God’s endless grace leads to greed
The Rev. Patrick J. Harris, Bethel Church
’Tis the season to be thankful! Too bad we need a season for it but better one than none. I have just voted in my seventh presidential election since I was supposed to be dead. A “no small thing” for which I am very thankful. I have loved both my lives. No, I do not believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in God, in Jesus my Savior and in God’s healing touch.
I had just finished my fourth semester at Grace Seminary. I fondly remark that it was the Hebrew class that almost killed me. I will be eternally grateful for what I learned that semester because little did I know that several days after the class ended, I would be told that I had fourth-stage, inoperable cancer that had spread throughout my body and produced a softball-size tumor in my chest. Treatments would be started to delay the inevitable long enough for me to get my affairs in order and to help my wife prepare for something one cannot truly prepare for.
Seventeen days after receiving the news of the cancer I required emergency heart surgery on a Saturday night. My wife was told that if I survived the surgery I would probably not survive the infection that would surely come as a result of the chemo and its reduction of my white blood cells. Once again, God’s grace and God’s people were everywhere. To say we were and are thankful seems so inadequate – and yet we were and are.
My wife, Katie, had given birth two months before to our third precious daughter. At the age of 27, she faced an almost certain future with three daughters and no husband. She did know and believe, however, that she had a God who loved her and who had said previously that he would never leave her or forsake her.
How one of the best years of one’s life could be the year they were facing almost certain death makes no sense whatsoever unless it is processed through the lens of faith, with the field of vision focused on the one and only faithful God who created the world and yet still cares about sparrows, flowers and us. To say we are thankful for God’s grace is an understatement.
I don’t fancy myself a greedy person but I fear I am. In spite of the odds, I prayed that God would allow me to live long enough for my 2-month-old daughter to know me. This, of course, would require much more time than the doctors were allowing me, but then one seldom prays for what is available, probable or at hand! Obviously, since I am writing this column, God answered those prayers.
The greed I refer to became more evident as time passed. I found myself praying that God would allow me to see my daughters trust Jesus as savior, graduate and then get married. I then found myself praying for God to allow me to see our first grandchild – and then another and another. … Five grandchildren later, the greedy person that I am, I am now praying that God will allow me to live long enough for all of them to know me, and Jesus, and then … ?
When will it all end! It will end when God says so! I have loved both my lives. The second has been better because I live each day now more thankful than ever before. Seven elections and 25 Thanksgivings later, I can only say “Thank you, God! It has been and is a great life. But, God, I was wondering if maybe I could just … !”
The Rev. Patrick J. Harris is pastor of Bethel Church in Bluffton.