Having just undergone my sixth surgery, clearly I’m qualified to write about the healing process. My first taste of major surgery was thrust on me at the youthful age of 25, and it was brain surgery at that.
Along the rabbit trail of carpel tunnel diagnosis, my neurologist found a slightly elevated growth hormone in my blood, and subsequent MRI showed a small and curious blob on my pituitary gland, smack in the middle of my head. Just weeks earlier, my dot com startup had announced failure and impending company shut-down, adding stress to heaps of anxiety and fear.
Delivering to me the truth without emotion, my doctor deadpanned, “We have to remove it to see what it is.” And so they went through my nose to explore the uncharted territory of my head.They say that it’s bad to pray for patience or faith because God will certainly give you opportunity to practice what he wants to teach you. Not that I openly asked for such lessons to be imparted to me – I was simply on a crash course having given my life over to Jesus just six months prior through an incredible string of events that led me to the place of complete abandon – kneeling, heart-stricken, laid bare, and stripped down one Sunday afternoon in April of the same year.
The walk of faith in Christ is not for the weak; freshly devoted, I clung to every verse I read from the Bible, each one molding and carving out my faith from what I had known previously. My life, at that time, was fraught with opportunity to lean on Him.
My husband and I, before knowledge of my surgery or job loss, had planned to move from Silicon Valley up to the suburbs east of Sacramento. We had spent the summer and early fall shopping for a house and had picked out the perfect home in a new build neighborhood. We had selected the lot, the floor plan, the carpet, the tile and had already put a sizable chunk of cash down.
Then the world began to spin as September 11, 2001 occurred; its fallout affecting each of us dramatically including my company, which had all its eggs in the nonprofit business basket. We could make it no further given the fact that all resources throughout the country shifted to focus on 9/11 relief efforts.
As my company’s CEO announced the date of closure and I met with my neurosurgeon that very week, I pleaded with my doctor to consider rushing the surgery so that it would be covered, at least in part, by my company’s insurance. The date of closure was October 30 and the end of my insurance benefits was Novemer 3, 2001; my doctor acquiesced and scheduled the surgery for November 29. This was one of the many ways God provided hope in the middle of what seemed like suffering.
This same week I received my two-week’s notice and scheduled my neurosurgery date, our final down payment and loan details were due to the builder and lender for our new home.
There was so much uncertainty; so much fear to be managed and dealt with; so much disappointment all crashing down with nowhere to run and hide.
Yet when I opened my Bible, God spoke to me: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1)
As I prayed, God affirmed in my heart that the circumstances around me were not necessarily a reflection of my then recent decision to follow Him, but that I needed to rest in His protection and shelter, even if he would never take the painful events out of my life completely.
After swift yet fervent prayers, my husband and I made the decision to pull out of our new home purchase. It was hard. Really hard. But we were encouraged in that the builder refunded us all our deposits in full. We had not lost physical funds, only dreams and aspirations of home ownership. However, God confirmed in us that this was the right decision and gave us peace about it.
I took each day, one at a time; each step carefully. Relishing the last few days of work, God filled me with gratitude for the environment that had become a fertile ground for my burgeoning faith.
I was able to finish last projects at work to help complete the door-shutting process. It kept my mind occupied until the day of surgery. Having been raised a Christian Scientist, surgery, doctors and medications were somewhat foreign territory for me. Fear could have overtaken me, yet Jesus was right there holding my hand – along with my husband and family. I felt His tangible presence, His love, and His peace as though He was a real live person standing by my bed.
The surgeon was able to do the surgery through my nose thankfully, so no hair was shaved, no visible vestiges would be present, only the emotional scars would touch me. When surgery was complete, thankfully, what they found was a Pituitary Adenoma or cyst, a shriveled up pouch that once held the gland itself in utero. Nothing else of concern or interest.
Once removed, my six-week recovery included headaches, nausea, menopause-like hot flashes, and crazy emotional mood swings, flanked by social anxiety of which I had never experienced before. We decided to move to the Sacramento suburbs and lease a condo, so packing and resting were my sole jobs.
I can now relate to Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde, the Hulk, and other troubled super heroes who can’t seem to manage their emotional outbursts. Although God was carrying me through and I clung to Him, things were not easy; yet I could still see the visible hand of God guiding me through this rocky zone of my life.
We moved, and my husband commuted back to the Bay Area for three months during the work week to finish the tail-end of his undergraduate degree. Gone during the week, I continued to heal and God revealed the next plan for our lives: Just shortly after the New Year, my old boss contacted me and offered me a consulting position with his new company.
Like a fawn, I began to gain my legs under me through this provision of work.
This time shaped me dramatically as I traversed my new stomping ground, new work-from-home consulting, and a new church. I continued to heal physically and grow stronger spiritually – albeit slowly – with few setbacks. Just four short months later, I became pregnant with my first child.
While there were still many challenges during this season, I can honestly say God taught me more during this difficult zone than through the easy, trouble-free times.
Near the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus aspired to communicate the days to come to his faithful disciples despite their inability to grasp what He was saying. He wanted to give them peace, and for us to have peace smack in the middle of uncertainty. Jesus says to them and to us, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
For me, the only way I overcame the roller-coaster ride of events that year was in knowing that I had a guide, friend, and savior who also endured suffering, pain, and sorrow just like I did.
Though the remembrance of pain lingers, joy and peace ultimately arrive when we apply faith to the fierce challenges of this life.
[This article was first written and published on my good friends’ awesome blog, Revealing the Story.]