Led to Donate Life, Part 1
Looking back, it was my favorite part of the whole experience. Well, aside from the miracle—but I’ll get to that later. We had gathered for Sunday morning worship. It was my first time out in public since my surgery, and I was still moving very slowly. I gingerly grabbed a seat on the back row where my friends, Les and his family, always parked.
Then I noticed, in the row directly in front of me, just to the left, two faces I recognized. It was John’s grandparents. They had come to see me several times in my hospital room that week. I was so thrilled they had decided to worship with us. I struck up a conversation with them, and within a few minutes John himself, his parents, and one of his sisters had arrived as well, filling up the rest of the row of seats.
I should have been expecting it. I had heard they were talking about visiting the church that morning. The thought had just slipped my mind. What a welcome surprise.
After greeting one another and talking briefly, the singing began. The feeling was surreal. There, right in front of me, was the young man in whom my left kidney had been transplanted a week and half earlier. I had not met him until Monday—after the surgeries, and just before we were both discharged from the hospital. Now here we were, worshiping together the God who had orchestrated this whole marvelous thing. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
I thought back to the jarring words John’s mother had just used to introduce me to her daughter. “This is Todd. He’s the one who saved John’s life.”
Wow. Really? I knew what had happened was important—life-changing even. But life-saving? Yet, as she went on to tell me, seemingly trying to explain her choice of words, she honestly questioned, given his deteriorating health, how much longer she would have had her son around had I not given him a kidney. That’s when it really began to sink in: what God had used me to accomplish was no small thing.
Nothing to boast of
Rarely have I received the kind of praise that’s been showered on me because of my decision to donate a kidney. The accolades always make me uncomfortable—partly because I dislike the attention, but mostly because I know they’re based largely on an overestimation of my character.
If I had simply heard of John’s need out of the blue, would I have had the compassion and self-sacrificing spirit to take the initiative and offer to donate a kidney? I’d like to think I would have, but in all honesty—and I think I know myself quite well—I seriously doubt it.
But that’s not how it happened. God had been carefully preparing me and leading me toward this for nearly five years. This was His idea, not mine. Of that I’m certain. However much compassion I might have for John and his family—and I have some, without question—ultimately I did what I did because the Lord wanted me to. When you get an assignment from heaven, you do it. Period. I did it willingly and gladly, but it was something God had called me to do.
The apostle Paul could say, “if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion” (1 Corinthians 9:16 NASB), because God had called him to that work. God had called me to be a living kidney donor. I’m not at all suggesting that my calling was comparable to Paul’s in importance, or that it came in the same dramatic fashion. But this principle does apply. I have nothing to boast of. I was simply carrying out an order from God.
I used to think God doesn’t do that kind of thing anymore. For most of my life I believed God no longer speaks today, that His will for us is completely revealed in His written word. He has no specific will for individuals that He reveals to them personally, I thought. He no longer calls people to go to particular places or carry out specific tasks like He did throughout scripture. He just expects us to follow the Bible.
Thinking back on it now, it was a pretty convenient theology. After all, as long as I stayed within the guidelines of scripture, I could make all my own decisions and live basically according to my will. I don’t mean to imply that obeying the commands of the Bible is easy, by any means. Living a life of Christlike love for others always entails a certain amount of self-denial. But there’s an entirely different level of surrender required when, instead of merely saying, “Lord, I will obey Your written word,” you tell God, “I’ll do anything You want me to do. I’ll go anywhere You want me to go, take any job You want me to take, make any sacrifice You ask me to make. I’m completely at Your disposal. You can tell me to do anything, and I’ll obey.”
My former understanding made for an easier life. I was submitted to God, but God was at a safe distance. He spoke only through scripture, so the general parameters for Christian living contained in the Bible were the only divine instructions I had to be concerned about. I didn’t have to entertain the possibility that God would “tell” me to speak to a certain person, preach on a particular subject, or take a different job.
This was a major shift with huge implications. Now God was getting up close and personal. My walk with the Lord was looking a lot more like Abraham’s, Moses’, and Paul’s. The Bible was coming more to life because it was no longer the story of God’s mighty works in the lives of ancient heroes; it was my story, too. All of a sudden, so much of scripture that I had previously regarded as no longer applicable took on a refreshing, new relevance. It was both challenging and exhilarating. Life would never be the same.
This kind of discipleship, a far more dynamic and interactive relationship with Jesus than I had ever experienced, was quite new to me five years ago. But by then my study of the Bible had led me to conclude it’s still what God offers and desires. As difficult as I knew it would be, it’s what I wanted. And I knew the rewards, especially in terms of my relationship with the Lord, would be extraordinary.