I was lying in a hospital bed in the emergency room St. Paul, Minnesota talking fervently to God. Why would God allow this to happen to me? When would God deliver me from the excruciating pain I was suffering? After being poked and prodded, hooked up to an IV, passed through a CT scanner, and answering myriad questions about my personal habits, a diagnosis was reached. I had pancreatitis caused by gallstones. My gallbladder would have to come out once the inflammation to my pancreas went down. Great! A thousand miles from home and my family, and I had to suffer a major medical emergency in the company of strangers.
I asked God, “Lord, what I had done to deserve this?” Pancreatitis can be caused by excessive drinking, by scorpion stings, and by genetic factors. I have lived a fairly clean life. I rarely drink alcohol. Surely the two margaritas I enjoyed while watching the NFC and AFC championship games that Sunday hadn’t caused my affliction. I have never even seen a live scorpion in the wild. No one in my family has ever had pancreatitis. What could it have been?
There is a saying amongst doctors that they can tell who is going to have problems with their gallbladder just by looking at them. Three things are a dead giveaway. People who are fair, forty, and fat. I fit the bill for all three. I am so pasty white that I glow in the dark. I was only two weeks away from my 40th birthday. My weight had been creeping up for several years. I refused to look at photos of myself, or would try to hide behind other people when the picture was taken. I only wanted to look at myself in “skinny” mirrors so that I wouldn’t feel bad about myself. I would promise myself that I would quit my fast food habit tomorrow, or the day after that. I would rather by shirts and pants a size larger than admit than admit that my burgeoning waistline was a growing problem.
And now I was suffering the natural consequences of neglecting to take care of myself. I thought I could just ignore the problem, put it off for another time. And I was forced to face my health head on. My gallbladder made sure of that.
What does all of this have to do with Lent and our study of the 10 Commandments? Simply put, the 10 Commandments act like a mirror. They provide us a true glimpse of ourselves as God sees us. There is no hiding behind anyone so that our sin looks smaller. There is no “skinny” mirror that we can look into to make ourselves feel better about what we have done. There is only honest reflection about where we fall short of living a Godly life, and about how many times we have fed ourselves spiritual fast food, giving ourselves empty promises to be better or do better tomorrow.
I feel like God was giving me a health intervention by allowing my gallbladder and pancreas to behave in the way they did. Had I not suffered the pancreatitis attack, I probably would have died from high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries from all of the garbage I was eating. I still have a long way to go to get healthy, and I will never be perfect in following the doctor’s orders, but I am certainly going to try! I have to tell you that I like what I see in the mirror more and more as the weight is starting to come off.
No one can follow the Ten Commandments perfectly, that’s why God had to stage an intervention for the whole world. God sent Jesus to fulfill the law, because we could not. We were going to die from our terminal diagnosis of sin, but Jesus took our place on the cross, and we have been given new life and new hope in Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning.
We still can’t follow the Ten Commandments perfectly, but we can try! Then we can feel a little better as we look into the mirror of the law. We will like what we see a little better, and we don’t have to be afraid because we know that we have been saved by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ.