When Nothing Else Could Help

Gentle Reader,

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. On Saturday, I got to go shopping with my mom and I got to see a play. I plan menus and make grocery lists. (Well, okay, I assist Chris in those tasks). I empty the dishwasher and fold laundry.

And all the while I’m thinking about the thing.

My surgeon called Friday afternoon and told me that no biopsy is necessary. He is confident that the tumor is benign and wants to proceed with removal. One of the schedulers from his office is supposed to call me this afternoon or tomorrow. I’ll have dates and timelines. It’ll be 3-5 days in December. Days of pain pumps and refusing to eat Jell-O.

The tumor – a dear friend and her daughters helped me name it: Skolops (the Greek for “thorn in the flesh” as found in 2 Corinthians 12:7) “Boobies” McFartstein; we were feeling silly that day – 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.

The freaking out began Saturday night.

I started dwelling. This is rarely a good thing, especially in the wee, dark hours. 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.

So when we sang these words at church yesterday, 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.”

Like Peter, I chose to step out of the boat. I chose to trust rather than fear those long six months ago. 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.

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.”

Whatever comes, Love will lift me.

Grace and peace along the way.

Five Minute Friday: Turn

Gentle Reader,

‘Tis that five minute time with Kate and the gang. We: turn.

Go.

Ugh. Down with a cold, the second one in three weeks. Got my tissues, my soup, my orange juice, my cough medicine – the cough medicine I’m not really supposed to take but I’m so desperate for sleep that I’ll take it anyway. It’s not good for my liver. My liver who’s playing host to a guest.

It’s a tumor.

Or a tumah.

Depends on your accent.

It’s really bizarre to be told that you’ve got this bubble-like thing growing on one of your organs. You’re happy when they say it’s almost surely benign, but still. It’s a thing. A thing that shouldn’t be there. And now you’ve got a consultation scheduled with an oncologist who specializes in hepatobilliary tumors.

At least he’s a dog person, according to the information your mom found.

I don’t know if I’m overwhelmed or just smack in the center of that peace that doesn’t make any sense. Either way, this is the truth to which I turn:

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This is one of those “God said it so I believe it” times. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Surgery and recovery and tests. Long words I can’t pronounce. The possibility of being force-fed Jell-O.

Whatever comes, God will save me.

And you.

Stop.

Let us turn to Him.

Grace and peace along the way.

31 Days with the Savior: Follow

Gentle Reader,

Then He said to them all, “’If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?’” – Luke 9:23-25 (NKJV)

I am in a state of denial. Well, maybe denial isn’t the right word. It’s more “can we please get this over with so I don’t have to think about it anymore?” I’m doing everything I can to avoid dwelling on the situation. (Aren’t I so vague? Promise I’m not being coy. I just don’t want to get into what’s happening at the moment. We’ll go there later. Cut me some slack for now).

These words of our Lord…they poke at me. They challenge my avoidance. Being with Jesus means suffering. There are many levels to that; sometimes suffering looks like letting go of certain well-loved habits and sometimes it looks like persecution. Sometimes it looks like facing reality. Whatever it is,

“…life in the world will not involve an easy, stressless trip into glory.” (IVP Commentary, found under the “Study This” tab).

There are days when I simply want to give up.

But then those words.

What good is it to gain the whole world but wind up being destroyed?

I’m not making a concrete point today, I know. I don’t have a sound-bite for you to tweet. All I have is an undefinable set of emotions. I thank God that He is strong and ever-faithful when I am weak and ready to flee.

Grace and peace along the way.

For all entries in the Jesus: 31 Days with the Savior series, go here.