I always wanted to be a surgeon. Really, I did. In fact, I wanted to be a bioengineer – that’s a doctor who is involved in the design, building and perhaps even use of state of the art medical devices. I studied drafting and was an engineering major, eventually graduating with additional work in economics at the University of Illinois at Circle Campus; graduating in March, 1974 – three weeks after my 21st birthday. Trouble is that I kept taking tough courses as electives and my school advisor finally told me that my chances of getting in medical school were slim and none – because the competitors for medical school slots were taking easy electives and getting “A’s.” I wasn’t – that isn’t so easy to do when you are studying advanced mathematics and complex material and structural engineering stuff.
It probably wouldn’t have made any difference anyway. Because in early March, just before graduation, Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I gave up my dreams of medical school to help him run the small manufacturer’s rep business he had in the wood products industry. Dad lived four years, and finally died in 1978 – two years after my middle brother Doug graduated from Knox College, a small, private liberal arts school in Galesburg, IL. Doug’s degree was in economics, the same as the degree I finally received from the U of I at Chicago.
Doug entered the family business with me and we worked together for several years. Janet and I were already married, Kristin was almost three years old, Jill had just been born and Andrew wasn’t even a glimmer on the horizon yet. I finally made the decision to leave the company and our family moved to Indianapolis to establish ourselves here. Doug, on the other hand, decided to go back to undergrad school, get a second degree and then applied to medical school. He had also wanted to be a physician/surgeon; and he finally made it – starting his practice at the age of 40. He is now a very well known ob/gyn southwest of Chicago.
Meanwhile, I was a corporate guy and gave up my dreams of ever getting back in the medical community. In fact, Janet and I were convicted that I should leave the corporate world and attend seminary. All the while, Doug’s practice was growing and he seemed so satisfied with his life choice to become a surgeon. We used to talk about his cases and for years I was jealous of his attainment of a dream that had been mine since I was a youngster.
At one point, years ago, we went almost 10 years without speaking – he went his way and I went mine. We were both successful in our own ways, but he had attained the brass ring that we both had been angling for. Finally, at the death of our mother, we decided that it was time to mend out ways – and that we did. We became much closer. There was a tremendous amount of mutual respect and pride about the successes we each had achieved, but my life was still somewhat empty.
Doug used to share how fulfilling it was to work with the human body and to try to improve the quality of life for his patients. I, on the other had, still struggled with where I belonged. I left the business world, went back to school and finally, years later, was invited to pursue my own doctorate at the end of my seminary studies. Janet and I made huge sacrifices for me to attain my goal – a goal that we both believed was in the will of God. Those of you who have known us for years have travelled that journey by our sides – and we are forever grateful.
Since then, I have devoted my life to assisting owners of companies combine faith and corporate principles to achieve optimum performance. I have even had the privilege of working with some of the top bioengineers in the world. It has been humbling to be in their presence.
But through all this, one thing has become increasingly evident. While Dr. Doug fulfills his God given mission to promote physical healing, it is more clear than ever that I would not have been a great surgeon like he is. I’m just not wired in the same way. Rather, my gifts are more in the spiritual realm. And while Doug’s gifts may improve, or even extend, physical life, I get to practice my work with the promise of eternal consequences for people who follow Christ. So, to this day, we still spar from time to time; in good fun, of course, with each of us extolling the superiority of the field in which we each practice our trade.
But one thing is for sure – with both of us working together, physical healing combined with eternal life is a pretty strong combination. And that’s the way we look at it these days – of course, it took us decades to get to this point. But better late than never, right?
The verse tonight reflects the individuality of God’s will for each of our lives. From Jer. 29:11, “For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” So even though I had one thing in mind for my life, God had something better in mind. He knew Doug would be the better surgeon, while I would be the better pastor/teacher – at least I hope so…..
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that God has plans for you – plans that he had before he even created you – plans that would fulfill a need in the world for a segment of His people. Both Dr. Doug and I have been placed in positions that are consistent with the plans that God had for our lives. My prayer is that you will listen for God to whisper in your ear and that you will follow His gentle nudge, His will for you – and not chase the dream that was His will for somebody else.
It has taken me many years to learn that lesson – but I have learned it well. Congratulations Doug, you’re the greatest surgeon I know; and I’m proud to call you my brother, for real……