An emergency hurled in on Christmas Eve. Someone who wasn't supposed to get sick got sick. We all agreed he's not the type. Besides, our church has had more than its quota of illness and death this past year. We've always counted on Joe to be in great shape and full of energy. And so his illness was as rude as when Uzzah got struck down in the middle of the parade (2 Samuel 6:8).
People reacted to it in different ways: Some chose to ignore it, refusing to "go gentle into that good night" and showing up at the house beer-in-hand at 10 a.m. on Christmas Day: If you just keep the party going and make it loud enough, maybe you can drown out the code-red of God.
The effect Joe's sickness had on me is hard to explain rationally. There was no outward change. My activities were altered only for the half hour that I set aside gift unwrapping to drive over and see what was going on at Joe's. (That's where I met old perennial partier Beer-in-Hand.)
The subtle shift that occurred in me fell along two lines: (1) My tolerance level toward humanity was affected. Suddenly, your chronic lateness to family functions, your leaving Burger King wrappers in my car, your muddy boots on the carpet, and the altercation we had over global warming at Thanksgiving dinner were off the radar screen in significance. (2) Joe's emergency somehow rescinded the authority of my fears to take center stage in my thought life. It became silly to obsess that my hair is thin and my jowls are starting to sag, and to worry if you will still like me with stretch marks.
After Joe's trip to the emergency room, all time is compressed. There is a feeling of "all hands on deck" to take care of business. And the business is suddenly the business of the kingdom of God---love, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. Nobody is thinking about anything else right now. Except old Beer-in-Hand.
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