For my blogging friends, I wanted to let you know my tumor was removed. I await news on whether or not it’s benign, but I am hopeful. Next to me is my best friend and newly-appointed nurse. I felt held by God and the love of family and friends. Will post when I feel up to it. xoxo
I am living out the age-old stumbling block: how can a good God allow bad things to happen? The question becomes so much more interesting when you add two little words: …to me? God, how can You let a brain tumor happen to me? Because when it happens to someone else, we can justify it by saying perhaps somewhere deep down where only God can see, they deserved it. Or we just shake our heads and figure it’s too complex an equation. So long as our stuff’s not broken, we have neither the time nor the inclination to be philosophers.
Now I am faced with the question as to why my good God would allow me to go through this. I confess: the idea of a Sawzall going through my skull does not appeal to me. (That’s authorial minimizing. Truth is, I’m quite terrified.) People keep calling me brave, and while I think they’re kind, they are mistaken. I am a woman on a train. I can’t get off. My train is taking me to a destination I dread. While the train speeds onward, I can move about my “cabin” doing things like dishes and homeschooling. Sometimes, like yesterday, friends join me. We paint together and laugh and remember good times. I am so distracted with their love, I forget my destination. Then they leave. I look out the window. There it is again, my head.
There is no brave in things like this. There is no choice, except to trust God laid these tracks and built this train. I ask God to make me fearless. He just keeps the engine moving. He directs me to His Word. He loves me through His people. Each day I receive encouragement. Notes, flowers, verses, meals, prayers, presents—even a song. Two sweet souls gave us a pre-surgery celebration: dinner and a night away. All these acts hug me. God, He holds me. But as of today, He has not administered a spiritual barbiturate. In my present fear, I trust God loves me.
Just yesterday I had a concern. I learned that after a craniotomy, most people can only sleep sitting up. Laying flat puts too much pressure on the skull. One person wrote that she slept in her La-Z-Boy for months. I thought about how much trouble I have sleeping right now, with a whole head. A new fear began to take hold: I have no La-Z-Boy. I mentally screamed and immediately searched Craigslist. I may have prayed. I don’t remember.
Even used, recliners are pricey. I gave up on the idea of one, gave myself my usual pep talk that making do never killed a person. A few hours later, a friend showed up with a plastic bottle full of cash. “Someone was praying over this money and felt God wanted you to have it,” she told me. “I’m sure you can use it for something.”
Here was my recliner money. Arranged before I even knew I needed it.
So how can a good God allow me to go through this? He goes with me. At each step there is a small sign confirming I am not alone, that an orchestration is happening beyond my comprehension. And this morning I got another sign I’ll save for my next post. I leave you with this: plumb yourself as if stuff’s broken. Ask God to show Himself to you. We are so good at distracting ourselves from what really matters until what really matters is threatened.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26
The first time I recall being comforted by God, it was an intellectual decision. I was twenty and living in a section of SanDiego where you couldn’t get a pizza delivered. Too dangerous. So when I heard the following logic my heart was soft to it: Imagine you are in an alleyway in a bad section of town (my section). It is late at night. You are alone. A group of men come out a door and walk in your direction…
How do you feel when you see the silhouettes? Do you reach for your pepper spray? Click the safety on the cute revolver you hoped you’d never need? Or do you pretend (as I so often did) to be utterly unfazed by the unequal sides? As if I could repel them with confidence. Peacocking. Roarless roaring.
Now. What if you knew the approaching men just came from a Bible study? Would that change anything?
For me, it changed everything. A Bible study. The men were trying to live right. It could have been a Buddhist study or a yoga class. If I was honest, any religion seemed to have healing properties. It was a step for me toward God. I had many more to take.
Now, twenty-some years later and in countless times between, I receive God’s comfort. I’m square in the middle of a trial. Not denying that. But a lesson as well. God is my teacher. Some might say I’m ridiculous for seeing it that way. That I’m too weak to walk this journey without the crutch of faith. That my ego wants to believe in a God who loves me when science says I’m just unlucky. I’d respond that I’d rather live in ridiculous peace than in reasonable panic. I’ve done it both ways.
In my last post I shared how frightened I was by the fact that my neurosurgeon referred me to his teacher. When you can’t figure something out, where do you turn? To the teacher. That rationale, plus some ill-placed verbiage from the receptionist had me certain I was about to die. Any minute. That does things to you. You want to stop everything and hug people. You want to tell them nice things. You scramble with a squirrel’s grace into the lap of God and cling to His neck. Your prayers are incoherent.
I waited from Thursday morning until Tuesday morning to learn I was not a walking time bomb. Thursday, the receptionist told me, go today. When I couldn’t get in for a week, I figured my critical scan was sitting in a queue, unread by my neurosurgeon’s very busy teacher. On Tuesday, my regular neurosurgeon called and explained he was leaving his practice and could not be available for the post-surgical two-month infection window. This was a lesson to stop trying to figure things out. Somehow, after the places my mind had gone, generic brain surgery and possible radiation was an unlikely relief. God tells me to trust Him, to not lean on my own understanding. Because my understanding is limited, and His is not. God knew between Thursday and Tuesday that my neurosurgeon was moving. God knows the receptionist could use a class: How to NOT Scare the Hell Out of Patients 101. Words and phrases like critical and the doctor read your scan at home, go today—these would not be used.
Now. In light of my upcoming surgery, I have other fears. New and more specific fears. God knows about them as well. Did you know that Stonewall Jackson was a believer? And he would have known this verse from Job: A person’s days are determined. It was likely on his heart at the Battle of Bull Run. Jackson knew if it was his day to die, hiding wouldn’t help. He knew it so perfectly he didn’t even flinch. He stood there like a stone wall, they said. Can you imagine that sort of faith?
I’m no Stonewall Jackson. I’m more like a bird, easily spooked. Perhaps because I read and write scary stories, I see shadows everywhere. Especially in a dark alley. Squaring off with a gang of men, not only could I imagine what they might do to me, I can imagine their abusive childhoods, their fall into drugs, into gangs, into apathy. But no. They came from a Bible study, you say? I imagine the great work God is doing in them. I can smile.
I have many unpublished posts which read like a small intestine, my fear and my faith circling back on one another and all jumbled up. But I keep them and may eventually share them because I want a record of what was in my mind, besides a tumor. I want to end on a note of heartfelt gratitude for each person who reached out to me during this time. Words, much as I love them, do not do justice to how thankful I am for each of you.
My alarm clock told me it was time to wake up.
But it didn’t stop there.
It went on to remind me about yesterday.
I hit snooze.
My mirror told me I look rather haggard lately. Getting old and ugly and hadn’t you better work on your personality? The mirror disagreed strongly with my alarm clock.
My rusty minivan with the huge crack in the front bumper told me it too had a bad day yesterday. That was yesterday. We got the call while we were taking a walk in the park. We’d stopped for ice cream.
“Are you serious?” asked my husband, ice cream cone in hand.
All the fun conversations begin with the phrase: Are you serious?
Today no one told me to drive faster. Or jeered at my habit of abruptly braking. I have bad depth perception, people tell me. I think things are closer than they are, more dangerous than they are. I see danger everywhere.
The Lexus, Mercedes, and Teslas with whom I share the roadway, they told me I could have made better decisions in my youth. My youth told me it doesn’t love me and wants to break up. My children told me I make their lives miserable, that I make everything harder than it has to be. My house told me I clearly don’t have feelings for it anymore. My garden wants a divorce.
The sunrise over the interstate told me that beauty and ugly can and do copulate. Most every day. That I can have faith and still grieve the death of my dreams. That I can get a friend request from someone dead set on being my enemy. I can be smart and dumb at the same time. I can seem to have it all together and be falling quite apart. Yes. That was yesterday. Today I am told by the birds that beauty hasn’t fled entirely. The dead squirrel matted to the roadside with his symphony of black flies, disagrees.
A fictional character told me it’s not about how hard I hit, but how hard I can get hit and keep moving forward. Jesus says to take the hit and offer up the other cheek. These two agree. I listen to these teachers as if my life depended upon it. Because of them, I listen to the alarm clock when it tells me to wake up.