By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
Gays In Faith Together
“It is not I, but the Christ within who does the work.”
These amazing words salved my tears 3 a.m. Sunday morning as I lay crying in my Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital room.
In pain and overwhelmed, I’d paged the nurse desk late Saturday night and asked if she’d go online, find and print the day’s Daily Word message from Unity Magazine.
The Daily Word is one of my favorite sources of spiritual sustenance. Each day a random topic is expressed in an essay inspired by a Scripture verse. I’ve received the magazine in my home for years. And even when I misplace it, it re-appears just when it’s needed with a message so profound, on point and seemingly just for me.
But since my Dec. 30, 2011 total knee replacement surgery, I have been without it. I forgot to renew my subscription.
But God is good and always on time and delivers to us exactly what we need. Often more.
This is the story of how a random message made it clear that God is constantly finding ways to show us we are not in this alone. All we have to do is listen, be open, and look for God’s work to unfold, often at the hands of surprising messengers.
This is also a message of how our “Gay Christian? Yes! Campaign is going to unfold in the spring of 2012 despite the human frailties of its organizers.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This started in the fall of 2011 when I finally decided to seek help for my painful knees. Seeking just another pain relieving shot, I was informed my pain was caused by agonizing bone on bone knee deterioration. I needed two new knees. My reaction was instant.
“I can’t have surgery now, I’m in the midst of a major campaign starting in 2012!”
My accompanying friend and the nurse viewing my x-rays were aghast at my statement. They convinced me if I didn’t address this now, my future scenarios would be bleak.
So I agreed to a Dec. 7 surgery. Bouts of bronchitis caused surgical delays for me, but once fully healthy I finally snagged the Dec. 30 date.
I made preparations at work and home getting ready for this life-altering surgery, but it soon became clear how un-ready I was for everything coming my way.
As we start this New Year and our “Gay Christian? Yes! Campaign , I know all about being overwhelmed and about the power of God.
I’ve spent the last year with a talented team of Christians leading the way in praying, planning and collaborating to make this “Gay Christian? Yes! Campaign a success. With your continued involvement, some amazing events will begin to unfold this spring.
Preparing for and having that surgery led to the discovery of other health issues. After four days in Saint Mary’s Hospital, and ten at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, learning how to walk again in an amazingly supportive environment whose motto is “restoring hope and freedom,” I saw and felt God’s hand in my life.
It was never more apparent the Sunday morning of January 8 when God’s blessings unceasingly continued to bubble forth.
My asthma was out of control, my blood pressure numbers were consistently rising to stroke levels and the pain in my new surgical knee was unbearable. To keep all this at bay, a team of doctors had three computerized pages of drugs they were giving me daily and I would have to do the same once home.
I was scared and overwhelmed and paged the nurse asking her for more pain meds, a print out of my drugs list and a computer print out of the Daily Word. Saturday turned to Sunday morning and she brought me the message. I was not the only one feeling overwhelmed, she leaned against the wall and read it silently. I asked her to read it to me aloud.
The anonymous scribe was writing about feeling overwhelmed and used the New Testament Scriptures from Colossians 3:11 for inspiration.
This was the opening line of the essay. “It is not I, but the Christ within who does the work”
My nurse looked at me as I lay in bed crying while she read to me softly. She cried and held my hand. “May I give you a hug,” she asked?
“Yes, please?” I responded.
I requested the Daily Word message and a printout of my drugs on Saturday, but she was finally able to complete the task around 3 am Sunday morning leaving me a message that was right on time.
I used that message throughout the rest of the day to buoy me when my physical therapists sent me back to my hospital room because my blood pressure was out of control; later still in the day when a friend, who was going to bring my mother to visit me ,called to say sickness changed his plans and could I find someone else to bring my mother.
I saw God’s handiwork when out of the blue an old reporter friend ,hearing I was in the hospital, called to check on me and offered to bring my mother to see me upon hearing my dilemma.
I saw God’s handiwork again when my 85-year-old mother finally arrived, but after a short visit, became ill herself in my rehab hospital room with flu-like symptoms. Another friend arrived to take her to the nearby hospital emergency room, while I lay helpless in my hospital bed.
And once my mother was released from emergency, hours later to spend the night with one of my friends, I saw God’s handiwork as I sat on my bed and wept, releasing tears of pain and fear and relief.
And I heard the prayerful words of my roommate, an elderly stroke victim who thought she had lost her words.
“Lord, I don’t know what I’m saying or how to say it,” she prayed, “but be with my friend her and her mother. Let her know you are in control”.
I grew calm and an incredible sense of peace filled me. I felt it again that night when my sister Vanessa called me from Houston and prayed the Our Father to me with me repeating after her. As I heard myself pray, I was reminded of how my stroke-addled father would end each night repeating the Our Father as my sister Connie prayed it to him. My father Frank and my sister Connie are in heaven now and surrounding me with love.
As Vanessa prayed to me that Sunday night and I thought of all the God moments in just one Sunday, I knew at that moment that nothing, no thing could separate me from God and no thing could separate us from doing God’s will of spreading the “Gay Christian? Yes! message.
Just before midnight, the nurses came in to check my blood pressure. All had heard about my day and expected the numbers to be horrific. But I was floating in God juice and the numbers could not touch me.
On the first reading I was 180, then 190. I told the nurse I felt fine and asked her to read me my Daily Word printout while I focused on deep breathing. Their brows grew increasingly furrowed as my top numbers climbed past 200 and my bottom number reached 101.
“I don’t care what that computer says,” I told her while smiling at the computerized blood pressure monitor. “God’s got this” I said waving my hand from the soles of my feet to the top of my head.
“Well I care,” the nurse stated while consulting with a second nurse. I lay back and breathed and the nurses watched in amazement as the numbers decreased to 143 over 87.
I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted, but I knew at that point that even though my flesh was weak and I was not where I wanted to be in the campaign, even though I had not yet met personally with every pastor that expressed interest and even though illness had not allowed me to raise all the monies for the billboard campaign, I realized God was telling me that I did not and would not go this alone.
And finally, you know how I knew I was on the right track with the Gay Christian? Yes message, I want back to Colossians where the message is “Christ is in all”
Sounds like Yes! to me.
Now it is February and after a month of intense physical therarpy and after ingesting medically necessary serious pain pills, I am home looking forward to outpatient therapy. My brain fog has cleared and I am moving toward returning to the campaign. This is my first column. I hope it sounds like yes to you.