Pastor Ed Heck passed away suddenly Sept. 6. He served as a professor at Olivet and pastored Kankakee First Church. He was recipient of the “O” award in 2014, the highest honor the University gives to its alumni. This article is published in his memory. Pastor Heck is survived by his wife Kathy Heck and his daughter Alea Heck.
It’s Monday morning and I’m waking to the sounds of horns honking and sirens all around the darkened streets of Chicago. In a few moments I will walk across the street to a hospital I’ve visited many times as a pastor. Every single time I’ve entered this hospital to visits hundreds of people who were hospitalized for a variety of reasons, I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, help me to be a source of encouragement and hope to the people I love in this place today.” Often, this is a task many pastors perceive as “part of the job” or “something I have to do,” but for me, I’ve always thought of this as one of the most authentic, genuine expressions of how much I loved the people I was visiting, whether I was there for eleven hours or eleven minutes.
Today, my walk into this hospital is radically different. Today, I’m the patient. Today, I’m the one engaged in a battle for my life with an aggressive form of cancer. Today, I’m the one who humbly must rely on others to become the source of encouragement and hope for me. It’s strange, to say the least, but I’m finding God is faithfully and actively involved in stabilizing and strengthening me as I face this enormously large challenge.
To be honest, I so wish I could have had this perspective earlier in my life and ministry, but I hate to admit that I haven’t always. I wish I could tell you my life in ministry has always started with a “this is the day the Lord has made” or “everyday is a day of thanksgiving” kind of mindset, but I can’t. Far too many times I’ve charged head-long into whatever I happened to be facing on any given day with a “let’s do this” kind of mentality.
Kathy has often joked, even mimicked me saying, “There’s nothing to it but to do it!” It’s been more than a motto for me; it’s been the way I have lived. Get up, get on with it, get it done! Most of my life it has served me well, and I’m grateful for God’s patience and willingness to bless me in spite of my own proliferation of strengths, which I know He has given me, but afraid I’ve relied upon way too much (command, strategy, competition, achiever, and self-assurance). Can’t you see how those could all be good things? They are, and I’m grateful for the strength, or strengths, God has given me.
However, at this intersection of life, facing a foe I have never faced before, for the first time my strengths are working against me instead of for me. See, my command says, “You need to be in control!” Well, facing this diagnosis, believe me when I tell you I am not in control!
My strategy says, “You’ve got to have a plan. You always have a plan. You make plans. That’s who you are and what you do.” Well, sorry, but this is a glaringly vivid example of how “His ways are not our ways,” and I don’t have a plan. Instead, I have to wait for others to determine the plan I will need to follow.
My competition says, “Jump in there and start swinging. Hit it with everything you’ve got. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up! You can beat this!” Trust me, I am resolved to fight it as long as He gives me strength to fight, but there is no amount of strength or courage I can muster in my competitive heart that is going to be equal to this foe.
My achiever says, “Look, break it down one step at a time, take this step now, then the next, then the next and before you know it, you’ll move from where you are to where you want to be.” Okay, but if that happens, this will not be an achievement I can look back on and say, “Look what I did!”
Lastly, my self-assurance says, “Ed, you’ve overcome one obstacle after another in your life. No one would have ever given you a chance to be where you are today. You are strong. You are smart. You have been given so much, use it and you will be fine.” So, my self assurance is now at that humble point of saying, “Not this time. Self-assurance isn’t going to work here. My assurance has to come from a much higher source.”
I’m saying all this to basically say that every single day when I open my eyes and every single night when I close my eyes I’m doing so with this thought and prayer, “God, search my heart, keep it clear and clean. Wash me, cleanse me, keep me at the point of brokenness where You are the source of my only hope—today, tomorrow, for as long as you give me life.”
I know I’ve said this before, but I want to make sure I say it often, because I really believe this is true. This, all of this happening to and around me, it’s not about me! It’s really not. It’s about God and what He will choose to do in me, through me and around me. My prayer each day echoes Job’s: God, in all of this, keep my heart “blameless and upright” and let those who watch and share my journey say that this is one man, just one man, who “feared God and shunned evil.”
— Ed Heck, Contributing Writer