by Tan Soo Inn
The following sequence of events will be very familiar with those who have been afflicted by painful episodes of kidney stones. (I have since learnt that there are those who have a predilection for stone formation, folks referred to as "stone formers.")
The pain started around 1am in the morning.
It wasn't too bad at first but quickly rose to agony level.
The agony was localized to the lower left part of my abdomen.
At first I thought it was an attack of gas and so began to over dose on carbon tablets. All it did was to cause me to belch a lot and throw up part of my dinner. But no relief.
I tried to sleep in different positions.
The charismatic side of me said: "spiritual attack."
I was due to give a talk that very evening.
It was to be the first of a number of talks I was to give to a group of final year university students.
I was one of the resource persons at a weekend camp for graduating undergrads from the National University of Singapore.
And here I was tossing around in agony.
My prayer life had improved considerably in the meantime.
But at 6am it was still agony.
OK Lord, no immediate miraculous healing.
An angel of mercy drove me to the emergency department of the nearest hospital where I discovered to my despair that it might take up to three hours before I got a chance to be seen by a doctor.
A jab of a painkiller kept the agony at bay in the meantime.
The attending physician was competent and kind and so were the nurses.
Although it couldn't be confirmed without more definitive investigations, everything pointed to my having a kidney stone. They tried to flush it out by giving me two bags of saline intravenously and they kept the pain under control with painkillers.
In case you thought you were reading a rejected ER script by mistake, let me cut to the chase.
As I lay there in the emergency ward I thought of the talks I was to give that weekend. I knew that if the symptoms worsened I would have to be warded.
I have been around long enough to know that no one is indispensable.
(And there will be one appointment you definitely can't keep. Your last one.)
Yet I figured that it would be very disruptive for the organizers of the camp to be looking for replacement speakers at that late hour. And conventional ministry wisdom said that if you receive a spiritual attack you have to be doing something right.
So I prayed: "Lord, allow this old warrior to rise up and do Your work this weekend. Lord, allow this old warrior to do Your work this one last time." (An attack of kidney stones makes you feel old at any age.) In the meantime, through phone, sms and email, the call for prayer support had gone out.
I rested in the emergency ward the whole morning. Went to the washroom the requisite number of times. Appetite came back a bit.
Observed the many dramas going on around me in the ward.
Slept a little.
The pain didn't come back. I was told to see a urologist as soon as possible. And to come back to the emergency ward if the pain returned.
The old warrior rose and went home.
I rested and gave my first talk that night, speaking on the theology of work.
As the weekend unfolded I spoke on biblical principles for decision-making, relationships after graduation, and a Christian perspective on the quest for excellence. In between the talks I had a number of good conversations with some very special people.
I finished all I had been invited to do.
Fact is I felt a special sense of the presence of the Lord that whole weekend as I spoke and counseled . I was dead tired yet I felt a tangible divine connection.
Indeed, God's power is experienced in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God had heard and answered the prayer of His old warrior and the prayers of many friends.
(One of them emailed a prayer that became the inspiration for the title of this ecommentary.)
On further reflection, I thought that what had happened to me was perhaps the most important lesson I had to share with my young friends who were about to start their working lives.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns.
You really can't tell what will happen to you next.
Life will have its share of unexpected joys and pains.
But there is one thing you can always count on.
God will be there.
He is the only constant.
He is the only constant you need.
He is indeed the Rock of Ages and our sure foundation.
With the help of another angel of mercy, I went through a number of comprehensive tests when I returned to Kuala Lumpur.
No sign of the stone.
No more pain.
The Rock of Ages had indeed crushed my kidney stone.
God had had mercy on His old warrior.
"therefore thus says the Lord God,
See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation:
'One who trusts will not panic.'"
Isaiah 28:16 NRSV
Labels: Spiritual Formation