21 November 2011

Looking Back

November 20, 2010 was a Saturday.  It was the morning after my pulmonary thromboendarterectomy surgery.  With a doctor close by the nurses had administered a drug to "wake" me up after 24 hours of anesthetic sleep.  It felt more like 5 minutes.  My first thought upon awakening was, "Oh, I've just been napping. I wonder if it's time for my surgery yet."  My very next thought, likely produced by the doctors and nurses telling me it was Saturday morning and that my surgery was a success and the realization that there was a giant breathing tube down my throat, was something like this, "Wow, the surgery is over and I'm still alive!"  I definitely felt a sense of relief.  However, I had no idea that some of the most difficult days of my life were ahead of me as recovery from PTE is a great challenge!  Those next several days in ICU were incredibly long and painful and difficult both mentally and physically.  Even now, a year later, reflection brings mixed emotions.  Remembering the experience is bittersweet.  There are so many thoughts and emotions that have been swirling around in my heart the past few weeks.  I have moments where I can't stop smiling because I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that I am alive and healthy today!  My heart rejoices when I remember how God redeemed my life from the pit and has set my feet in a steady place!  Not only did God use the surgery to bring healing to my body, He slowly but surely delivered me from a pit of despair to a steady place of emotional and spiritual restoration and very real hope for the future.  In so many ways 2010 was a desperately difficult year and in so many ways 2011 has been a wonderful year full of hope and healing and life!  

And yet, the looking back is bittersweet.  My physical, emotional, and spiritual heartache of those days before and after surgery spill out as tears even now.  The truth is, it doesn't seem like it has already been a year, and I'm a bit sad that it has already been a year.  I've been trying to figure out why I feel this way.  I think it has something to do with the depth of both the struggle and the deliverance and the lessons I am still learning from both of those things.  It was such a deeply significant and powerful period of time in my life that I am afraid of forgetting.  Afraid of forgetting how hard it was learning that I had an incurable disease that would dramatically shorten my life.  Afraid of forgetting how God met me in so many incredible ways in the midst of the despair and how He provided again and again and again.  Afraid of forgetting God's goodness to me before I knew a cure was possible.  Afraid of forgetting God showing me that His goodness was not based on whether He brought physical healing to me.  Afraid of forgetting how my family and friends and acquaintances loved me, upheld me, cried with me, laughed with me, listened to me, walked with me, carried me, hurt with me, shared God's Word with me, and more than anything prayed and trusted God to do what only He could do.  I'm afraid of forgetting how God breathed life into certain passages of Scripture that anchored me.  I'm afraid of forgetting how much peace God gave me the week before surgery.  Afraid of forgetting how by God's grace I was able to look death in the face and say, "You don't scare me."  I never want to forget going to sleep the night before my surgery and the next morning kissing my parents goodbye as they wheeled me to the operating room with the overwhelming peace to know, "To live is Christ and to die is gain."  I never ever want to forget that truth planted in me by facing a surgery inherent with great risk and yet knowing I had the assurance that I would spend eternity with Jesus.  I'm afraid of forgetting that Jesus really is all I need and want and have.  If I lived through the surgery I would get Jesus and if I died from the surgery I would get Jesus.  Jesus either way! Surely that one truth is enough to make me not want to forget, don't you think?

And yet, there's so much more I don't want to forget!  I don't want to forget how hard recovery was because it makes me grateful for today and it makes me compassionate for people who have to endure so much more than I did.  The list goes on and on in my head and heart of moments and memories that I don't want to lose.  Those days are full of so much significance.  Those days are full of so many lessons I still want to learn along with so many more applications from those lessons I still need to address in my life.  Those days are full of richness.  

Reflecting upon the richness brings me to this place one year later with an unexpected sense of grief.  I'm actually not quite sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that I'm not ready to let go.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm not still in the midst of those darkest of days!  But at the same time, I'm sad about the passing of a year and the distance between those days and now. I don't want to say goodbye to those days. I wonder if and how God could ever work in my life in such a profound way again?  I find myself thinking, "Oh God, please don't ever send me back into a furnace that hot!"  The fire was so hot and so dark that many days I couldn't see or feel or hear God.  I didn't know where He was or what He was doing.  However, looking back with the ability to see from the outside in, I can see Jesus in the furnace there with me.  No doubt, the time that has passed has given me the perspective I need to be able to see Him there, or rather to see Him more clearly there.  Now I can see Him there with me in the flames and in the fire and in the deliverance and in the pain and in the healing and in the restoration.  This year I have often been reminded of the account when Moses asked to see God's glory...

Moses said, "Please show me your glory." And He said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," He said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." And the Lord said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:18-23 ESV)

I believe this explains why there were days when I couldn't see God.  I believe that God was actually so very present and active that His glory would have shined too much brightness for my little eyes to see!  I believe it was His grace that hid me in the cleft of the rock until He passed by.  (There were many times in the hospital before and after surgery when the words of the familiar hymn would play in my head..."and covers me there with his hand, and covers me there with his hand.")  The passing of time has been a bit hard to accept this week,  but it also brings me great joy and delight as I recognize that God has now removed His hand and has allowed me to look back and see His glory and to see where He has been!  What a wonderful thing to not only look back and remember the struggle, but to see Him there with me and to praise Him for all He was doing!  This is God's gift of the passing of a year, and what wonderful gift it is!


cal+claire said...

I love the honesty, I'm at a loss for incredibly accurate words here, but it's so true

Anonymous said...

Listening to your written words, my heart is so moved. I want to go back and read it all again. You have a gift of writing about the depth of your feelings, and how you work things through with God during the storms of life.