Buford, better known as “Lucky”, was in his mid-sixties when he enrolled in outpatient hospice services with end-stage liver disease. When I met Lucky he was “just skin and bones”, everywhere except around his abdomen which measured fifty-four inches in circumference due to the fluid buildup from end-stage liver disease. Physically, Lucky was a shell of the man he used to be, but he hadn’t always looked like this.
Before being sidelined by his illness, Lucky was an outdoorsman and hunting enthusiast; he enjoyed teaching young men how to hunt. He maintained a small permanent camper on the edge of Wayne National Forrest which served as his basecamp. Lucky was an industrial pipefitter and retired from the local steel mill. He didn’t have an extensive formal education but he possessed the heart of a student. He loved reading and studying and was a free thinker. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, Lucky would not be put off by or satisfied with, other men’s interpretations. He wasn’t a parrot sitting on its artificial perch just dutifully repeating what it had been taught to say, and he had the courage to lean into the wind if he thought the answer lay in that direction. (“Keys to the Deeper Life”, A. W. Tozer)
Lucky and I came to refer to his terminal illness as his “journey” and one day I asked, “Lucky, where are you on the road today?” He pondered for a minute and then replied, “You know, it’s funny that you would ask me that because I’ve been thinking about that word acceptance a lot lately. That’s an awfully big word and there are different types of acceptance.” He pointed to a glass of water sitting on the tray table beside his bed and explained, “I could ask you if you would like a glass of water and you could either accept it or reject it; but I’m talking about a different type of acceptance. I’ve been thinking that if I tell myself, ‘it’s not fair’, that ‘it’s not supposed to be this way’, then I’ll make myself and everyone around me miserable. But if I can accept all these things that are happening to me as just a part of it, a part of life, then I can go on and do what I can and need to do. I’ve found that I have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into.”
We all have to be careful what lines of thinking we allow ourselves to fall into don’t we? Joyce Myers, author of, “The Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind”, wrote: “You need to begin to think about what you are thinking about. So many people’s problems are rooted in thinking patterns that actually produce the problems they experience in their lives… You can’t have a positive life and a negative mind…Thoughts are powerful… they have creative ability… thoughts and words are containers or weapons for carrying creative or destructive power… Right actions follow right thinking… you will not change your behavior until you change your thoughts… For the believer, right thinking is a vital necessity… Our minds are not born again with the New Birth experience —- they have to be renewed (Romans 12:2)… As Christians, we need to learn to decide to believe… This doesn’t mean that you and I can get anything we want by just thinking about it. God has a perfect plan for each of us, and we can’t control Him with our thoughts and words. But we must think and speak in agreement with His will and plan for us… Let God speak to you about your future, not everyone else… think and speak about your life in a positive way, according to what God has placed in your heart, and not according to what you have seen in the past or are seeing even now in the present… Meditating on the word of God will minister life to you and ultimately to those around you… When God speaks we are to mobilize, not rationalize… respond to the ability that God has placed in you by doing all you can with it… asking for something is easy, being responsible for it is the part that develops character… You and I must grow to the place where we are satisfied to know the One Who knows, even if we ourselves do not know.”
Every now and then, when I’m frustrated and telling myself, “It’s not fair…It’s not supposed to be this way”, the words of my departed friend and fellow pilgrim, Lucky, find their way back to me. And again I’m reminded that “I have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into”.
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.