My dad had a heart attack.
While I was walking up and down the beach and bobbing in the swells, washing sand out of my hair and eating delicious grilled dinners by Jonathan, while I was feeling guilty for going to the beach in North Carolina instead of to Minnesota, wondering when I would ever see my parents again, asking Shawn every day, "When can we go to Minnesota again?" ...my dad had a heart attack.
They didn't, apparently, have the right cell phone number to reach me. His heart attack was Thursday afternoon a week ago, but I didn't find out until Friday evening when I noticed a facebook message from my niece, Abby, telling me that my sister and my mom had been trying to reach me.
It was a bad heart attack, but even more disturbing was that it came out of the blue. He survived, so that is truly wonderful, a blessing, a gift of more time, a relief, and great reason for gratitude.
My grandparents all lived into their nineties, so I never expected anything to happen to my dad before he hit 80.
Well, to be completely honest, Grandpa Rainbow, my dad's dad, died when he was 89. But he was a smoker, and he had lung cancer and emphysema and leukemia. He survived a ruptured aortic aneurysm when he was about 81, and he still recovered and lived to be 89. And he wasn't all that healthy, his lungs were bad. My dad's lungs are fine.
Dad has low cholesterol and he passed a stress test two months ago with flying colors. There was no reason to think he would have a heart attack.
I found myself feeling very angry. I was angry that this should happen to my dad, My Dad, who always took such care of himself and exercised and ate healthy food and worked hard all his life. And I was angry that I live so far away. I was angry that I couldn't be there to do anything, and I was angry that I've spent the past 23 years of my life 1400 miles away from my parents, against my will, all because of a job that isn't even mine. Things I thought I'd dealt with, come to peace with, trusted God with all surfaced and spilled out in tears and confusion and regret, and I was angry.
Last night I was at flock group (a small group through the church we've been attending). We are studying Revelation, which is not my favorite for many reasons which I will not get into. I don't always have the best attitude about studying Revelation. But I was there trying, trying to learn, trying to have a better attitude, trying to participate.
We were discussing Revelation 9 which is a bleak chapter about the terrible judgments that will be poured out on those who reject God. It just describes these awful horrors, and then at the end it says that the people would not give up their sin, no matter what happened, and refused to bend their wills, repent and follow the Lord. This led us to discuss the question: "Whose fault is it when people reject God? God's? Or theirs?"
I think we were supposed to come to the understanding that it is not God's fault. And yet, if you believe that it requires an act of the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom to believe (John 16:8, Ephesians 2:1-5, 1 Corinthians 1-2), it is hard to say that we have the power to reject Him when He is calling us into His kingdom.
I was pretty confused, but then the pastor leading the group said, "If God can arrange all the details of life and know exactly who will believe and who will not, if He has sovereign control over the way everything will turn out in the end, then can't we trust Him to be in control of the details of our lives, to know what is best for us in order to accomplish His purposes in us? Doesn't this tell us that we can trust Him with every circumstance and know that He will work all things for good in our lives?"
I was not sure where that came from, or how it actually related to the rest of the study, but I felt in that moment that God knew exactly what I needed to hear, and He spoke through that pastor to me, reminding me, "I am God, I am in control. You can trust me." I remembered Acts 17:26 which tells me, "From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live."
God knows where--the exact place--I am supposed to live (and everybody else). God knows--has set the time, in fact--when my dad is supposed to die (and everybody else). I do not need to struggle, strive and be angry, to feel guilty, discontented and miserable. Nothing I do will change the eternal plan of God, and God is good, so His plan is good, too.
I just need to trust God.