January 28th, 2003 was my 28th birthday and I had the American dream. I was married with a son and one on the way, had a high paying career, and was heavily involved in the ministry. One thing, however, was not perfect. My weight. I weighed around 500 lbs. On that day, I was scheduled to have a gastric bypass surgery done. It was supposed to be a one hour laproscopic surgery. It wasn’t.
It took 7 1/2 hours to complete the surgery due to a mal-rotation of my gut. The surgeon had to send his nurse back to his office to retrieve a text book to hold up to a mirror so he could see how my gut had developed. He then performed a LADS procedure, which prevents the intestine from rotating, removed some of the large intestine, which wasn’t function properly, and finally HAD to perform the gastric bypass.
I had only been home for a few days before a blood clot formed in a superficial vein in my right leg. I was told to put heat on it and to keep it elevated because they rarely embolized. Unfortunately, it did. It was about 10 PM when I noticed that I was having a hard time breathing. We had decided that I would heal at my mom’s and thank God we did. She called an ambulance and the EMT knew immediately what was wrong. They loaded me into the ambulance and headed down the highway. They had me stabilized for a moment but then I heard him say, “run it!” and I watched the headlights of the following car dim as everything went black. That was the first time that I had to be revived.
I got down to 235 lbs., but then on December 26th, 2004, a tsunami hit Indonesia AND I had a small bowel blockage and died on the operating table for 3 1/2 minutes. They called my TOD. One of the residual beats picked up and my heart started up again. I died that day and so did 229,000 other people, but God kept me alive.
Over the next six years, I had 14 more surgeries, numerous blood clots and finally in 2010 the doctor told me to file for Social Security. The illness, at its core, had cost me my children, two marriages, my career, my wealth, and even damaged my relationship with God. I was angry……. furious.
My father passed away of Pancreatic Cancer in 2007 while my first wife was leaving. He was an alcoholic and drug addict all his life. He accepted Christ so close to his death that he couldn’t change his last wishes. My thought was, “God, why is it that my earthly father can be a drunk and beat me on a regular basis and I accept you at 17, save myself for marriage, have served you all my life, and lose everything?” I was bitter and left the ministry behind me in 2007, however, Jesus was still there.
I spent the next three years trying to hold my life together and rebuild without Jesus on the forefront of my mind. He was in the back of my mind and buried way down deep in my heart. I can not say the same for Him. In 2010, after my second wife left, it took maybe 3 to 4 months for me to get my Social Security. My medical file was and is extensive. God took care of me, but I still kept running from Him. I was still angry.
Then in the beginning of 2012 I reconnected with a friend from Utah who convinced me that I needed to move there. In August of 2012, I did just that. I sold or gave away anything that wouldn’t fit in my car and headed for the mountains. On the way, she convinced me to stop in Oklahoma to see my dad’s marker and my Aunt. My Aunt informed me that my dad drove out there with cancer and got baptized because of a conversation I had with him. I also had the very Bible that I had given my dad for his birthday right after I accepted Christ. He threw it back at me then and said, “What am I gonna use that for?” It was written in the front. “Given to me by my Son, on the day I tried to stop drinking.” It only took him 20 years but he did it through Christ. Christ did it through me…… and to think I had been angry about that for 5 years. Jesus used me to save a man that I loved as young Christian, but resented as an adult. I love you, daddy. Thank you, Jesus.
In an instant, I didn’t care anymore about the pain, the hurt, the anger, or anything else. I just felt guilty, but also relieved. Jesus was still there. He was planning that meeting all this time and by taking me through the valley that I went through, made me stronger. I only wish I had been more faithful to Him.
I had been relatively healthy most of 2010-2012, so I had little reason to assume that I would get seriously ill again, but Jesus would give me the chance to be faithful. November of 2012 severe pneumonia struck me hard and this was right after leading a whole family to Jesus on the same day. I stayed sick through most of the winter. I bounced back in the spring, all the while serving my church whenever possible. Then in June of 2013, it got bad, real bad. I spent 3 months in hospitals/long term care facilities with clots in my legs. It was horrible. The clotting would not stop, by the end of August they would take me into Interventional Radiology and clean the clots out of both legs and run thinners on me all night long only to find me completely reclotted the next day. This went on for 14 days. The radiologists had given up. They didn’t know what to do. They were going to transfer me to the University of Utah, but they rejected me. Then they called a chaplin in to basically help me make my peace with God.
The chaplin reminded me of the time that Jesus was on the cross and He said, “My God, my God. Why has thou forsaken me?” and that I probably felt the same right then. I said, “You got it all wrong. Jesus was God in human form, He could not turn His back on Himself! He was quoting Psalms 22:1.” Psalms 22 is the prophecy of the crucifiction of the Messiah! Jesus was telling the pharisees that He was the Messiah and that He just proved it. Psalms 23 is a celebration of the defeat of sin and death and the beginning of an immortal life!
I went home four days later and lost 65 lbs. over the next five weeks. A professor from the University of Utah figured out how to treat me but I’m still fighting a battle. I have a blood clot in my leg as I type, however, this morning I was out feeding the homeless at 6 AM. I was glad to do it.
You see, this body and the things in this world are perishable, but the relationship that have with Jesus is infinite. One day, He’s going to reward me with a body that will never perish, never hurt, and never even cry.
So Jacob may not be doing so hot right now, but Jacob and Jesus are doing just fine.