As you read this I will have just had one of my knees replaced. As I am writing this column I have not yet had the surgery, but it is a surgery I am certainly looking forward to having. A couple of doctors, seeing X-rays of my knees, have said, “You played basketball, didn’t you?” While I do not walk with a limp, they really do hurt in cold weather and when rain is coming; it’s time to do something about it.
I met with the surgeon recently, and he told me that because I have worked hard at keeping fit that the procedure should go well, and the rehab should not be so difficult. After the four-hour pre-op visit at the hospital last week, everyone assured me that everything should go smoothly. There is no reason at all that it should not.
Do you know how many times I have heard someone say, “There is no reason that this should not go smoothly,” and it has not? All the indicators look good, but there is no way to absolutely know that, after I am put to sleep, I will wake up shortly afterward. There are all kinds of things that can go wrong.
I have tried hard not to dwell on what can go wrong, tried not to think, “Is this going to be my last day?” There is no good reason to think that way, but we really never know what might happen.
So there are things I have been thinking about. When my dad died, he was younger than I am now, and I remember him saying, “I have had a good, full life, and I am happy with the way it has gone.” I was too young at the time to understand that fully; what I was thinking was, “But I’m not through with you yet, there are still many things for us to do, and I still need you in my life.” I was not in a place to think about life ending.
Now I am. I have been retired for two and a half years now, having completed what I think of as a wonderful career. I have been able to preach the gospel in a lot of different places, teach children and young people and adults about what the Bible says, and I have been able to be with a lot of people in times of trouble and joy. I have held weeping loved ones in my arms when someone close has died, and I have held brides and grooms in my arms on the day of their weddings. I have baptized a lot of people who have made a decision to follow Christ in their lives and I have seen the difference it made in the way they lived from that time on.
Life has been good to me. Sure there have been times when I have experienced disappointment and failure. My first marriage failed, and I had to resign as pastor of the church I was serving. I have lost friends because of stupid things I have said or done, and I have grieved the loss for a long time. But in those times of failure and disappointment, I have seen the hand of God guiding me, protecting me and opening new paths for me.
My life has not been so different from anyone else’s, actually. We all have our ups and downs, we have wonderful things happen to us and we miss opportunities we thought ought to open up to us.
The thing I have learned that has helped me most in my years has been that we can “get better or get bitter.” It is a choice we make that can and will make all the difference in whether life will be good or not.
God is in the business of bringing wonderful things out of the worst of circumstances if we give God the chance. It has worked well with me over the years, and I invite you to have it work just as well with you.
Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at Jayhodges610@yahoo.com.