The Road Les Traveled

Travel is not always about some exotic geographical location. My wife and I have recently taken the journey down the road of surgery. 

A few years ago, I observed that she had had five surgeries. I had had five surgeries. Mine were 100% self-inflicted. Hers were 100%  no fault of her own. Nevertheless, we were tied. I suggested we call it a draw and quit having surgeries. She agreed! Two months later she came home with pre-op instructions. Last week, she had a knee replaced. She’s now two ahead of me, but I may catch up by one later this year. 

Oh, but back to the knee. Every single person I know who has had knee replacement surgery has bragged about how glad they were to get it done. Not one mentioned what the physical therapist explained the day after the surgery. “It’ll be three days of H***,” followed by a very difficult month, and it’ll be a year before you feel really back to normal.”

So, naturally, I mentioned all this during prayer time with the Carroll staff.

Dr. Gene Wilkes, our president, commented something like, “Thank you, Karl, for modeling how we are to care for our loved ones during these times.”

I responded, “Well, I’m remembering a vow . . . .” And everyone laughed (thankfully).

But that’s not how it always is in ministry.

A few years ago, I read the weekly “case study” submitted by a reader to a ministry site I followed. The minister, a fellow named Lester, told a painful story about his wife having a medical calamity. The ambulance came, she was rushed to the ER, admitted to ICU, and her life hung in the balance as he wrote, prognosis unknown—but iffy at best.

Pastor Lester explained how this all happened on a Saturday, but the focus of his submission was sharing how difficult it was to lead services the next morning—especially since it was Easter.

I still remember responding to the comment sections, asking why he went to church at all. Who cares if it was Easter Sunday? (Answer: Les did.) It seemed to me that his being at the hospital, around the clock, was where he needed to be. Why?

First, it would send a clear message to his wife that SHE was his first priority, even over his JOB. I ached, wondering what it would be like for her to wake up, attached to a ventilator, only to be told, “Les will be back as soon as he’s finished at church.” 

It would have given his children that same message, putting family priority in its rightful place and preventing the all-too-common resentment pastors’ families feel about being neglected when they fall second to church members’ needs. 

Being at the hospital would have been a great model to the church family, as well. Instead, Les modeled a lack of family priority. Moreover, his missing church would have preached, “I trust you, church, to be able to handle a crisis. I trust the Lord to provide.” And if Pastor Les had been the patient, or had even died, you better believe the church service would have gone on in some format without him. 

Finally, if Pastor Les had chosen to be with his wife, I would bet he would not have agonized over his decision as he did in his column. Right choices are easier on the soul, even when they are still painful.

My comments were never passed through to the comment section. I guess the editors thought they’d wound Lester too deeply. Or perhaps they thought I didn’t “get it,” and I wasn’t committed deeply enough to ministry.

Well, all I can say is … oh, sorry. I’ve got to go. It’s time to change the ice, restart the anti-blood clot compression devices, and fix my bride of 40 years (in October) some lunch. And that feels good to my soul.

Published: Aug 10, 2021


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