and What I’m Learning from It)January 28, 2014
I remember the play vividly before the hit.
It was an option to the left. Our quarterback could keep the ball or toss it. He read his block and quickly passed it to me behind the line of scrimmage. In my mind I would catch the ball, follow my blocker, and turn up field as quickly as possible for positive yardage. It was a pretty simple play on paper. But the only way it works is if everyone follows through with their assignment. My fellow running back forgot his block and allowed the defensive-back to come through the line without being touched. By the time I caught the ball and turned my eyes to the blocker, I was brutally, and blindly, hit from the side. The next thing I remember was being helped off the field after being out for a few dazed moments.
For the rest of the game I was on the sidelines.
Fast forward nearly 20 years later.
I had been busy with a hectic ministry schedule. Preaching appointments, counseling sessions, ministry meetings, writing deadlines, and a hundred other things were competing with my datebook. I was in the game, I was starting, I was focused, I was getting the ball…then it hit. Pain in the side… then in the back…then all over. Before I realized it I was being rolled down the corridor of the hospital that I visit week to week for OTHER people. Had you asked me earlier that day, I probably would have misspelled the word appendectomy, now I was having one.
Chronic Appendicitis took me out of the game. Only this time it involved more than being winded on the sidelines of a high-school football field. This was the game of life.
For the past two weeks I have been sitting on the bench (actually a leather recliner, with a pillow over my abdomen). With strict orders from the doctor, I have had to cancel my preaching appointments, be absent from the pulpit, postpone my counseling sessions, avoid strenuous activity, and yes, even slack off on my writing (something I enjoy doing daily).
The sidelines are dull and boring, but they are necessary. They are designated waiting stations to regroup, refresh, and refuel. I really had no idea how busy my life was until I was forced to sit down and evaluate my schedule. Being on the sidelines for a few weeks helped me catch my breath, reprogram my thinking, and reconnect with others who too are facing ailments from the vicious hits of life.
Needless to say, I prefer to be in the game at all times; but I am thankful for the sidelines. Here are a few lessons I have learned from sitting on the bench.
1. Everyone and Anyone is Susceptible to the Hits of Life. Just because you love the Lord and are faithful to the ministry doesn’t mean you are exempt from down time and vicious hits.
2. When you do Get Hit, Be Thankful for those Who Carry You Off the Field. I do not have the time to thank everyone who rallied around me to continue the work of the ministry. My wife especially helped me like none other. She is the star of the game.
3. There are Others on the Sidelines Who Have Been Hurt as Well. I have visited thousands of people having surgery; but until two weeks ago, I had no idea what they physically, emotionally, and spiritually endured. I am thankful for the sidelines if for no other reason than to be able to relate to others who are suffering.
4. God Develops Patience and Growth on the Sidelines. When you get out of the game, it is so the coach can make you a better player. He knows when you need rest, he knows when he need healing. Our Heavenly Father works the same way. God develops our faith more on the sidelines than He does in the game.
5. The Game Has an Ending. Life is precious, life is passing. When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter how many touchdowns you score or how many buildings you build, or how many awards you receive. All that matters is that you had an opportunity to glorify God and help others. The sidelines helped me realize how quickly life passes by.