Hope for Tomorrow: What's keeping you from giving everything to God?
by KEVIN BUMGARNER
Executive Editor

Article Date: Jul 7, 2014

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Cor. 12:9

 
I am writing this column because I want more of Christ’s power to rest on me. It has only taken me 47 years to get to a place in my life where I can say that.
 
We all have those areas that we don’t want to turn over to God, let alone become the topic of a column in the Florida Baptist Witness.
 
But I feel compelled to tell the story of this part of my surrender, of the choice I was confronted with and the decision I finally made when I realized how I had allowed an insipid form of pride to prevent me from telling a key part of God’s unique story in my life.
 
So, here goes.
 
I was born with a seizure disorder, and from my earliest days I went about attempting to hide that condition from others. My seizures were visual disturbances that didn’t affect my ability to talk, walk or think, so I could fool people since the seizures typically went away in about 15 to 30 seconds.
 
At first, not knowing any differently, I thought everyone’s vision was like this. I thought I was normal.
 
By the time I entered school, I started thinking that glasses were the answer. But I saw how kids who wore glasses were teased, so I kept my secret to myself. Again, pride prevented me from seeking help. My parents never suspected a thing, and my friends didn’t notice. I played sports and did well in school. All the while, I was sometimes having a dozen or more seizures a day.
 
The only time I really got scared, and thought I might need to tell somebody, happened when I was in junior high. My youth pastor came to the school and looked for someone from our church to have lunch with. He found me.
 
Almost immediately, I had a seizure, but instead of it going away quickly, I was not able to see for the entire 30-minute lunch period. We talked, joked and had a good conversation. But I couldn’t see a thing. At the end of lunch, just as the warning bell for the next class was sounding, my vision returned, I was able to say goodbye to Pastor Charles and was on my way.
 
My secret remained safe.
 
In high school, I couldn’t pass my vision test for my driver’s license without getting corrective lenses. And, even though I was still thinking about how I was going to be laughed at for wearing glasses, I was thinking that at least my “disappearing vision” problem would go away.
 
Of course, glasses did nothing to help with my seizure disorder.
 
I had 20/20 vision, but still had times when my vision would go away completely. Finally, I decided to tell my parents about my lifelong secret. They took my news in stride, and lined me up to see a series of doctors. I was tested for heart conditions, diabetes and what seems like an endless number of other things, and each time the tests can back negative.
 
Meanwhile, life went on. I was in college now, and busy making plans for my future. When I got serious with the woman who would become my wife, I told her about my visual disturbances, but other than that my condition remained a secret.
 
During this entire time, I had never asked anyone to pray for me; I never sought support from other believers who had unexplained medical conditions. I never sought counseling. In fact, I remained active in my church and continued to go on like nothing was wrong. Just like a lot of us, I let pride prevent me from revealing what was going on in my life in a way that could have brought God glory.
 
Several years after I was married, the seizures seemed to be getting more intense. And I was convinced I needed to start asking a new set of doctors what my problem was. We were living in North Carolina at the time, and I was hooked up a neurologist at the University of Wake Forest Baptist School of Medicine in Winston-Salem.
 
Immediately, I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. But instead of relief, my pride continued to get in the way. Great, I thought, I have one of the few diseases in our educated culture where there is still a stigma attached. So, I’ll still keep things as secret as possible.
 
But things were about to get a lot more complicated, because the seizures were getting more frequent and more intense. Finally, at age 33, I had what is known as a right temporal lobectomy, where doctors spent seven hours removing the part of my brain that controls visual memories, sensory input, storage for new memories, emotions, and language comprehension, among other things.
 
The surgery was terrible. I came out with 137 stitches and staples put into my shaved head, but at least those would be removed and my hair would grow back. The quarter-sized hole they drilled into my skull would be a permanent marker of what had been done.
 
From a medical standpoint, the surgery was a success. I have not had a seizure in 15 years. But the “cure” has been painful. In the earliest days after my surgery, I found I had to relearn how to ride my bike, find my way around and remember basic things. I had an unrelenting headache for 37 consecutive days, and I still have more than 200 headaches a year.
 
But with my seizures behind me, I was determined to move on, and tell as few people as possible what was going on in my life. Like the Apostle Paul, I prayed for relief. But when none came, I was not about to “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I didn’t know how to go about doing that, and I didn’t want anyone to take pity on me or treat me differently.
 
In other words, my pride continued to prevent God from being able to use this event in my life for His glory. For the next 15 years, I remained active in church, teaching Sunday school classes, being ordained as a deacon, starting new-member ministries and helping sponsor a variety of youth activities. But the story about the God who could cure my epilepsy, provide for my family and design me from birth to do good works—all of that was still off-limits.
 
I wasn’t talking.
 
And then one night, while some friends were at our house, my then-18-year-old son blurted out, “Did you tell them about your brain surgery?”
 
After an awkward silence, I told the story. And they accepted me. Loved me. Were excited about what God had done in my life.
 
Finally, I was a changed person. I spent a lot of time in confession about the pride I never even realized I had. And I won’t by any means try to fool you and say that talking about my seizures or writing this column has been easy.
 
But surrendering all of our life story to Him is what’s expected of us. I have given my testimony to groups and individuals whose families are going through tough medical circumstances. I have told my story on social media.
 
I am willing to let the story of God’s redemption of all my life be used for His glory. I think of what God can do through me because of what I’ve been through. I have the chance to empathize, console and relate to people who face horrifying health consequences, fear the future or dare say they have been “mad at God” in ways that “normal” people cannot relate. I’ve been through all that.
 
My lesson was 47 years in the making, and as I yield to following him in this part of my life I am finding peace knowing that God has made me this way for a reason, and that I have nothing to prove, nothing to earn, nothing to gain, because Christ has done it all for me.
 
What area of your life do you still need to let go of and let God redeem it for His glory? What’s holding you back? How can I help you get started?
 
Let’s Connect 
 
I would love to listen and encourage you in your walk with God. You can reach me by email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com, phone at 904.596.3171, on Twitter @FBW_editor, and on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn under my given name.

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