Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 12: Recovery

I have been very, very sick (in-the-hospital, in-an-oxygen-tent sick) only once in my life -- when I was in the seventh grade.

My family lived in the Southern California town of Norco, a town whose motto was "urban living in a rural atmosphere," or maybe "rural living in an urban environment" ... I don't remember which. "Norco" was short for "North Corona." The town's claim to fame was that even though it was within commuting distance of Los Angeles, you could have horses there, and goats, and all sort of countryfied things. There were more horses than people in Norco (literally). There were no sidewalks, just dirt riding paths. And no streetlights. When the Santa Ana winds blew, that fine green film that coated your window sills wasn't dust.

As a kid, of course I loved it. I had an early morning paper route, and delivered paper on horseback -- jumping willy nilly over hedges and fences like Paul Revere warning of British invasion.

But, because we had horses and cows and goats and chickens and a huge garden and more in our acre plot, that also meant as a kid I had chores galore. Feeding animals before going to school was a regular assignment.

I distinctly remember one morning, walking into the tack barn for grain for my horse, when I stopped short, thinking, "Man, I really don't feel well." I had this impending, indefinable sense of doom. I think I returned to the house after chores and told my mom, "I need to stay home. I think I'm getting sick." She was skeptical, but I wasn't usually one to fake it, so she said okay.

My feeling of unwell developed into a fever later that day. I had a cough, congestion, which just got worse and worse. I felt terrible.

A day or two later, she was taking me to the doctor, thinking it was just the usual case of flu. The doctor listened to my chest, then ordered x-rays. After the x-rays came back, there was a hushed, worried conference between the doctor and my mom. "Gosh," I thought, "this can't be good." And, when I saw my mom's face, I knew it wasn't good news.

"Larry," she said, unable to mask her worry. "I am taking you straight to the hospital. You have pneumonia."
I was in the hospital for about two weeks. I spent most of my time in an oxygen tent, hating the cold spray of medication that accompanied the hissing oxygen, and feeling constantly miserable.

Finally, the antibiotics did their work and I was allowed to go home. I spent another week or two at home, recovering.

Recovery. One dictionary definition is "the regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away." What I had lost was lung capacity, the ability to breathe unimpeded of fluid that robbed me of oxygen.

Ever since that day in the seventh grade when I knew something was desperately wrong, I have felt vulnerable to issues with my lungs. I've had bronchitis or pneumonia numerous times since then (though never requiring hospitalization). I've struggled with reactive airway disease (which is basically short-term asthma), and other issues of lung capacity.

But I am "recovering." I think of the term much like an alcoholic would think of it. A "recovering" alcoholic is still very vulnerable to the ravages of alcohol. I feel vulnerable to the possible ravages of lung infection. Am I fully "recovered?" Probably not ... things have never quite gotten back to normal. Am I "recovering?" Yes.

Likewise, I am (and I think this goes for many of us) a "recovering sinner." The Great Physician has done His magic to save my life from this fatal disease. But, I still feel vulnerable to its effects. Life is a struggle with my tendency to sin. Until the day I die, I probably will feel the struggle. My death will be a result of sin. But, there will be a further, ultimate, recovery. Death will not be the end!

I find great hope in Isaiah 25:7-8 ...
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.

The Lord has spoken.
We are all "recovering sinners." We had a fatal disease and were fundamentally cured ... but are yet vulnerable to the effects of sin.

But, the good news is that the sting of death has been removed. The grave is not the end. Soon our recovery will be complete ... and this is only the beginning of the story!

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