At age seventy-five, I frequently have thoughts and aspirations to erupt in my heart and mind that clamor for development and/or expression. One such incident happened today (15 February 2009).
A few months back, I was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease). The debilitating disease has confined me to a wheel chair. Consequently, I don't get around much any more. In addition, the disease has virtually paralyzed my tongue, rendering my speech difficult to understand.
Against this backdrop, a friend stayed with me today while my lovely wife Margaret attended church. After Margaret returned home and before the friend left, I asked him to help me get my 120-bass piano accordion strapped onto my shoulders. A song was in my heart and I wanted to express it, as I had done on hundreds – probably thousands – of occasions over the past sixty-four years.
After I was harnessed into the accordion straps, a distressing emotional crisis erupted. Music was in my heart, and my mind was visualizing exactly what my fingers should do, but my fingers simply would not make the needed movements. What did happen was a gusher of tears, punctuated by heaving sobs.
Even now – hours later – as I keystroke these thoughts into my computer’s word processing software, it is all I can to restrain the tears.
Even though songs were in my soul, and my mind was sending signals to give them life, my fingers could not respond.
After removing the accordion from my shoulders and settling my emotions, I had to face reality and ask my inner self, “Where do I go from here.”
Simply put, I can either bewail the loss of musical proficiency – and the other agonies caused by ALS – or, I can chart a course for the future based on my abilities and opportunities.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it. But translating that simple solution into living reality is not uncomplicated.
Emotions heal slowly – very slowly. And the emotional crisis just narrated is but one of and ever increasing number as I travel an elongating trail of traumatic tribulations.
Against this backdrop, I choose to remind myself of specific biblical wisdom – as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7).
Wrapping my mind around those words, I understand that it is my self image – not the events in my life or condition of my body – that determines who I am. While I understand that, getting my self image beyond the debilitating disease is not as easy as it sounds.
The answer, it seems, is in these words of Scripture – "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, NIV).
How do I do that when my soul is sobbing?
The key seems to be in the sentence structure of Philippians 4:8 (quoted above). It is a matter of my choice to think about the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, the excellent and praiseworthy. And the punch line is that Scripture doesn’t tell me to pray – it instructs me about what to think.
To think about these things, or not to think about them – that is the question I must answer for myself.
The bottom line then is this: It is up to me to avoid thinking about the things that move me to tears and despair, and to purposefully think about the things that give me hope and strength.
The choice is mine.