Not That Big of a Deal?

  • Randy Karlberg
Surgeons doing a procedure

As many of you know I had a couple of surgeries on my spinal column last spring. One was on my cervical vertebrae, and the other was on my lumbar vertebrae. I lightly refer to the cervical surgery as my “bonus surgery,” because I did not have any symptoms, nor any realization that this was a need until the surgeon pointed it out. When they explained to me the condition of the spinal column in that region I was thankful I did not have to learn this information in a more difficult or even tragic way. As for the lumbar surgery, I didn’t need anyone to tell me that I needed that medical procedure. The condition of my lumbar spine and the drastic negative effects it produced in my everyday life made it clear to my wife and me that surgery an urgent need.

If you are like me when dealing with a physical concern, you know that something is not the best, but you just “deal with it” because there is no clear indication that it is substantial. You carry on with slowly progressing debilitation, week after week, month after month, which leads to year after year. Unless some clear data point pricks your memory, you continue down the dreadful path until you are faced with a dire incident, when it is too late. When irreparable damage has already been done. You are told that you
didn’t listen to the non-existent, or at least muted, warning signs and now you are faced with the better of two not very good options. For me the flashing red light that I could not ignore was COVID. COVID-19 was not a positive time for anyone. But one thing that it did for me is force me to remember the condition of my lower spine when COVID started. Then, a year later, I realized it was significantly worse in just 12 months’ time. Thus began the complex march toward surgery. It was clear that I needed help and what I was trying to do to rectify the condition on my own was not helping. I was able to look forward to what another 12 months of the same slow degradation would result bring, and
that was not anything I wanted a part of.

The lesson I learned is that it is good to do regular physical check-ins, or if you would rather, I put it in more clear terms, do your annual physical! It is good for these to be written down because we just keep putting things off and are unaware of the deterioration of our physical condition. Hopefully you realize that after the age of, oh let’s just pick one, 30, we are all declining physically. Not to say that you won’t have personal record marathon times or even reach achievements physically that you had not experienced when you were younger. Those are definite possibilities so don’t mail it in yet! But really after the age of 30, we don’t need to ask if we are being challenged physically, Rather the question “To what extent physically am I declining?” is the more
appropriate inquiry. With my lumbar situation I found it kind of went like this; pain-fade, pain-fade, activity limiting pain-fade, more pain-fade, then very different lifestyle. Of course, this took decades to occur, thus the tendency to ignore the nuisance.

I was stuck the other day with the realization that how I dealt with lumbar pain in my life is similar to how we are tempted to deal with sin in our life. Rarely does a person wake up one day and decide to become addicted to drugs or become consumed by excessive eating habits. These and many other sinful desires become reality in our lives with small concessions we pass off as “not that big of a deal.’ But when these continue, it changes the trajectory in our life until one day we realize how far off the narrow road God had us on that we really are.

The book of James states it this way in James 1:13-16. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” We need to realize the condition of our hearts. I think one of the deceptions that Satan uses in our lives is that of comparison. We look at people around us and are comforted to know that we
really are not all that sinful when I look at the person next to me. But the only
comparison that matters at all is how we compare with Jesus Christ! And when you accurately see how you compare with Jesus you will be brought to your knees in humble embarrassment. When we play this “not a big deal” game, what we are really doing is giving the devil a foothold in our lives with which to execute destructive schemes.

What true disciples of Jesus Christ need to focus on as our way to live our life is found in the verse right before, James 1:12. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” We need to focus on being steadfast in our lives. And by this we are not saying steadfast in the “big things” of life. No, we must be steadfast in the small things of life. For if we make small compromises, we begin down a path that eventually will be akin to life saving surgery! Yes, I am saying sweat the small stuff! Not
because God is holding a checklist just waiting until we mess up on any little thing so as to blast us with “holy discipline.” Instead, He knows us better than we know ourselves and He calls us to be diligent and steadfast in obedience for our own good!