Dad turned a significant corner on Sunday afternooon–we all knew it as soon as he started preaching a sermon from his wheelchair, with his family and friends gathered around him in the “enabling garden” at Marianjoy.
He finally connected the fact that he had suffered a stroke several weeks ago, was in the hospital and that his left side still wasn’t working because of it.
One of my greatest concerns for my Dad continues to be that he will despair, lose hope and quit on his rehab–just when he needs to dig in more than ever. Of course, this is all easy for me to say, seeing as its not my heart that’s failing, my left limbs that aren’t moving, my blood pressure that’s been incredibly difficult to bring under control…
But back to his sermon.
Between tears, deep breaths, meaningful pauses and a furrowed brow, Dad boldly declared his determination to trust God in the midst of his discomfort. To affirm that the number of his days is in God’s hands; but that he will honor God by giving his full effort to get better, to get out of his wheelchair and walk again. I couldn’t have been prouder to be his son. All of us who know him understand that Gunther is crusty and tough on the outside, but know that brittle exterior modestly protects an incredibly tender heart for Jesus Christ and His mission to rescue all who are lost.
Should I live to 77, after suffering from ten years of congestive heart failure, I can only hope that Dad’s example will inspire me to be equally steadfast. He’s had plenty of opportunities to abandon his faith: losing his daughter Beth in 2002 after watching her endure 3 pituitary gland tumor surgeries, raising another daughter, Linda, who suffered epileptic seizures since she was 2 until they stopped after brain surgery when she turned 45, almost losing his son to brain cancer last year–significant disappointment after disappointment.
But none of that pain experienced as a loving father–and now especially his own sickness–have led him to despair. He holds fast to Christ in his storms. Probably my most fond memory of Dad in the last year at Blanchard Warrenville has been watching him quietly cry in the back as I preach my sermons. He’s always been my biggest fan. What a priceless gift his support has been to me as his son! Despite abundant reasons and painful circumstances (harm done to him and his family because of the sinful world he lives in…), Dad ruthlessly guards his faith in Christ–and inspires his son to do the same.
I’ve always loved Psalm 40. I read it for Dad one day last week during a visit and I share it with all of you for your encouragement in your own pain and/or suffering as well…
I waited patiently for the LORD;he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (NIV)
So keep preaching from that wheelchair, Dad. I’m proud of you.