Buzz. Buzz. Michelle’s cell phone vibrated twice on her night stand. It was a text coming in at 12:40 a.m. I was zonked out and the sound barely registered with me. “Jeff, Jeff, wake up. Look.” It was a text from my seventeen-year-old son’s ex-girlfriend: “Please check on Neal. He sent me this photo.” It was a picture of the palm of a hand holding four pills.
I ran down the hall, flipped on the lights, and tried to shake Neal awake. I could barely rouse him. “Neal, did you take some pills?” No response. “Neal, did you take any pills?” I shouted. In a stupor he mumbled, “I don’t… I don’t know.” He was completely out of it.
Michelle came into the room, and I told her to call 911 as I tried to drag him out of bed to get him to the bathroom to force him to throw up. I had to go easy on him because he just had major shoulder surgery a few weeks prior.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. Four hours earlier we had been at the high school homecoming football game. Michelle and I were in the stands strategically positioned to have a line of sight on our two boys (Neal and his fifteen-year-old brother, Quinn) to get a feel for how they were settling into their new high school. Neal, always the life of the party, was making everyone within a three-bleacher radius laugh. “Some things never change,” we chuckled.
Or do they? Now, as we waited for the ambulance to arrive, Neal was growing less coherent. Slipping away. And our whole world was turning upside down.
Before I knew it, the paramedics had Neal and Michelle in a speeding ambulance headed for the hospital and I was racing behind them in my truck.
It was a surreal drive. I was confused… and mad at myself. How could I have missed the signs? His shoulder surgery was so serious he was going to miss both the golf and basketball seasons — two of his greatest loves. Prior to the surgery he totaled his car in an accident. He was in a new and completely different school environment trying to make new friends. He and his girlfriend had just broken up.
The week before, he told us he thought he was addicted to the pain meds, and we had immediately flushed everything down the toilet. Now I racked my brain to think of what could possibly be in his system.
And yet, as I drove, underneath it all I had this odd — even inexplicable — sense that he was going to be okay. A week or two earlier a friend of mine had shared how the promise of Romans 8:28 got him through a terrible accident:
All things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
In the car, I found myself actually believing this verse.
I parked outside the hospital and ran in. The docs had Neal in the emergency room. Soon they came out and told us he was going to be okay. He had ingested a non-life-threatening dosage of the Ambien that I kept in my home office and used when I was traveling internationally. But they categorized his behavior as a suicide attempt and wanted to keep him under surveillance and do some psychological assessments. We could go home for the night… a night full of both worry and relief.
We headed back to the hospital early the next morning with lots of questions in our minds, but with huge gratitude in our hearts. Neal was alive. Michelle said something as we walked into the hospital that I’ll never forget: “Two things you have to know. First, God has a plan for this. In some crazy way, this is no surprise to Him, and everything is going to be okay. Second, for what it’s worth, I don’t blame you for any of this.” Is there anything else you’d rather hear from your spouse in a situation like this?
So here’s the question: How in the world did we get to the point of trusting God so radically? Where did that sense of peace come from? If this had happened to us ten years earlier, we’d have been basket cases.
It might be a stretch to use the word joyful, but we were experiencing something in our hearts that was completely incongruent with the horrible circumstances. It was “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV).
Please don’t think I have “arrived” or am some spiritual giant. I still have a long way to go. There are still times when I am frustrated with life. I worry. I lose my patience. I covet things. But underneath it all, I have this pleasant undercurrent of joy. I’d consider myself a 4 out of 5 on the joy scale. Okay, maybe a 3.5.
I have arrived at the conclusion that there are at least two parts to joy – Our Doing and Being. Our Doing has to do with how we manage the practical parts of our lives. As I like to say, how we steward our Time, Talent, Treasure, Temple (bodies) and Tribe (friends, family, co-workers, etc.) The bible is full of practical ways to live that lead to better circumstances in our lives… to the extent we can control our circumstances. There are right ways and wrong ways to manage these 5 T’s. Even if someone removed all the spiritual truth from the Bible, it would remain the world’s best playbook for how to live well. Or at least how to avoid all of the self-inflicted pain so many suffer from.
The Being dimension of joy is more about our paradigm than practicalities. Having the truth of who God is — and who we are because of Christ — deeply embedded in our minds and hearts positions us for joy and peace regardless of our circumstances.
As I have tried to follow God’s instructions (doing) and tried to get to know how He sees me (being) over the last 16 years, my level of joy has steadily increased. His Spirit has worked through the Word and through my personal connection with him to change me. As I said earlier, I’m not perfect, but I can see the path.
Adapted from The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose and Balance by Jeff Spadafora, copyright Jeff Spadafora.
* * *
Which part of your Doing – Time, Talent, Treasure, Temple and Tribe – is currently most inconsistent with God’s word? Think deeply about that. What’s the thing you know but you’re pretending not to know? Summon up the courage to admit it and ask the Lord to give you the strength to take action on it.
Which part of your Being needs shoring up? Is it your understanding of God’s true character? (Doctrine matters, you know.) Or perhaps you know about God, but don’t really know him personally? (If this is the case, the disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, silence, solitude, or journaling may prove helpful.) Or perhaps, you’re still wrestling with self-esteem, guilt or shame issues? Reacquaint yourself with how God really sees you. Revisit Romans 8:35-39.
Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily