I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me. I had seen it on television, and I had heard stories of people in which such things occurred, but it did not dawn on me last Thursday that I might experience it myself.
Thursday began with an early morning visit to the doctor, Dr. Smith, to see about some abdominal pains that had been flaring off and on for a couple of months. Over the previous week, they had been on more than off, and I am sure you do not want to hear the details here, unless, like my wife, you are trained as a medical professional. I find medical professionals, along with my children, relish the opportunity to talk openly and in much detail concerning all sorts of disgusting medical minutiae, but only at the dinner table, it seems. Alas, I digress.
My doctor drew some blood, prescribed a pill, and sent me on my merry way. Here, I need to tell you that we are selling our home and downsizing though that is not totally germane to my story. I say I need to tell this to you because it was in the living room of the home of someone I never met, of someone who wanted to sell a house to me, that I received a cell phone call from my doctor.
I answered, and Dr. Smith himself was on the line, telling me that he had reviewed my blood test results. He then said, as I best recall through the fog of my shock, “And you need to go to the Emergency Room of the hospital now.” With all the intellectual prowess I could muster, given my Ph.D. and my position as a Dean in a world-renowned institution of higher learning, I responded with confidence, “Now?” And he said, “Yes, now!”
Not to be outdone, I mustered, “We are selling our house and downsizing, and I am looking at a house right now, . . .” My voice trailed off, recognizing the silliness of what I was saying. So I picked up sheepishly this time, “but I guess I can leave and go now.” He began to give me instructions, but I, regaining my composure, knew just what to do. I told him he now needed to give all of his instructions to my medical person, my wife..
I forthwith handed her the phone. She said “Hello,” not knowing, of course, any of my preceding conversation with the doctor. After about 20 seconds, I heard her say “He needs to go the Emergency Room now?” I walked away, but she found me.
Thankfully, my ER now emergency was not of the most deadly variety. Rather, I had severely elevated liver enzymes resulting from a faulty gall bladder, which a surgeon at the hospital removed the next day. They tell me I am on my way to a full recovery.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the ER. I began to the think more emphatically about Jesus as the Great Physician. I have thought about many things through all of this in new ways, but one thought was quite clear.
When my physical doctor says that I should do something now, I do it now. However, when I recognize that Jesus wants me to do something now, I am not always so prompt. It would not have been smart for me to ignore Dr. Smith. It is never smart to ignore Jesus.
My mind goes to words from the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:30-31, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
When is it time to repent? Now. What if I repented last year? Now. What if I repented last week? Now. Anytime sin rears its sniveling head in my heart and mind, the time for repentance is now.
Repentance requires that I agree with God about the scandal of my sin. I must recognize that in my sin, I see sin as minutely small in comparison to its true destructive power. Then, repentance requires that I seek forgiveness and that I turn from my sin toward simply trusting God. Now.
My experience is that failure to repent now is disastrous. It is a sin all its own. It eats other sins and becomes monstrous. Its only enemy is repentance itself. So take some advice, if you please. When the doctor calls you to go the ER, go now. And when Jesus calls you to repent, . . . Now.