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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Close Call.

Tough night last night. I hesitate to write about it in the past tense because I don't really know if I'm truly on the other side of it. I was sitting here at my computer, half-writing, half surfing, when I had some very strange burning in my left shoulder. Not like muscular pain from lifting weights. It was kind of a stinging warmth on the inside. Then, I felt tingling in my left hand. I had shortness of breath and an odd (though not painful) pressure on my chest.

I called my wife up, not sure if I should make much out of it or not. See about 6 years ago, I had a bout of something similar. I had two ER visits, once being wheeled out of my school where I was teaching that morning. Over a 6 month period I went through a battery of cardio tests: EKG, Halter Monitor, Tilt Table Test, Stress Test, even a Nuclear Stress Test (sounds painful, eh?) Not really. But in the end, (thank you God) the tests showed my heart was perfectly normal and healthy.

So it had been six years since I'd had any serious symptoms, but last night, there they were. My wife (who is an RN) came up and took my pulse and BP. I lied down on the bed, and that is when things got worse. My heartrate went crazy, and I felt on the edge of passing out. My wife took me to the ER at a local hospital--and I can't tell you how uncomfortable that ride was. Seemed like the few cars in front of us were bound and determined to travel 15mph BELOW the posted limit.

Long story short, I had about six uncomfortable, frightening hours in the ER, and overnight stay in the hospital, and another Nuclear Stress Test. All results, again normal. So now, I'm at home and feeling much better, though, to be honest, a little leery about my health. I share all this with you for two reasons: 1. A Prayer request: Please pray that I will be done with these scary symptoms and/or get myself healthy enough to avoid them.

And 2. A plea from me to you. When I was laying there in the ER, I just felt compelled to tell my wife and my daughter who was with me how much I love them, and how sorry I am for not loving them better. It just occurred to me in there that I just might be on my way out for good. And I felt immediately and deeply sorrowful for all the slights and conflict and selfishness that had been my sole responsibility with my wife and daughter.

But after that, all I wanted to do was see my pastor: Joe Duke of Lifepoint Church. I desperately wanted to talk to him. And by God's very real grace, Joe was home. He came over to see me right away. He was barely in the door and all this stuff gushed out of me. I told him how I've struggled mightily as a Christian, especially just wondering if God really loved me and saved me. I know what you're probably thinking: here's this author guy, this guy whose written such amazing books that reveal the love and power of God, and…he's sitting there with those kind of doubts?

I can't explain it, but in that moment, feeling like, at any minute, I could just black out and never wake up, I was utterly terrified. And not just of death, but more of what would happen after. I had it all screwed up in my head that I was that guy Jesus talked about who would get to heaven and say, "You see, Lord, I have prophesied and cast out demons in your name." But Jesus replied, "Away from me. I never knew you." I can not imagine any greater horror than to die and find out once we've crossed over that whatever system we thought would get us to heaven, failed. Eternity is incomprehensible to most of us. We are too near sighted. We figure life is about 70-100 years here on earth. We do everything we can to fill this life with happiness and often forget about forever.

I told my pastor that it's just crazy: I've led Bible studies for 18 years, taught classes, written books, and there I was afraid for my eternal soul. My problem is and always has been that I think too much about myself: what I've done, what I've earned, what I deserve. And that, is a recipe for disaster and shame. Joe rightly and mercifully pointed out, "Wayne, it never has been about you. Jesus died with every horrible black sin you've ever done--ever will do--laid on his shoulders…willingly. Jesus knew you'd never make it. HE made it. And whether you feel Him or not, He IS right here with you. And this event, even now with your fear and doubt and pain, this event is not wasted."

Poor Joe. I think I threw every doubt I've ever had at him. I said, "What if I did the unpardonable sin--I mean there was that time when I was sixteen and I yelled at God and told Him I didn't want anything to do with Him." Joe said, "Of all the studies I've done and all the education on the subject of the unpardonable sin, I've come to realize that the only unpardonable sin is to reject Jesus." And he asked me do I believe in Jesus, that He is real, that He died on the cross, rose again to pay for me and give me life. I wept aloud, "Yes, I believe. It's just--" There Joe stopped me and said, "There are no buts. You belong to Jesus. And there is nothing you can ever say or do to change that."

Joe went on to say that it's important to talk to others about these real doubts and fears because the terrible alternative is to become fake. You make yourself look good because people are watching. And fake is a horror.

So as I wrap up, I just want to urge you on a few things. First, remember that this life REALLY isn't all there is. And all of us are dead men walking. At any moment ANY moment, it could just end like the flip of a lightswitch. And then...forever begins. Forever. Timeless, never-ending…forever. If there is anything keeping you from God right now, I assure you it is not worth ignoring forever. You may have gone through the worst life has to offer or be in the middle of the very best life has to offer, but it's all temporary. Whether you like it or not, years will pass and the glow or the pain will fade. And forever will still be sitting there, the 800 pound gorilla no one wants to talk about. Bow your inner knee to Jesus right now. He doesn't promise to take away the bumps in life, He doesn't promise that person who stung you will ever like you, He doesn't promise to make you sober, or to make you stop swearing. He does Promise to be with you ALWAYS. Never alone. And the best news of all is that ALWAYS includes forever. I want to be with Jesus forever. I so badly wait for that day when I first pass to the other side, and the chains of all the junk we struggle with just fall away. And there will be my Savior (our Savior) waiting there to lift your chin and mine. "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I want to encourage you. If you are struggling with doubt, first you are not the only one. When I told my pastor all that stuff last night, he said, "Wayne, you are among many, many others that struggle. And if you know anyone who says they don't, just wait. It's what the church fathers call the dark night of the soul or the wilderness time, when God seems far away and prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling." Joe went on to explain, "We as Christians, do live a life of faith. And those times when we don't see, hear, smell, taste, or touch Him, TRUST Him. Tell Him you trust Him." Yes, there is credible evidence for Christianity. But we walk by faith.

So if you're in the thick of it right now, brother, you are not alone. And God has not abandoned you or forgotten you. It's like the old footsteps poem: you may only just be standing at all because Jesus is carrying you. I encourage you to talk to someone you trust about whatever you are facing. Don't be fake. Be real, and know that God can take broken, screwed up people and create everlasting works of art.

And one more day-to-day thing: Don't mess with sin. Sin damages or even destroys relationships. Sin equals shame. Sin equals death. Beware of rationalizing of dancing too close to the line of sin. It leads all too quickly to a mire, a swamp of horrors. One of the first things to happen when you sin, is that you suddenly doubt--self, God, everything. Sin screws up the way things are supposed to be. You might want love, security, friendships, possessions--all can be good things. But not if you trample Jesus to get them. It's just not worth it. Forever is waiting. But so is today. Jesus came to give us life...even life now. Do not knowingly lock yourself in a fortress of shame by indulging sin. Go to the Lord with every worry, fear, temptation, thought, hope, and dream. Appeal to Him and trust.

Never alone.



Brynn said...

Praying that right now you feel 110% and will never drop back under! You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

And thank you so much for that post and plea... I can't tell you how much I needed to hear that right now.


Kayla said...

Amen. If there's one things I've found, it's that dangerous times make the Lord shine all the more brightly. Thanks for the encouragement. You'll be in my prayers.

everlastingscribe said...

Ah Wayne, you dear Seanchai. Here is what I believe the Lord laid on my heart to pray for you.

Lord of Hosts, Abba, please, your son Wayne is hurting. Hear my prayer, taken from one of the old saints and molded for him this day, and not just him but his lovely wife, his fine children. Let this be for all of them today and every day.

"Christ to shield Wayne today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,(against doubt, fear, and body that would betray him)
So that there may come to him abundance of reward.
Christ with Wayne, Christ before Wayne, Christ behind Wayne,
Christ in Wayne, Christ beneath Wayne, Christ above Wayne,
Christ on Wayne's right, Christ on Wayne's left,
Christ when Wayne lies down, Christ when Wayne sits down, Christ when Wayne arises,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of Wayne,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of Wayne,
Christ in every eye that sees Wayne,
Christ in every ear that hears Wayne.

He arises today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation."*

In Your name, Jesus, I ask this, that he and his family would be surrounded, hedged in, and hidden in You.


*St. Patrick's Breastplate, modified.

everlastingscribe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am praying for you!

That was really amazing post. That meant so much to me, and I am sure it did to others too,

Anonymous said...

Mr. Batson, I can understand where you're coming from, and I thank you for reminding us all that whatever happens, Christ will stand alongside us.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that's not good! I'll definitely be praying for you! Also, you really spoke the truth in those words... thanks for the encouragement, and I hope nothing happens to you!

Shane Deal said...

Oh my. Glad to hear you seem to be doing better now though. These kind of situations are always difficult.

I'll be praying for you. I'll also pass it along as a generic prayer request to our churches e-mail prayer list.

Unknown said...

Brother, I know right where you're coming from. Doubt can easily take over when we let down our guard. I myself have doubted God in the best and worst of times. In my opinion, it's one of the enemy's most effective weapons.

It's almost hard to believe that we're saved because it's so simple. Once we've been believers for a while, it seems like we should be doing more to "earn" our salvation. I loved when you quoted that verse about how Jesus never knew that guy...because that's really it. Jesus loves us unconditionally, and all he desires is from us is to love him back. He just wants a relationship with his children. Praise God.

I'll be praying for you and your strange symptoms, and that you will truly trust God with your life. Remember that God hears ALL prayer...even when it seems like Heaven's throne is empty.

Your Brother in Christ,

Neil said...

Sir, you have one good pastor.

Anonymous said...

Walk by Faith
By Jeremy Camp

Will I believe you when you say
Your hand will guide my every way
Will I receive the words You say
Every moment of every day

I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Help me to rid my endless fears
You've been so faithful for all my years
With one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do

yeah, yeah , yeah, yeah, yeah, ya


Well I'm broken- but I still see Your face
Well You've spoken- pouring Your words of grace

[chorus x2]

Well hallelujah, hallelujah
(I will walk by faith)
Well hallelujah, hallelujah
(I will walk by faith)

I will walk, I will walk, I will walk by faith
I will, I will, I will walk by faith

I love this song.It helps me in hard times.I think we all fear death.We don't want to leave our loved ones behind.We don't know what's on the other side.Are with our Lord or are we gone forever.I think the I don't know part scares us the most.
Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know thy way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
Psalm 143:8
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;and lean not unto thine own understanding.In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6
I will be praying for you.
Your sister in Christ,
Ryan Paige H ><>

Ardian said...

Mr. Batson, I will definitely be praying! And thank you for the good post. Too often we take forever for granted. And many people don't even believe in forever. They just think that life is like a walk; it starts, it ends. Simple as that. But they don't realize that there is more to life than that.

cameron said...

Wow this meant a lot to me because i just lost my cat yesterday, he ran away. Now that you posted me i felt like praying. I did pray and i feel comforted now and i hope poke (cat's name in Hawaiian) will com back.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Ardian.I kind of see what you mean.I don't believe life is just a walk; it starts, it ends.I do believe in heaven.I do believe Jesus died for our sins and gave us everlasting life.But I do fear death.Not that I don't believe I'm not going to make it to heaven.Jesus saved me from that.I guess you can kind of say I'm scared of pain.I don't want to die horribly.I picture the perfect death.Lying in a bed at a very old age falling asleep and waking up in our heavenly fathers arms, but that doesn't happen a lot.That scares me.And what I mean by the I don't know part scares us the most is that we truly don't know. Nobody has ever told us what it looks like, but I'm sure it's beautiful.
Ryan Paige H ><>

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Wayne, I'm so sorry you had to go through this experience, both the physical and the spiritual.

When I was young, I was afraid of death, just the way anonymous who posted right before me described. I couldn't get away from the what-if questions (I guess the first of my writer tendencies, but I didn't realize it. ;-) What if Christianity wasn't real after all? What if I hadn't been sincere enough when I asked Jesus to take away my sins? What if I thought I was a Christian but wasn't? What if my faith was too weak?

It all seems odd to me now—that I wondered about those things—because I've come through that dark night. Doesn't mean there won't be others, but so far I've lived through the death of my dad and then of my mom and my faith is stronger, not weaker.

For me it's connected with God's Word. I want to treat my relationship with God like I would any other important relationship. So the first step is not to stay at the acquaintance stage. I need to know this God I want to love (for years I couldn't say I really loved Him. I recognized Him for the important part He played in my life, but I didn't know how to love Him because I didn't see Him).

I don't think I'd expected to lose the fear of dying ever, so I didn't start reading the Bible for that reason. But somewhere along the line, that's what happened. I'm not sure when reading the Bible stopped feeling like something I had to do or ought to do, and started to be something I looked forward to, something I desperately missed.

And I don't know when my relationship with God became so necessary, like I knew I couldn't take Him for granted or treat Him with disrespect. Just because I didn't want to. He mattered to me too much for that.

It's the difference, I think, between falling in love, then getting to know the person, and getting to know the person, then falling in love.

Anyway, thanks for your post. It's certainly brought thoughts to the front about my relationship with God I wasn't expecting to share.


Astral Pen said...

That anxiety is something that struck me as well, Wayne. Many of us at one time wonder, "Have we done enough for God?" You just look at that very basic comparison: God is God, and we, well, are not. That has a very sobering effect. It can cast doubt on all your actions.

But I had to learn not to worry. I still do to a point. I know that you need not worry about being one that Jesus says He does not know. Those people perform acts in Jesus' name for their own glory, not His. In Jesus' day, they were the pious teachers of the law, who made a show of doing things for God, but were hollow, empty, and evil inside. This in no way describes you. And as your pastor says, the unpardonable sin is rejecting Jesus, or as Jesus said, calling the acts of the Holy Spirit evil. The people who commit unpardonable sins are rejecting wholeheartedly God, not in a fit of anger, but a complete and irrevocable turning away, even to the point of calling God evil. Again, this in no way describes you.

The Bible says the unregenerate man knows nothing of the love of God. You certainly do not qualify! Works and deeds do not save us, least any man may boast. Your confusion is perhaps a sign of God working on you. The Bible says God is doing a work in the heart of all believers. Part of the adventure of the Christian life is that what we are today may not be what we are tomorrow. So do not worry! Remember, Christ said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." And Christ always keeps His word. Always.

- Jason

Christopher Hopper said...

Wayne, I know these past few days have sucked. But that was by far the most authentic post I think you've ever put out.

"Joe went on to say that it's important to talk to others about these real doubts and fears because the terrible alternative is to become fake. You make yourself look good because people are watching. And fake is a horror."


Robert Treskillard said...

Thanks, Wayne, for sharing this difficult time. You're in my prayers!

This is a godly reminder to all of us about what is really important in life.

Anonymous said...

Sir Wayne,
I am at the library with Shelby and Daniel and we just read your post, and we want you to know we are praying for you....Also, as I read your post I couldn't help but remember back a few years to when I was having similar symptoms in my body---after many doctor visits and many of the same tests I was still without answers... I prayed for God to bring me a Christian doctor, and low and behold He did---it turned out that what I had was very undetectable, unless you knew what you were looking for---I had Mitral Valve Prolapse, otherwise known as MVP(most valuable player--ha,ha!!!) It has a variety of symptoms, all of which yours reminded me of---so it may not be that at all, but perhaps a check with someone who knows what to listen for would prove useful.....I remember being so scared before I knew what it was, and felt on several occasions that I would not make it.
Thank you for being honest and very real---all of us have dealt with doubt, and I pray that yours only bolsters your faith!!!!!! Write On!!! and know that we think you are awesome!!

~Just*Flinn~ said...

I shall be praying, Mr. Batson. I am glad that you are alright! A wonderful post, btw. :)

Anonymous said...

First of all I am very sorry to hear that you were not feeling well. Second of all wow, just wow. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this post today. I have been going through a really hard time lately and this just blew me away. It sounded as if it was written just moments ago directly to me. Especially the part about being fake. That especially hit home. So thank you.