Five Minute Friday: Hidden

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Coming at you tonight from Camp Recliner, capitol of the Land of Percocet.

Kate says: hidden.

Go.

Hope,

Incoming.

Digging

Deeper.

Ever-

Near.

Post-surgery depression and anxiety settle in like a wet, smelly, heavy blanket. Not unexpected. But sucky. Ovaries are in shock, so a few hot flashes. Dogs mope, bored and irritated that I can’t pick them up. Muscles jerk at strange intervals, making me look like a marionette on drugs. Bone-crushing fatigue. I want to yell at everyone while crying and eating popcorn.

This will pass.

This is when it’s time to dig in, to access the toughness.

God is good. So faithful to give me what I need.

Faithful to you, too.

Hang in there.

Trust in Him.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Tobias van Schneider

Yank My Uterus

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Bluntness ahead. I do not intend to offend, but proceed with caution if you are in possession of thin skin.

I believe in writing honestly.

I also believe there is wisdom in knowing when to write and when to keep silent.

No author is obligated to share absolutely everything with her audience. We bloggers may spill our creative blood all over the internet, but we are allowed privacy. We can hold things back without becoming liars.

At first, I wanted to keep this to myself. But here goes.

In a few hours, I will have a hysterectomy.

The more I thought about it, the more irritated I got that I had this sense of needing to keep the thing a secret. Millions of women suffer each and every day. We experience pain and a diminished quality of life. We feel like we can’t talk about it because, though skin and sex are casually splashed everywhere, the workings of our bodies remain taboo. The message is clear: keep it sensual, darlings, maybe occasionally athletic, or shut up.

If men were in our position, billions of dollars would be dedicated to finding a solution.

Enough.

There is a woman out there who needs to hear that she is not a freak of nature after a hysterectomy. She needs to be told that she is more than the function or presence of an organ. She needs to know that she is bright, lovely and amazing, with or without all of her factory parts.

A declaration, for myself and for you, dear lady:

I refuse to believe that I am any less beautiful or any less valuable because I no longer have a uterus. I reject the notion that my scars make me disgusting. (In fact, I think they make me fierce, because I’ve been to war and lived to tell the tale). I reject the belief that I’m ugly because my belly may never be totally flat. I am more than skin, more than surface. I am vibrant, vital and vivacious. I have a lot of love to give. I will nurture life, looking for opportunities to uplift and encourage others. This is not the end of my story, but merely a plot device, designed to bring me into the next chapter.

I know that I will feel depressed and anxious after surgery. This is normal. I won’t feel this way forever. I know that I will be in pain. That won’t last forever, either. I am going to rest and take my medication and ask for help and rock long tunics, leggings and comfy dresses for as long as I want. I’ll wear my hair big and messy, too, because why not? Or I will get all glammed up the second I’m able, even if I’m staying home, because also why not? My beauty is mine to own and to style.

I know that it will take me up to 12 months to fully heal internally. This will frustrate me sometimes, but I will give myself grace. It’s a journey, a process. The days may seem long but the months will go by faster than I expect.

As they say, haters gonna hate. I will let negative comments go in one ear and out the other. I know I made the best decision I could. I will not allow regret or “what if?” to weigh me down. I won’t stay stuck. I will move forward. I will surround myself with honest, supportive people who may not always understand, but who will accept me as I am and give me the necessary, gentle pushes to keep going.

I’m still me. I’m still a woman, and a complete one at that. I have passion and drive and interests. I bring a lot to the table. This is but a blip on the radar screen.

********

Now why, you might wonder (if you’re the nosy type), am I getting this hysterectomy?

– I’ve been in constant pain for years. Manageable a lot of the time, sure, but still. Constant pain. I’ve tried everything to treat the problem, to no avail. It just keeps getting worse. Why on earth would I want to keep dealing with that? Why on earth should I keep dealing with that? Nobody gets a medal for suffering. It’s not noble. It’s not romantic.

– I’ve never been “regular” (oh, no – I’m talking about menstrual cycles; shield your eyes and hide your children). It’s either nothing or a scene that Quentin Tarantino would envy. This brings with it a host of concerns. Cancer risk increases. Infection risk increases. My gynecologist put me on progesterone, the absolute, no exceptions, only hormone that I can possibly use, at the lowest dose, in an attempt to “flush things out” and that didn’t really work.

– I can’t have kids (and even if there’s some chance that I can, I shouldn’t). Imagine living with the constant worry of being placed in the “high risk and probably going to get liver cancer, which is hard to treat (not impossible, but hard), so there’s a good chance you’ll die” category if by some miracle you did get pregnant. Imagine how that would impact your marriage. You don’t exactly want to get frisky with your husband when you hurt and when you’re worried about dying sooner than you’d like, most likely taking any baby with you in the process. Don’t talk to me about “leaving it in God’s hands.” God never, ever requires anyone to operate without sense. God never, ever requires anyone to deny reality. That’s bad doctrine. Go sit in a corner. Oh, and don’t come at me with “the Bible never mentions hysterectomy so it’s bad.” The Bible never mentions the internet that you’re using. Go sit in a corner again.

– The longer I keep this jacked-up spare part, the greater my chances of developing the uterine cancer that runs in my family.

– I can’t treat the issues hormonally (save for the aforementioned progesterone that didn’t work). I must not take acetaminophen for the pain. I have to use ibuprofen and naproxen sparingly. (Thanks, freakish damaged liver. I loathe you). Herbs and oils and supplements…just no. Don’t go there with me. They’re unregulated, so who knows what anybody’s really getting in that capsule that promises sparkling unicorns and rainbows. Plus most of that stuff is more dangerous for my liver than any painkiller. And massages and chiropractic…more no. #thatsnothowanyofthisworks

I didn’t arrive at this decision overnight. It’s been…I’d say about 5 years in the making. I’m nervous, of course, because, well, it’s major surgery, but that nervousness is dwarfed by a sense of anticipation, which I know will be followed by relief. No more cramping that keeps me in bed. No more big ol’ clots. The idea that maybe, just maybe, I can actually enjoy sex again. (Yes, I said it. Sex is a good thing).

I’m not a moron. I know the risks. You don’t wind up with a foot-long incision on your belly, the result of a tumor, without knowing the risks of surgery.

So out the uterus goes, and I’m not ashamed. I’m not “selfish” because I want one less health problem to think about. I’m not “sinful” because I chose to heed the advice of four different doctors instead of trying to manipulate God by “praying it away” (not that we shouldn’t pray for healing; there’s just a difference between requesting in faith and demanding a specific response) or using products sold by a multi-level marketing (read: pyramid scheme) company in the hopes they’ll work their magic or availing myself of mystical energy healing or following the direction of a blogger dispensing medical advice despite lack of any real medical knowledge. My life isn’t going to suck, I’m not going to become emotionally numb, I’m not going to lose my mind, I’m not going to walk around singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…” I won’t sit in a chair, staring out the window, sighing heavily for the rest of my poor, sad, useless days. I’m not “less of a woman” because I will now lack a uterus. I mean, part of me is concerned that I’m losing the essence of my personhood, because I’m pretty sure it’s contained in my uterus, but I think I can find some essence on the black market. (If you don’t recognize that sarcasm, I can’t help you).

Christian women need to stand up and lead in these discussions of body and health. It’s time for us to reject the bad message that says our beauty must fit a certain mold, the bad theology that says we cannot be fulfilled or used by God without children or the possibility of any children or additional children and the bad cultural assumptions that keep us holding on when we need to let go. Imagine if we took control of the narrative. Imagine if we stopped being silent. What if we made sensible decisions and talked about them? What if we modeled the hope that God has a good plan, regardless of what happens, to the rest of the world? What if we realized that the 2.5 kids and the white picket fence are not, in fact, a promise found in Scripture? What if we dared to believe that we are women, even if we lose our breasts, our ovaries, our uteruses, our hair – because that’s who God made us to be? That it’s something more than outward appearance? What if we stopped judging ourselves and others by the modern Western ideal of womanhood? What if we looked to the Lord and said, “Thy will be done”?

Lord God, King of my life, Light of my world, Lover of my soul – Thy will be done. I am in Your hands.

Surgeon, yank my uterus. Get it out of there. Give me another set of sweet abdominal scars. I am a battle-hardened warrior, filled with the Spirit of the Living God. I fear not.

Let’s do this.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Silvia Tomo

The LORD Your God in Your Midst: Alive & Active

The Lord your God in your midst,The Mighty One, will save;He will rejoice over you with gladness,He will quiet you with His love,He will rejoice over you with singing.” (1)

Gentle Reader,

Next week we will begin digesting Zephaniah’s book bite by bite. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! This journey with you has already been so rewarding. I can’t wait to learn more!

Today we pause between ending the background work and beginning the detail work. In this space, this breath, we settle on the awesome, holy nature of the Bible.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

– Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

These words, nestled between a commentary on the need to submit to God in order to enter into rest and a beautiful exposition on how the work of Christ in His identification with and salvation of humanity enables that rest, grab our attention. God’s word is alive? God’s word is a sword? What does this mean?

…a sharp word of discernment, which penetrates the darkest corners of human existence.

The author describes God’s word first of all as “living and active.” The former adjective stands at the head of the verse, perhaps for emphasis, and asserts that that word, rather than being outdated, a “dead” speech-act of a bygone era, still exists as a dynamic force with which one must reckon. “Active” proclaims the word as effective in carrying out God’s intentions. The same word that at creation set the elements of the cosmos to their appointed tasks and still governs the universe toward God’s desired intentions (1:2–3), has the ability to effect change in people. It is not static and passive but dynamic, interactive, and transforming as it interfaces with the people of God.

The sword imagery emphasizes that while God’s word is a word of promise to those who would enter God’s rest, it is also a discerning word of judgment. Verse 12 asserts that like a sword that cuts and thrusts, the word penetrates and divides, being able to reach into the depths of a person’s inner life. In listing the parts of a person on which the word acts—“soul and spirit, joints and marrow”—the preacher simply proclaims the word’s ability to break past a surface religion to an inner, spiritual reality. Rather than dealing with externals such as religious observance, the penetrating word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Lest one think carelessly about the extent of God’s discernment, the author assures us through verse 13 that “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” The word translated “uncovered” (gymnos), which normally communicates nakedness or having a lack of adequate clothing, was also used figuratively of being helpless or unprotected. In the context of God’s penetrating word, the concept calls to mind a complete inability to hide anything from God’s gaze. Those who have not responded to God’s word in obedience are spiritually naked, vulnerable before his awesome gaze. A similar imagery is evoked by the participle translated “laid bare,” which means “exposed.” This theme of complete exposure and vulnerability of all creation before God was common in Jewish theology of the era. (1)

God has not ceased speaking. The book you hold in your hands or the words you read on the screen have not lost their importance or meaning or immediacy. What was true for Adam and Eve remains true today.

The world rejects metanarrative, or one overarching “big story.” The Bible stands against this rejection. It declares that God exists. Truth is not relative. Sin is a real condition and a real problem. There is only one way to remedy that condition and problem. Every “little story” fits within that simple yet deeply confrontational declaration of dependence.

Zephaniah’s voice rises with the other Divinely-inspired prophets and authors in praise of the True Lord. He points up, to the One who sits on the throne. He joins in exposing the willful blindness and the depth of darkness found within each and every human being. He pushes the reader toward the light, toward a breaking point. Choose God and live. Anything else is disaster.

This is the message of the Bible.

Reflection

  1. Consider the fact that God sees all and knows all. With that in mind, carve out some time to pray. Is there anything you need to confess to Him right now? Anything you need to deal with? (Prayer doesn’t need to be eloquent or long-winded. Just talk to Him as a child would a loving father).
  2. Think about your approach to the Bible. Do you understand the power in the words you read? Do you understand that you need to cultivate an attitude of worship and reverence?
  3. The point of Bible study is not to gain more head knowledge, but to develop an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord. Where are you at right now? Close to Him? Far away? Confident? Unsure? Where do you want to be? Why?
  4. Many Christians have trouble reading anything in the Old Testament beyond the creation account in Genesis. We assume that it doesn’t really matter for us today. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. How much of Scripture is useful? How much is relevant?
  5. Think about everything you’ve learned so far. What do you want to know now? What do you hope to gain from studying Zephaniah?

Until next time.

My journey to faith. (15)

Sources

(1) NIV Application Commentary (under the “Study This” tab)

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.