Become A Moral Compass

During a routine check-up recently, it was discovered that I had a high blood-pressure episode, so the doctor thought best to monitor the pressure overnight.

Control what you can control.

In a matter of minutes, I was promoted from hospital visitor to hospital patient.

I tend to live by the clock, with many self-imposed punctuality requirements.

So when the doctor blew the whistle and said “time-out,” I found myself confined to a bed for a few days, with plenty of time to think.

At one point, I had two doctors at the foot of my bed talking in low tones and not even smiling at my jokes. The doctors said my pressure was simply not coming down, and it was beginning to concern them.

Suddenly, all those things I was rushing to do–the things I had to get out of this dang hospital to tend to–weren’t going to get done. And I was powerless to change that.

Comparing Apples To Tom Hanks

I often defer fear by thinking of books, movies, and experiences, playing them in my head like DVDs and looking at them from a different angle to see if I missed something.

As I lay in the hospital in nervous silence while meds were pumped through my IV, I thought about the movie Castaway. Tom Hanks plays a man who washes ashore on a deserted island after a plane crash. He regrettably left his fiancee on Christmas Eve back in Memphis for a job that demands being on time.

In stark contrast, after the crash, time stands still, and there is no deadline to meet.

One day, some garbage washes ashore, and using a piece of plastic to make a sail, he floats away on a hand-built raft, at which point he is discovered by a ship and taken home.

Lying in that hospital bed, I discovered a point of the movie I had missed before: While the castaway is on the island, he has no hope of being genuinely happy again on his terms, and is so depressed that he tries to kill himself.

He can’t see a productive “reason” for his existence–where his life is going–and what is supposed to happen. Yet when he returns home, he learns his girlfriend has married someone else and life has gone on without him.

So, even after he returns home, he still doesn’t know why he lived through the crash or where his life is going. Despite all his attempts at control, he realizes he has none.

He finally sits down at a friend’s house and reflects on his experience: He says the one thing he learned was that when he didn’t really know what he was supposed to do, he realized his only job was to stay alive, that eventually something would come along–like the piece of plastic that washed up on shore and suddenly he had a way off the island.

Digging Deeper

I began to see my own medical problems as part of God’s plan. He will take these matters where He chooses, and will do with my life what He decides is best. My job is simply “to keep breathing.”

When I don’t understand something, I need to just tread water and stay alive.

At some point, my sail will wash up on shore and take me to the next place. But there’s no guarantee that place will solve my problems or answer my questions. Such favor is simply a matter of grace.

I’ve found this philosophy will help get me through the lowest spots.

In the movie, Hanks’ character, speaking to a friend, refers to the futility of both his lonely travail on the island and his fiancee’s trying to keep hope alive as the years go by with no sign of him:

“We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up and…knew she had to let me go. I added it up, and knew that I had…lost her. ‘Cause I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where it was going to happen.

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