Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nine Lessons from a Positive Life

Several years ago while speaking at an HIV/AIDS conference, I shared my story as a long-term survivor of the disease. After the presentation, one of the participants asked me what lessons I had learned from a positive life. Her question referred to “attitude” but I realized that my story and perspective had been shaped by my “positive” HIV status. Not quite the “positive” she meant, but poignant none-the-less.

I discovered my HIV status in 1986 at the age of 16. As a hemophiliac, the diagnosis was not surprising, but still incredibly difficult. I remember having the “world on a string”; complete with all of the dreams and aspirations that fills any young person. I was president of my class, captain of the golf team and had just started dating the “love of my life”.

Discovering my HIV status forced me to grow up and take a serious look at life. And, it forced me to decide how I would approach and appreciate each day.

As a person of faith, I believed God had a plan for my life, but I also believed that I had a choice in how I would live out that plan. I could have, as I described to the audience, “gotten in a corner and felt sorry for myself” or “ I could live my life—as boldly and as passionately as possible.” More than anything, I knew I wanted my life to matter.

Was I scared? Certainly! Was I unsure of what tomorrow might bring? You bet! But, I was also committed to not giving up and not allowing the disease to define my attitude, nor, to the best of my ability, my future.

I closed my presentation by sharing how blessed I had been since that diagnosis nearly 20 years ago. I married that sixteen-year-old “love of my life”, and we are the parents of three beautiful daughters. I have had a wonderful career as a church planter and author. And, I have watched God move in amazing ways through good and bad times.

Certainly, the road has not been easy. I have had my share of roadblocks and obstacles along the way including a diagnosis of Hep C+, open heart surgery (caused by medicine taken for HIV) and the emotional pain of being rejected by the first church to which I was appointed.

But, the journey has also taught incredible lessons about life and about the really important issues we face.

Returning home, I thought about her questions (or at least my version of it). I found the answers in the normal routine of life, like taking my children to school, playing softball in the back yard or praying with my family before bed. The lessons formed apart from the language usually associated with a terminal illness or crisis. No, the words and phrases described life in general, about soaking up every moment. Each day, I discovered a new treasure from the journey. Here is what I found…

1. Become satisfied with never being satisfied. Life is about moving forward. We either follow or lead. Deciding which makes all the difference.

2. Crave Awe and Wonder. Have you ever watched a child on Christmas morning? God shapes life to experience the wonder of His creation. Every day is a gift and should be opened as such.

3. Simplify. Write down the 10 most important things you wanted to accomplish. Then, tear the list in half. We complicate life, not the other way around.

4. Celebrate Boldly and Laugh Loudly. In Luke 15, God seeks after lost things and then throws a party when they are found. Put simply, Christians don’t throw party and laugh enough.

5. Do Life with Others. The most important things we do in this world can’t be done alone.

6. Embrace the Unfamiliar. The measure of a person is found not in what they “know” but in what they are willing to admit they “don’t know”.

7. Love Unconditionally. This lesson speaks for itself.

8. Get Yours Hands and Feet Dirty. Holy is not about clean; it is about proximity. Jesus loved the least of these, so should we.

9. Read Fairy Tales and Ride Roller Coasters. Fairy Tales and Roller Coasters are like life--Between “Once Upon a Time” and “Happily Ever After” there are turns, twists, ups and downs, but, in the end, it is oh so worth the adventure.

These nine lessons reflect not only how I view life but also how I approach it. But, you don’t have to be HIV+, ill or even in crisis to appreciate their real value--- learning to make the most of this amazing journey.


Post a Comment

<< Home