Two weeks before Christmas I planned to play handball with Jim McCue. When I woke up I did a sit-up in bed. My back felt stiff and sore, so I did another. Immediately I had pain in my back, a little in my right leg. My back had given me some trouble since playing football in college, but nothing like this. Still, I thought, in a couple days I will be much better.
That night my dad was taking the entire family to see the Chinese Acrobats. I called my dad, an MD, told him about my back and that I still wanted to go. He said that he would bring pills that should relax my muscles and reduce the pain. Upon arrival I took the pills – and remained in such pain I had to stand through the program. I did not sleep very much that night, but was determined to keep an appointment with a high school student heading for serious trouble. I managed to drive the few blocks to his home and spent my time with him lying on the floor. When it was time to leave I called my dad, asked him to make an appointment with a back specialist, and Sally Jo, asking her to pick me up and take me to the specialist. I rode lying in the back of the station wagon. Doctor’s visit: three extruded discs. He told me to try bed rest, but to plan on surgery. Christmas I spent lying on the floor. I made enough progress to return to work, but my back was very painful, my right leg felt like it was in a vise, and sometimes excruciating sciatic pain shot down my leg. I soon went to Dr. Frank Ogren, a general practioner and good friend. He suggested I try traction at home. After a few days I was reasonably functional, but the back, calf and the intense sciatic nerve pain continued.
In June we went to Sally Jo’s parent’s cabin on a lake in Wisconsin. To get from lying down to standing up I had to roll off the deck into the water, or to pull myself up on anything I could find. I was miserable!!! Late afternoon on July 4th I had to return to Oak Brook. When I left we were both in tears. As I drove home that night I gave God a piece of my mind! I could care for everyone else’s kids, but not my own. Physically, emotionally and spiritually I was a mess.
I managed two rehearsals and weddings. On Sunday morning I led two worship services, spoke at the evening service, and then met with the “Career Group.” I was exhausted when I got home, but could not sleep. My back hurt, my leg hurt and I was not happy. After several hours, I rolled out of bed – surely a hot shower would help me relax and get some sleep. I emptied the hot water tank and headed for bed.
Why I knelt by my bed, I do not know. I told the Lord that if he could put Jacob’s hip out of joint (Genesis 32:25), I knew he could heal my back, and that I was going to pray until He did. I was desperate. About twenty minutes later I felt a movement in my back. I stood up – the squeeze on my calf was gone, the sciatic pain was gone. As I got into bed, I realized my back itself was sore, but not bad. I remember saying to the Lord,” If you were going to heal me, why didn’t you finish the job” (Gall!) I soon learned that if I did daily trunk strengthening exercises, my back functioned quite normally. This has forced me to continue these exercises almost daily for 32 years.
Why did I kneel down and pray that night? Why did I tell God I would not stop praying until He healed me? What would I have done if God had not healed my back that night, or the next day? I remembered Jesus parable: “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. Luke 11:5-13 But what would I have done if he had not healed me?
I have many unanswered questions as the result of that night. What I do know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that God has proved to me he can do whatever he wants to do. There are times that I feel God has gone on vacation, yet I cannot deny the reality of a personal, living God, one who hears and responds, but often in ways I do not understand, sometimes in ways I do not recognize. Because I know God is real, I have chosen to live In Partnership With God.