I felt fortunate that on a church retreat in 1987, I found Christ, and gave my life to Him. I had grown up in the Methodist church with my father walking to church, my brother and I, ages 6 and 8,not far behind him discussing those elementary kid things and the mischief we could create in Sunday School. My brother Steve and I would attend Sunday school with the other younger aged children while my father taught the teenagers. Now fast forward to 1987, where my wife Kathy and I were attending a wonderful Presbyterian Church in downtown Baltimore Maryland. We had moved there in hopes of building an empire from a simple Traffic Safety supply company owned by her mother. The church was on a retreat in the beautiful Maryland Mountains, and it was the first time Kathy and I had attended a church retreat, sleeping in a small tent for the weekend. It was here that I began to hear God speaking to me, urging me to listen and helping me to understand what was happening. It was here that I finally got it. I was elated to understand things, to have a vision of something better, and to be able to share with other Christians. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, wanting to dedicate my life to accomplishing His will.
It’s just when we think we have everything figured out, and life returns to the blinding pace we are accustomed to, that God throws us a curve ball. After all, He is a “major league” caliber southpaw who can blaze a pitch across the plate before we are even aware he has thrown the ball.
I have been thrown many curve balls in my life. These would include kidney stones in High School, where the doctors claimed I was drinking too much milk, go figure. There was the knee surgery that came out of no where, discovered on a High School tennis match, when I was having knee pain only to discover it was a benign tumor that was quickly removed. Then there was the big bang, the brain tumor discovered when I was 29.
Just when you think things are moving in a positive direction, God sends you a challenge to test your faith, your strength, your will to remain a faithful servant. These are typically things we do not see coming. Pitches that seem to cross the plate before we are aware they are even thrown. These are events or illnesses that seem to appear out of the blue, testing our fortitude and our belief in God. My “big bang” did just that. Our lives seemed to be finally taking shape. We had moved back to the Richmond area (Colonial Heights, VA) in the fall of 1988, and I found work in the very place I had resigned from two years prior. I returned to my position as a Deputy Sheriff for Chesterfield County.
While on a relaxing vacation with the family in Myrtle Beach, I began to suffer severe headaches. We all just thought it was food poisoning because it went away overnight. God was sending me a message, a fast pitch across the plate, and it was a "swing and a miss." In the fall of 1991, after a promotion to the position of Captain by the new Sheriff in town, I felt we were on our way. Our two young boys were growing up in a small town as I had, and were well adjusted, growing up in a village that seemed to surround them with love, and a small church that did the same. The headaches continued, and I sought relief, first with a visit to my General Practiioner, then a neurologist. The neurologist suggested treating me for stress induced migraines, brought on by a very stressful and chaotic work environment. I could not convince the doctors to take a look with a CT scan, so I just did what I was told and took my medicine like a good little boy. The pain would become so severe that I would have to be taken to the emergency room because I could not hold down the medicine prescribed for the pain. They would give me the same prescription in a shot and send me home.
After four trips to the ER, Kathy and her sister threatened the ER doctor within an inch of his life in order to get him to order a CT scan. The doctor very reluctantly agreed to do this, but was very concerned about second guessing the very highly respected neurologist I was seeing. He was blown away by the pictures. There it was, right in the center of my brain. The scan showed a golf ball size tumor that was creating a life threatening situation.
When I was returned to the emergency room, he called Kathy and her sister over to the stretcher. The doctor was visibly upset, and was very apologetic about the entire situation. It was when he spoke of the large mass found on the scan that her sister had to brace my wife from fainting to the floor. I immediately found myself in a very calm, unusually peaceful place. I felt God’s hand on my shoulder and was ready to swing at any pitch He would throw at me this time. My response to the doctor was something like “ok, what do you plan to do about it.” He immediately contacted a neurosurgeon and the rest is history, a very eventful history to say the least. I have since gone through trials such as demotions at work, divorce, treated for depression, and other mild setbacks, but nothing compared to the challenge of a life threatening brain tumor. Since the original surgery, I have had four other brain surgeries related to the original tumor, including the removal of yet another tumor created by the radiation to rid me of the first one.
My pastor has the best and most thought provoking benediction each Sunday as he prepares us to go out into the world. Each Sunday he finds different ways to say basically the same thing. “Go out into the world, knowing that God has put you wherever you are for a reason.” I was put in the Chippenham Hospital ER for a reason that day. This reason was explained in a very heartfelt note I received months later from the ER doctor. His wife began to experience severe headaches, and was quickly seen by a neurologist because her husband remembered my situation months prior. This resulted in discovering a brain tumor, and being able to take action immediately. He was very thankful that my experience gave him the wisdom to courage to support his wife through this trial in their lives. I have since lost touch with this doctor, but I’m comforted by knowing my experience actually had a good outcome.
We sometimes really question why, we often utter the phrase “why me, Lord.” We can rest assured that “wherever we are, God has put us there for a reason.” I can safely say that I hit one out of the park for the team. I question why each time I begin to suffer headaches and wonder if God is getting ready to throw his best at me across the plate. I am now convinced that each time I deal with the brain tumor or some other challege, God is placing me at bat because He has confidence in my swing.