Then Jesus told them a story: A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, “What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.” Then he said, “I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!'”
But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?”Luke 12:16-20
In 2018, I felt a bit like the man in this story. I had just been married. We had bought a house together. I had just switched jobs, taking a senior engineering position at a startup. We had recently gotten back from our honeymoon in Greece. I had it all — I was on top of the world.
Then one night I woke up with chest pains so bad I couldn’t go back to sleep. I assumed it was indigestion, but if there’s one thing I’d had drilled into my head about my health it’s that you don’t mess around with chest pains. I woke my wife up and told her that I was going to drive myself to the emergency room.
Bless her for being smarter than I am; she simply said “you’re not driving yourself to the emergency room. Get dressed and get in my car.”
Upon arriving at the hospital, they sent me back to a triage room. The nurses and orderlies were efficient but unhurried as they hooked me up to an EKG machine. But then, everything shifted: people were rushing into the room, I was getting hooked up to an IV, it seemed like fifteen people were simultaneously prepping me for…something. A doctor walked into the room and said “Sir, according to the EKG, you are currently having a heart attack”.
The words didn’t really land until I saw my wife’s face. I wondered why she looked so upset, and then I mulled over what I had just heard. My mind does not work the quickest at 4am, but I realized that I was not on top of the world. I was on top of a hospital gurney and I was having a heart attack.
God taught me a lot through that event. One of the biggest lessons I had to learn is that I am not in control. I’ve had to learn this lesson many times throughout my life, and regrettably I will no doubt have to learn it many more. The reality for all of us is that we do not get to choose our circumstances, we only get to choose our responses.
I thought I was where I was because of me. I chose to get married. I decided to act on my feelings toward a girl. I dated her, I proposed, I married her. I planned our honeymoon. We chose our house, and I worked hard to make it happen. I decided to make a bold career move, and I was working hard to make sure it paid off.
But how much of that did I actually have control over? The girl could have said no. Our honeymoon could have gone badly for any number of reasons. Our house could have turned out to be a money pit. I could have been rejected for the job or it could have been a bad fit. And how much of that could I have controlled?
In order to recognize that I am not in control, I had to be stripped of my pride. There’s definitely something demeaning about wearing a hospital gown, but more than that I had to recognize that I had very little to do with the blessings and the success I had experienced.
More than just pride, though, I had to confront my lack of faith.
Having a heart attack was scary. But the reason why it was scary was because, when control was stripped away, there wasn’t anything left. I believed the Scriptures, but it had been a very long time since I truly had to cling to the Scriptures. To acknowledge that the situation was greater than I and fully beyond my control.
I have since recovered from this heart attack. It turned out to be a freak event — the doctors call it a coronary artery dissection — and being still fairly young I was able to make a full recovery.
I can’t claim to have fully learned to give up the illusion of control. I still have my moments where I’m like the rich fool. But thanks to this experience, I do feel like I’m more ready to turn to God and more faithful that he is there when I do.
I look forward to writing the next chapter of this story. I hope it involves less medical drama next time.