Today I spent my early morning perusing news articles as I usually do. In between details of the horrific violence in Syria, the latest GOP campaign shenanigans, and Whitney Houston’s funeral, I came upon CNN’s Belief Blog.
It’s not often that I am emotionally touched by CNN content. (Unless you consider anger and rage emotions that can be touched.) But today’s story really touched my heart in a positive way.
Disclaimer: This blog is not about right wing fundamentalism. It’s not about the Moral Majority. And it’s certainly not about Jerry Falwell. It’s simply about a man who was once associated with those things… and has seemingly come out of it with more clarity, purpose, and grace. But I’ll let you be the judge of that.
His name is Ed Dobson. He was once an executive for the Moral Majority, influencing politics in the Ronald Reagan era. He was once named “Pastor of the Year” by Moody Bible Institute. He was once pastor of a large Grand Rapids church where he preached weekly to over 5,000 people.
He was once.
That was before doctors diagnosed Ed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was told he had 3-5 years to live. Now 11 years later, Ed is fighting against this degenerative disease by finding new purpose in his drastically different life.
Please take a moment (nine minutes) to watch this thought provoking video about Ed, titled “My Garden.” (Warning: you might need a box of tissues.)
No doubt this is some pretty inspiring stuff. But you might be thinking, what does this have to do with dating? As I watched this video this morning at my desk — wiping tears from my eyes and praying no one walked into my office — I asked myself why the story resounded with me so deeply. I suppose it’s because as a single person, I often wonder if my true purpose in life will only reveal itself after I’m married or after I have children. Is my purpose in life to be a wife and a mother?
When Ed’s disease finally forced him to leave the career that he adored, he was forced to find a new purpose.
Ed went from preaching to thousands to sitting alone, waiting for his cell phone to ring. Watching him struggle with his cell phone is simply heartbreaking to watch.
“When you’re not needed, you lose part of your purpose in life,” said Ed.
But being needed comes in all shapes and sizes. And really, it’s what you make it to be. At one point in his life, Ed was needed by his large church congregation. At one point in my life, I may be needed by my husband or by my children. But what about my life now? What about Ed’s life now?
With a strength that I may never understand, Ed somehow rose above his debilitating illness to find purpose in life yet again.
“When God created the world, he placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and said, ‘Take care of it,’ ” explains Ed. “Part of the way we worship God is by serving and taking care of the garden. My garden today is meeting with individual people and helping them in their journey.”
Ed meets mostly with fellow ALS patients, listening to their problems and offering them nuggets of God’s wisdom.
“Whether it is preaching to 5,000 or meeting one on one, I am trying to take care of the garden,” he said.
What about me? What is my garden? Right now, my garden is not my husband. It is not my children. I do hope I can tend to them one day. But for now, I choose to reach out to those around me. My friends, my family, my co-workers, my church, the homeless man I pass each day on the way to work. These are the folks that make up my garden… in this moment.
Who’s in your garden?
God forbid we neglect the gardens he placed us in just because we’re waiting for the next best thing to come along. What joy we might miss. What purpose we might oversee. What opportunities we might pass by.
“ALS forced me into a situation where I grew in understanding what it meant to obey Jesus,” said Ed. “It took me quite a while to find an alternative purpose. But the good news is, out there there is a purpose for everyone. And when you arrive there, you’ll know it.”
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Thank you, Ed, for rising above. Your story has truly inspired me to take care of the garden God has placed me in, and to appreciate the opportunities I have in this moment… before this moment is gone.
This post is inspired by Ed’s Story. More information and additional videos can be found at http://edsstory.com/. If you enjoyed this video, please consider making a donation through the website to help fund future projects of this nature.