It’s been a very long couple of months. Time seems to stretch on infinitely when you’re dealing with medical problems.
My mind can’t make anything compute right now. It’s totally, completely bizarre to me that normal life continues on when I’ve got this major thing happening. I wake up, I go to work, I spend time with friends and family. I plan menus and make grocery lists. (Well, okay, I assist my husband in those tasks. Nobody wants me cooking). I empty the dishwasher and fold laundry.
And all the while I’m thinking about the thing.
The tumor on my liver.
Praise God, it’s benign. But nevertheless, it’s a tumor. A thing that shouldn’t be there. I go in on December 12 to have it removed and will be in the hospital for 3-5 days. Days of pain pumps and refusing to eat Jell-O.
The tumor – I call it Skolops, the Greek for “thorn in the flesh” as found in 2 Corinthians 12:7 – is hanging out way up high, near my right lung, so it’s a challenging procedure. They’ll slice me open and use this spatula-like thing to hoist my ribs out of the way. They’ll take out some healthy liver along with Skolops and the area he’s affected. Then they’ll sew me back together, wrap me up tightly and send me off to a room reeking of disinfectant.
Dwelling on the What If
I’ve been dwelling on the “what if’s?” ever since I got the news. This is rarely a good thing, especially in the wee, dark hours when you can’t sleep. Everything seems bleak and hopeless.
What if it turns out to be cancer after all? What if I have to have a second surgery? What if something goes wrong and I die on the operating table? What if I can’t handle the pain? What if I’m in the hospital longer than expected? What if we can’t pay our bills? What if we lose the house? What if I’m not up to going back to work when I’m supposed to? What if I fall when I’m at home by myself and can’t get to the phone?
Even after examining all the questions rationally, I still feel scared. And sad. Being scared makes sense to me because we’re all scared of the unknown and of things we can’t control. But I don’t understand the sad. I don’t understand why I want to cry. Why I am crying as I write this.
Love Lifted Me
So when we sang these words at church, my conviction that God is intimately involved in our lives deepened, because they were words I desperately needed to hear. He soothes us in our wailing before we even know to ask for it:
“Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!” – James Rowe & Howard Smith
The hymn is centered on salvation, how it is Jesus alone who can make us right. That is so beautifully true, but, right now, the words bring something else to my mind:
“…the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.”
Learning to Trust
Like Peter, I chose to step out of the boat. I chose to trust rather than fear when all of this started seven months ago. But lately, I have struggled to keep my eyes on Christ. The waves have grown higher and the sky darker. The lightning flashes and the thunder rolls. Everything is amplified and so frightening. I take in the surroundings and lose sight of His face.
I slip beneath the water. And He is there immediately. He lifts me with complete ease.
He asks me the same question He asked the apostle: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
There is no anger in His voice. The question is not meant to push me toward self-loathing. It is a reminder. Jesus has never failed me. Not once. He is with me now. He will be with me in the operating room. He will hold my head in His lap and speak peace into the secret places of my heart, the places only He and I know about. He will be there when the anesthesia wears off and I’m hit with the first, intense, vomit-inducing wave of pain. As the lines of the children’s prayer affirm, He will “watch and keep me.”
Dear one, I don’t know what you’re walking through today. I don’t know what news you’ve gotten, what relationships are strained, what commitments you’re desperately striving to meet. I do know that you may also have the sense of drowning. You may have lost sight of Christ amid the turmoil of the storm. He is there. He will lift you. He will guide and protect you just as surely as He has me. Our Lord never, ever, not once fails, no matter the circumstances.
“Souls in danger look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves!”