I'm three days out of surgery. My recovery is going slower than I hoped (just spoke with the surgeon who thinks it's best to remove the drains Thursday rather than Tues) but isn't too bad overall.
I will update later on the surgery and recovery, but first I wanted to explore some thoughts I had the night before surgery. It was scary hearing that my team of doctors thought it was necessary to do a mastectomy. Not because of what the mastectomy itself is (I knew most women with bc are confronted with this surgery at one point or another and I was on my way to accepting it, too), but because of the urgency behind the surgery. I miss the "good ole days" when both doctors led me to believe that lumpectomy was a totally acceptable thing for me. I'm tired of hearing words like aggressive, invasive, and large.
So when we got the news, only 12 hours prior to when my surgery was to happen, I worried about what it meant. Suddenly, the less invasive option was no longer an option. We were, once again, going the agreesive route. Terry and I spent much of that night praying and we each wrote some encouraging scriptures on notecards to carry with us the next day.
Around 1 a.m. Terry fell asleep and it was just me, alone in the dark. I could have woken Terry up, but I was so encouraged by his sound-sleep. I was impressed by his confidence and faith. Because I would be awake nearly all night, having the worst night of my life, feeling my faith be tested over and over again.
Jacob wrestled with an angel (some say it was God) in Genesis. They wrestled all night long and in the morning Jacob says, "I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared." (Gen 32:30) My circumstances and reasons were different, but I can only describe what happened to me last Thursday as "wrestling with God."
I felt tormented by the possible future and I'd read my verses and seek for the peace they promised. I'd read, "When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer" Psalm 94:19. But it wouldn't erase my doubts. I'd read, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness," 2 Cor. 12:9, but not feel God's grace. I felt alone and lost. It felt like I was far from God. I knew He was there with me but I couldn't feel him. I knew the scriptures were written just for me, but I didn't believe them. I knew I was taken care of but I felt abandoned. I'd lost faith.
I know spiritual warfare isn't a fun thing to talk about in church. Especially not in our culture of "feel good" sermons. But, I know this war to be a real one. I know how hard the battle over our relationship with God is. I'm thankful that I was ready for battle last Thursday- that I had my spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).
I can't tell you how I pulled through to Friday morning. It was a long fight- I'd be presented with a lie as my thoughts wondered. Oh, how it would have been so easy to succumb to the lie and wallow, become depressed, or cry out. But I'd search for God and truth every time, eager to negate the lie and wipe away the negativity it left behind. It was hard. I was emotionally-drained and numb by the next morning.
Ever since that night, I've been thinking about times when our faith is tested. Maybe the most obvious story is when Peter walks on the water. He had tremendous faith to even take that first step. But he lost his courage a few steps in.
Matthew 14:29-32: "...Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
One of the verses I wrote down on a notecard is, "You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel and Your Savior." (Isaiah 43:1-3) Reading this verse made me think of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1-3).
Their story is a miracle. They live despite being thrown into a blazing furnace. And while they were in the fire, a fourth person, God, was seen to be standing with them. The end of the story tells us that when they came out of the fire, neither their robes nor hair were burned and they didn't smell of fire. This is the end result we see. We know of the miracle-- three people beating death.
But what of their struggle during their time in the fire? Like me, did they struggle with their faith? Did they see God standing beside them but still question? Did the flames get hot and scare them? Did the smoke obscure their vision and cause panic? I wonder- just because we know the end of the story and we give glory to God for the miracle, do we forget to acknowledge what these three men still had to endure? After all, if I were them, I might have said, "God, can't we prove the point without us actually having to be in the fire?" I'm sure I would have asked that. Even with God beside me, I would have preferred to not have to be in the fire.
God is all-powerful; if He chose to do so, He could protect us from any pain during trials. He could have told Shadrach that He wouldn't feel any heat in the fire. He could have told Mary and Martha not to worry- that even though Lazarus had died, He would be back to raise him from the dead. God could have even made it possible for Jesus to not feel any pain while he suffered on the cross. After all, Jesus asked to be spared of crucifixion.
But God doesn't tell us how our story ends or completely protect us from pain- physical or emotional- while we're going through life. He gives us a resting place to go to during struggles, though. He tells us not to worry. And in my favorite verse these days, he says, "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." 1 Peter 5:10
Wish I had a nice way to end this post. A way to tie it all up nicely. But I don't. Just wanted to share my experience and what I've been thinking about. I'll write soon about the surgery and recovery. Thanks for contiuing to support us. We still look forward to the calls, emails, letters.
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