MY LAST DAY
Small buzzes, clicks, whirring sounds surrounded me. I lay flat on my back, in the flimsy hospital gown. Medical technicians were thinking about the MRI, about the fluid on my brain, about the eclamptic seizures that had brought me back to the hospital. I was thinking about death. Would today be my last day?
I thought of my husband, my little boy, and my new tiny baby daughter. I thought about all my big goals for my life, goals that had been crippled and marred by chronic health problems. Health problems had brought us home from the field and removed from me all the activities and ministries that gave me identity. These problems had, as I saw it, taken away my significance.
Over the past year I had struggled with discontent, a restless need to find some way to prove I was still worthwhile. Yet with each attempt, each new ministry or activity, eventually my health (or lack thereof) would hinder it, would require more help from my husband, would leave me exhausted, sick or both. I would end up neglecting my family as I used up my energy trying to keep up with the other things. After all, organizing a missions conference sounds a lot more important than changing diapers. Leading a Bible study feels more significant than reading bedtime stories.
But that day in the hospital, the possibility of it being my last brought a fear more claustrophobic than the MRI machine I was encased in. What if it really was my last day? What if I was dying? What would I want to do with my last day?
All those former seemingly significant priorities I had chased did not come to mind. All the activities that had given me a false sense of identity lost their appeal in the valley of the shadow of death. If it was to be my last day, I wanted to spend it loving my husband, loving my children, loving my God.
That was how I wanted to be remembered. Content. Unafraid. No longer striving, chasing after the wind. I wanted to be remembered as one who loved. And in that moment of light, as the machine whirred and clicked over my head, I had a blazing realization: If that is how I would want to spend my last day, why isn’t that how I am spending every day?
If my God and my family are most important, why am I living as if they aren’t? Why are they taking second place in my day, in my effort, even in my heart sometimes?
The months and years leading up to that day in the hospital, I had struggled with wondering what my life was worth if I could not chase after my dreams, if I could not attain the amazing, biography-worthy life I had always wanted.
However, that day I saw with beautiful certainty that I wanted to stay. I wanted to live, even if life for me meant fewer abilities and possibilities than it might for most others.
Lying in that MRI machine, I prayed, “God, if all I can do with my life is serve my husband and raise my children, I want to stay. Please let me stay.”
God answered that prayer with a yes. Later that afternoon, as a neurologist, an emergency-room doctor, and one other “ologist” stood over me, discussing which of two life-threatening treatments to try, they chose the right one. Eventually I was released from the hospital. Eventually I returned to my state of “normal.” Eventually I even had enough energy to go right back to struggling with my old addiction: the pull toward proving my own significance.
Like an addict, I still find myself longing to commit to activities, drawn toward proving that I am spiritual by outward show. Then another health crisis will knock me down, bringing back with startling force that promise I made that day as death faced me head-on. I made the promise, and I am accountable for that promise before God.
I know that God wants abundant life for each of us (John 10:10). I am learning, however, that His definition of abundant life for me is far different than what I had ever supposed. Abundant life is not an urgent, fast-paced life rushing from one significant thing to the next. Abundant life is having contentment in every season, with whatever role God has assigned for me within that season. It is a place of peace, green pastures and still waters.
Regardless of how small or large my role feels at any given time, God wants me to accept it with joy, to be a shining example of peace—of a gentle and quiet spirit—in a world where women feel they must prove their own worth by their talents, or beauty, or ability to make money.
That day in the hospital did not turn out to be my last day. However, one day will be. When that day comes, I want my restless, discontent spirit to have been replaced by a gentle and quiet one. I want me to have decreased, and Christ to have increased. I want those I love to really know they were loved. Most of all, I want God to be pleased, because I was finally willing to give up my own dreams for His.