Jason Pablo discovers that he may not have control over his life, but he does have control over the way he prays and what he prays for. Listen to how he created the sweetest lemonade from the sourest lemons.
When life gives you lemons, what do you do with them? Obvious answer is you make lemonade. But have you ever tried making lemonade with really really sour lemons? That’s what I was trying to figure out during the summer of 2000. There I was, a twenty-seven year old husband on the verge of fatherhood sitting in this doctor’s office with my wife who just happened to be 6 months pregnant at the time with our daughter. And the doctor says to us, “You have an enlarged heart, a disease known as idiopathic cardiomyopathy and there is a two in three chance that you’re probably going to die from this. It was the first time that death had been at my doorstep.
This heart that has allowed me years of playing basketball, playing golf, running, doing anything and everything under the sun, was now sick—Very sick. I thought I was doing everything right. I was active, I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, never did drugs, and I even thought my relationship with God was good. I participated in all church functions, I was a choir member, and I was a Children’s Worship Service teacher. And so, how did I get this? This was the first and the biggest most sour lemon that life threw at me to this point in my life. Certainly not the lemon I would’ve chosen for myself, but it was here, for me and my family, to deal with. So we moved on. On November of 2003, one week before my son was going to be born, I was diagnosed with an irregular heart beat, or an arrhythmia. So I thought to myself, wait a minute, right before my daughter’s going to be born I’m diagnosed with this heart disease and right before my son’s going to be born I get this heart arrhythmia. I wasn’t willing to take on any more chances of what type of mishap that could happen with my heart so I looked at my wife and I said no more kids.
Life hit a brick wall. Everything under the sun was now limited. I couldn’t walk the usual 18 holes of golf. And what was even more sad was that I had two young kids at home who I couldn’t run and play with like a father should just because I was often too weak to play with them. These sour lemons just kept being thrown at me left and right and they were piling up.
And then one day in December of 2007, the doctors wanted to try this one outpatient procedure for the second time where they would operate on my heart from the inside to try and correct the irregular heart beat. Wouldn’t you know it; the doctor preforming the procedure accidentally poked a hole in one of my main arteries. And the hole was just big enough where they weren’t able to operate on the inside. So, they performed an emergency open heart surgery during which I flat lined five times. Tough to swallow right?
I remember waking up one day to a minister who just happened to be visiting me and I looked at him. I said to him, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did this happen to me?” And he said to me, “You know what? I don’t know why this happened to you. I don’t know why this happened to you. But you know what? God knows. God knows.” That was the perfect answer because that answer reminded me that knowing God and knowing that His will was working in my life, was better than knowing answers.
My heart got worse, my health got worse. I only felt worse. And on August 1st of 2008, I found myself back in the hospital due to fatigue and vomiting. And originally the doctors thought that it was my gall bladder that was causing all this sickness so they decided to take it out. And I still remember to this day the surgeon who performed that surgery who walks into the recovery room and he wakes me up and says, “Jason, there’s nothing wrong with this gall bladder. Your cardiology team needs to go figure out what’s wrong with you.” So unnecessarily, my gall bladder was taken out. To this day, I’m still waiting for a refund on that particular operation. I’m waiting for that check, people.
A few days later, the cardiology team comes to me and they say, “Jason, your heart is failing completely. And we’ve exhausted all efforts on trying to treat you. It’s now time for you to be transferred and be evaluated for a heart transplant.” So on Monday August 25th, 2008, I was transferred to Stanford Medical Center and by Friday, August 29th, 2008, I was officially placed on the heart transplant list. I was dependent on an IV drug called Dobutamine, which is pretty much fuel for your heart. And because of that, I was no longer able to go home.
Every year in America, 6,000 people are on a heart transplant list waiting to receive a heart, but only 2,000 will receive a heart. As you can see, the odds were stacked against me, but I had one thing. I had God on my side. The only thing I had to do was trust Him. So I dug my heels in for the long haul because there was no telling how long I would be at Stanford just because there was no telling if or when I would get a heart.
So for the first five days of being on a heart transplant list, my prayers were this: “God, please give me a heart”. But then I realized I was only giving God one option. I was telling God what I wanted rather than giving myself to what He wanted. I mean lets face it, what if God’s will wasn’t that I wasn’t going to get a heart? How would I feel? So, I spoke with my wife and I changed my prayer. I tweaked it and I said this: “God, if You give me a heart, I will praise You. And if you don’t give me a heart, I will still praise you and I promise God, I promise that my wife, my two kids will love You and praise You all the same.” It was 12:30 am, the evening of September 5th 2008, it was Friday. And that was the first time that me and my wife, we were on the phone, that was the first time that we offered that prayer to God, We hung up the phone, and just as I laid down to sleep, there was a knock on the door. A doctor walks in, good-looking doctor, like worthy of soap opera-type. I thought I was dreaming for a second. But he knocks on the door and he walks in and he says, “Mr. Pablo, we have a heart for you”.
Six days. Six days is all I waited for God’s plan to be revealed to me. What was God waiting for? Maybe He was waiting for that type of trust. God came through once again. Despite all these sour lemons that were thrown my way left and right like I talked about, I was now handed a huge dose of sweetener for my lemonade. Each one of us here, heart recipient or not, we’ve all had our own sets of lemons right? God has given us our own sets of lemons, but the thing about lemons is that two things can happen: lemons in life, they could make you bitter or they can make you better. I’m a man of faith, always have been. Even before all this heart stuff was tossed into my life and I don’t believe in coincidences. Why? Because our God is not a God of coincidence. He’s a God of purpose and I believe that I have a purpose and God will keep me around for as long as He needs to until I meet that purpose. And to this day I still look forward to what that purpose is.
Almost two years ago, I was dealt with another sour lemon, once again, another lemon I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, another organ was failing me this time. And this time, it was my kidneys. Yes, I am running out of body parts for them to replace. The tally keeps going. So on July 31st, 2015, I was officially placed on the kidney transplant list and then on November 22 of 2015, I started dialysis. Four months after dialysis, I was given one of the greatest sweeteners a man in my situation could ever ask for. I get a call from the kidney transplant team and they tell me, “Jason, we have a kidney for you.” In fact, it is a perfect match for you and that match ended up being my wife. So, on October 19th, 2016, my wife graciously and unselfishly gave me her kidney. And for that, I am ever thankful to God. Once again, despite all these lemons, I get the greatest sweetener a man could ask for.
It’s been seventeen years since I first sat in that doctor’s office when he handed me my biggest and most sour lemon at that point in my life. But it’s been seventeen years of miracles, trials, but God’s unending love that I would have never experienced had it not been for my lemons in life. God chose these tests for me to deal with and I did the best that I could would them.
Along with those sweeteners that God has placed in my life with these lemons, one of those sweeteners was at INCMedia, they approached me about a year ago about doing a podcast. Why a podcast you may ask and not a TV show? Probably because I have a face for radio. But through this podcast Living Proof, I have met some of the most courageous people who have overcome their difficulties; their sets of lemons and how God has proven His existence in their life. I feel very blessed and very privileged to have met these people and I look forward to meeting more people to share their stories with me.
I stand before you know with a new heart, new kidney, new hip, that’s a story for a different day and minus one gall bladder. And all these things I would go through over and over again if it meant that my life would be standing right here in front of you. My life has been filled with lemons but my belief is that when God gives you lemons, He’ll also throw in the sweetener. And the more sour the lemon, the sweeter the sweetener. Thank you for letting me share my story with you.