I was texting as my wife, Peg, drove me to the hospital Nov. 28, 2020. I was in day 10 of having COVID-19 and my oxygen level was not holding. I thought that I would be in the hospital for a couple of days, get some extra whiffs of O2 and then come home.
Knowing there were yearend legal issues needing attention, I quickly wrote an email to the Tabor College board chair making arrangements for the possibility that I would not be able to fulfill my duties as president of the college. I also sent texts to family that this was a precautionary move.
When Peg dropped me off, I leaned across the console of the front seat of the car and kissed her goodbye. I checked in quickly and was taken to a normal room. Within the hour, the doctor laid out the various levels of medical therapies, and I knew that this was more than a couple of whiffs of oxygen. I was hooked up to a Vapotherm and later a BiPAP, both of which provide noninvasive breathing support.
While on the BiPAP, I had an experience, that looking back, I simply call “Vision of the Cross.” I was standing in front of a very large cross, rising hundreds of feet into the air, square wood and brown in color. It was blocking everything. I sensed that behind me was the world and everything that pertained to living on earth. I had an incredible sense of total forgiveness, deep assurance of salvation and a peaceful serenity.
It was clear that this was the cross of Jesus. It was not a pretty cross.
I remember thinking, “Everything in this world ends at the cross. The gate of heaven is a cross.” I sensed that if I stepped into the cross, I would be on the other side and that I would see Jesus.
I reached for my phone to text Peg.
“The world behind me. The cross in front of me,” I wrote. “Always was and someday will be. Just do not know when.” I added, “First, I want to see Jesus. Then if they let me, I’ll wait at the gate for you and our family.”
“And just like 2020 seems to be a year of reset, so the COVID-19 experience, including the Vision of the Cross, has motivated me to reset my life.”
Then for a few moments I reflected. The decorative cross on my desk came into view. An affirmative thought about the direction of Tabor came to mind. Making and keeping the cross central to the mission of Tabor was deeply impressed upon me, as was living my entire life focused on the cross.
“It is all about the cross,” I thought. “All of life culminates at the cross. Lift up the cross.”
All these thoughts flooded my mind as I stood in front of the cross and the possibility of stepping into the cross and seeing Jesus.
Then I felt this sudden compulsion to fight; there was no choice. And for the next four hours, with every breath I took, I fought to stay alive. My doctor later said that she has never seen someone fight so hard. The next morning, they moved me to ICU and began convalescent plasma transfusions plus Remdesivir and additional steroidal drug therapies.
When they began the plasma transfusion and again when administering the Remdesivir, I prayed that as these drugs entered my blood stream they would wash away the virus just as Jesus’ blood washed away my sin on the cross. That what Jesus’ blood did for me on the cross, these therapies would do to the coronavirus in my body.
A few days later, when the doctor told me the virus was no longer in my body and treatment would now focus on recovery of the lungs, it seemed like my prayer was answered.
I do not understand the sovereignty of God. I think of all those I know who lost the battle to COVID-19. They too had people praying, competent medical professionals and many drug therapies. Yet, they did not survive. I did. I now see each day as a gift from the good hand of God.
From my limited view, God has given me more days to serve him. And just like 2020 seems to be a year of reset, so the COVID-19 experience, including the Vision of the Cross, has motivated me to reset my life. It comes at a perfect time as I conclude the presidency of Tabor College and move into retirement.
I see the hand of God in all of this. I am resetting my life around five words that have been impressed upon my heart during the COVID-19 experience: contentment, gratitude, simplicity, smallness and focused. Jehovah Jira, God our provider, and Jehovah Rapha, God our healer, are operative in my life.
My COVID-19 journey is not over. Progress is measured by the week in the COVID-19 world, and I am thankful for continued progress toward a full recovery. I find hope, strength and encouragement in the Psalms. Each day a new Psalm speaks to my situation.
I started a “things to be thankful for” list in the hospital, and it continues to get longer. Many small things I took for granted now have great meaning to me. But above all, I am thankful for the prayers of the people, the medical professionals who cared for me, the pharmaceutical therapies and above all, the healing hand of God. My recovery is not complete. But my trust is in the one whose death on the cross brings healing, hope and salvation.
Jules Glanzer is in his 14th and last year of service as president of Tabor College. He and Peg want to thank the greater Tabor College and Mennonite Brethren communities for their prayers and support during this time. The cards, flowers, texts, phone messages, emails and above all the prayers have been a great encouragement to them during Jules’ battle with COVID-19. They covet your continued prayers during his recovery.
Jules Glanzer is president of Tabor College. He and his wife, Peg, have three children and nine grandchildren.
Powerful, Jules! Thanks so much for your vulnerability in sharing your story, and for the gift to us of the vision God gave you of the cross of Christ. I will ask, too, when my time comes, to wait at the gate for my family and others. In the meantime we pray and live for Him.