ANYTHING BUT ROUTINE Andy Hollifield 1-29-19
Psalms 103:14 For he knoweth our frame, he remembereth we are dust.
Have you ever read some of the definitions of dust? Here are some of them: ashes, refuse (garbage), anything worthless, a single particle or grain. Dictionary.com says “refuse” is “something that is discarded as useless, trash, garbage, rejected as worthless, discarded.” You may not think all of that is very spiritual but that is describing us. The verse above says that God knows our frame. A frame is the strong structure that holds up a building. I wonder what God sees when he sees our frame. Does he see someone strong and solid or someone who he can’t put too much pressure on without breaking us?” He remembers we are dust. The one substance on earth that is pretty much worthless. It is a constant annoyance to anyone that owns any kind of a material object. If you own it, you have at one time or another have to remove dust from it. That’s what we are made of.
I realized Monday night when I was catching up my blog page, that I had let a very important date in my life go by completely unnoticed. I guess it is a good thing when you can forget a tragic day but I don’t want to fail to give the Lord praise for all he did then and now. January 19th landed on Saturday this year a little over a week ago. Back in 1983, right before I graduated high school, it fell on a Wednesday. That was the day that I went to school as a 17-year-old boy who thought he had the world by the tail. How could I have known that only a few hours later that afternoon, that I would be forced to become a man or at least face the problems of a man. I had written a post on January 28, 2017 entitled “Innocence Lost” because that was the date in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Three years earlier on the 19th in 1983, my innocence was lost.
I am not meaning that how it might sound and if I was, I sure wouldn’t be writing about it. No, that would have been much more to my liking than how I lost my innocence. As Dr. Miles Elmore finished the exam for my routine checkup, he told me to put my shirt on and step across the hall to his office. Nothing out of the ordinary about that. As I walked in he told me to shut the door and have a seat. That was also routine and I was about to get my routine lab work, swing by the house for a minute and see mom, then head to Annette’s house in Barnardsville to take her to church. Just another routine doctor appointment on another routine Wednesday and man it sure had been a long time since I saw her Sunday night. Then came those fateful, life-changing words from Dr. Elmore: “Within the next year, you are going to either have to go on dialysis, have a kidney transplant or both.” “SAY WHAT?” I thought to myself; “No, no, no, you have got your charts mixed up or something! I am only 17 and I graduate the end of May, no, this ain’t right!” I remembered just a couple of years before after my kidney biopsy, he had told me that probably years down the road when I was getting to be an old man, I would need a transplant. He told me to let the girls do my labs and then set my next appointment on my way out and someone would be calling about getting the ball rolling on everything. He had never looked up from the paperwork he was staring intently at. I don’t even know if he was reading it or just trying to focus on anything other than me.
As I walked out into the cold January air, my mind was so rattled I don’t think I even noticed the cold. As I started my Nova, I finally had a thought and it was simply, “How am I going to tell mom?” My next thought was “How am I going to tell Annette?” We had talked about marriage and I knew that I couldn’t ask her to go through what I was about to face. I don’t even remember the drive home or anything about it. I don’t even remember getting home. I don’t know if I even cried but if I didn’t, it wasn’t out of bravery, it was just out of shock and numbness. The next thing I remember was mom standing in the kitchen and she asked her routine question, “How did your appointment go?” I don’t really remember if I ate supper or what I did, but, trying to keep from getting choked up I told her and then said I was going to head to Annette’s and I was going to have to tell her. I knew that she would start crying and then I would if I made it that long.
I don’t really remember much about getting there or how I told her except that I did tell her that I didn’t expect her to go through that and we could call it off before either of us got hurt anymore. That was probably the most noble thing I ever did but she absolutely refused and was almost offended that I would suggest such a thing. I was relieved because Lord knows I was scared out of my mind. The problem was, at 17 you are trying to be cool and tough and you can’t admit fear about anything. She swore that she would be by my side and by Sunday had told her aunt and uncle that she lived with she was going to be there with me. They had expected it and didn’t even try to stop her.
I wound up being the one to stop her only three months later. I guess when you bottle up that kind of stuff, especially when you’re 17, it has got to come out sometime. By the time April came, she had had enough. She told me on Thursday that she wasn’t going to be home when I came to pick her up on Friday or any other Friday. I was told after my surgery that I had gotten a little bit irritable, and edgy, and not the easiest person to be around at times. I remembered that we had our first fight sometime in those last couple of weeks. All I remember was that I had been more hateful to her than I ever had about something.
I didn’t write all of that to get sympathy but just to let you know what it was like for me. Here I was 18 years old, a guilty distance away from God but I made a great hypocrite, and now I had managed to run off the person that meant the most to me. My life had gone from having the world by the tail to being scared out of my mind. I even remember when mom, dad, and I went down to the hospital in Winston-Salem for an all morning conference. We had been in there about two hours I guess, just listening and getting all of our questions answered. When we took a water break around 10:30, dad asked me out at the water fountain what I thought so far. I told him “Dad, I don’t know so much about this.” In the wisdom that he was known to have he replied “What choice do you have?” I said, “None I guess. I sure don’t want to stay on dialysis.” I had been on it for two months and that was enough.
I was blessed and too far away from God to appreciate it like I should have. This past January 19th was the 36th anniversary of the day my world turned upside down. As a parent, I now realize just a little bit, how heart-breaking that must have been for mom and dad. I really did write this to lift you up and not bring you down. I am grateful that the God we serve is “anything but routine.” He is a miracle-working, prayer-answering God, that can set the upside down world of an 18-year-old boy right side up again. Nothing went routine for me during that trial. God had already given me my brother, who matched up closer than we could have possibly been without being identical twins. I only began to realize sometime later, how much God had blessed me. I had told the staff at the kidney center that I would see them in 12 days. The fastest anyone had come back from a transplant around here was 14 days. After a rejection episode during which my fever went to 105.3 with no lasting brain damage, my kidney quit working and was scheduled, unknown to me, to be removed on a certain date. If the five doses of steroids over the next few days didn’t jumpstart it working again, there would be nothing else they could do. After only three doses, they decided my kidney was working good enough not to even need the last two doses. God had brought me back from the brink and I was too far out of his will to appreciate it like I should have. I am reminded of Jonah who was so bitter in Nineveh after the whole city accepted the Lord and repented in sackcloth and ashes, that he couldn’t even appreciate how God had just allowed him to preach the greatest meeting ever preached and see more souls saved than anyone ever has before or since. Deep down I guess I was still on my own pity party too much to realize all that God had just done. I am thankful that God’s faithfulness isn’t contingent on mine. Even when I was far out of his will, his love for me was “anything but routine.”
Things may look bad for us and may really be. But we have never been so far out that God didn’t love us and meet our needs. I was reminded again as I wrote this, of the anguish in my mind back then about the life I was facing if it didn’t work. On October 6th of this year, I will be celebrating 36 years with the kidney that God and my brother gave me. I was hospitalized running a fever about three weeks after I had come home. I went down there and slept it off between Wednesday and Monday and haven’t been admitted with anything pertaining to my kidneys since then. Thirty-six years, according to my research, puts my kidney in probably the top 25 and maybe even top 15 in the world for longevity. I don’t want to climb the ranks any higher because that would mean someone passed or lost their transplant. Not bad for a life expectancy of a transplanted kidney having been about 20 years at the time. Oh yeah, that 12 day prediction I made, it turned into exactly twice that number. I was admitted October the 4th and discharged on October 28th, 24 days later. Believe me when I say, our God is “anything but routine.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!