Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dichotomy



I've just been thinking lately how "at war" I seem to be within myself.  It kind of culminated yesterday when I was doing a Bible study on suffering.  This particular lesson was on satan and suffering.  I guess one thing lead to another and I thought, really, the whole Christian battle is dichotomous, is it not?

Dichotomy.   Paradox.  Oxymoron.  Ambiguity.  Contradiction.

Our "inner being" is selfish and spoiled and wants what it wants when it wants it!  But the Holy Spirit in us, the "new" being, has the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

But there's so much more to it than that, for me anyway.  I am at once extremely merciful and compassionate, yet equally adamant about justice for wrongdoing.  Not that they need to be mutually exclusive, but most times it seems like a person is one or the other.  There is a specific situation I have in mind for this:  take the example a woman in an abusive relationship.  It’s just she and her husband at home; her children are grown.  Yet she chooses to stay.

Part of me says, "Well, she's probably terrified and he's probably threatened her and she feels like staying is the right thing to do so no one gets hurt." (Compassion.)

The OTHER part of me says, "Toughen up!  Do what needs to be done and get out!"  And there is VERY little sympathy in THAT part of me.

Other instances:  I'm sort of healthy for a sick person.  I mean, my blood pressure, cholesterol, kidneys, liver, heart; all that stuff is just great.  But don't ask me to walk uphill in the sand for more than 5 feet because my legs will give out and I'll fall.  

Other people seem to LOOK the epitome of health, yet drop dead.  I knew a man in the peak of health, late 40's, early 50's, ran every day....just dropped dead on a run one day.  

Paradox.

I enjoy living in the country, most of the time.  The open spaces, the country air, the gentle breezes. Watching my son grow up in a way which, in my mind, is the best way a boy can grow up.  Room to run, frogs to catch in the pond, his faithful dog always a step behind him.  Not having neighbors in your face.  No noise pollution.  Clearer skies to see the stars because it's SO dark at night.  The amazing sunrises behind the barn.  The sunsets right outside the living room window that demonstrate God's brilliant love for us.

But then there are the bugs.  And mice.  IN the house.  And the 5 foot snake skin my husband found (still wet from its being shed) in our yard.  And that it takes 10 minutes to get a store that doesn't sell BAIT next to the bread. The fact that a tractor is more important than a car.  The smell.  Of cows and grass and cut hay and dirt and dog poo.  

And the noise.  Whoever said the country was peaceful has never lived where I do. The roaring and clicking of crickets and other insects, and annoying dissonant chords of the tree frogs.  The croaking of bullfrogs, and hammering of woodpeckers. And the birds!!  I love watching them, but some of the most beautiful birds make the ugliest noise!

Contradiction.

I guess my point is that there is simply more to any one person or situation than meets the eye.  So let’s try and show some extra compassion this week.  It may SEEM that you have all the facts, but the situation may be something you’d never expect.

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 (NIV)
16 And I saw something else under the sun:
 In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
    in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
17 I said to myself,
“God will bring into judgment
    both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.”


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Looking For Hope Through Pain



Sometimes, this time of year is difficult for me.  In 2000, I was in the Neurological ICU at the University of Michigan for most of the months of October, November and December. There are some dates that stick out more than others: on October 13 I had an MRI under sedation. When they laid me flat, I quit breathing and turned blue.  I might not have survived but for the quick response of the Code Blue team, who emergently intubated me and “brought me back.”

On October 17 I was intubated again, and helicoptered to the University of Michigan, put on a ventilator, and was nearly dead.  I got MRSA pneumonia, so on November 1, I was trached.  

This time in the hospital was very, very scary.  I was kept under quite heavy sedation because I was highly agitated and kept trying to pull my tubes out.  Doctors couldn’t tell me whether I was going to live or die.

Once I finally got out in December, just before Christmas 2000, I had a whole new battle to deal with: PTSD.  I would have flashbacks of being on the vent.  I would wake up during the night from a horrible nightmare where I was coding, or where I had died…It was terrifying.
As time goes on, things have a way of not taking up so much of your memory.  Some things will never seem less horrible, no matter how much time goes by.  For me, slowly but surely, I started healing physically and emotionally.  I got stronger in my body, and less traumatic in my emotions. 

Even though it has now been 16 years, I still remember November first as the anniversary of getting my trach.  I start thinking about the hospital stays, and the whole horrible mess. But it doesn’t cut quite as deeply.  Year after year, the sting lessens.

This time of year is difficult for another reason as well.

On November 1, 2007, my very best friend in the whole world, Linda, was diagnosed with Stage 4 endometrial cancer.  And it had metastasized.  She had her first chemo treatment in December, 2007 on her 40th birthday.  She passed away October 2, 2008.
A little piece of my heart died that day.  It hasn’t ever come back.  Linda was the kind of friend you dreamed about having.  The kind of friend that you could wake up in the middle of the night if something horrible happened. She was the kind of friend you could depend on, 24/7, 365. She was LOYAL.
We had one fight in the entire 14 years of our friendship, and she was so quick to forgive me for being overbearing and way too into her business. She had a quiet strength and determination that many people underestimated. Linda loved deeply. She didn't make friends quickly, but when you became her friend, you were her friend for life. She was a friend worth fighting for.

Linda's favorite verse was Zephaniah 3:17; "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." I remember the day she found this verse. I walked into her apartment and she showed it to me first thing. She had written it on a piece of paper and put it on her end table. That God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, would rejoice over her with singing made Linda almost giddy.

I don't think she realized how many people rejoiced over her.

I will love Linda always, I will forget her never. She has indelibly changed my life. While my heart is broken, my spirit is soaring because I know that she is now whole, healthy, happy, and pain-free. There are no tears beyond Heaven's gate. There is no more night. There is no cancer.

Friends, cherish your loved ones.  I mean really, really love them.  Hold them tight.  Tell them how important they are to you.  You never know what’s going to happen.  That was one thing Linda and I treasured.  Those last eleven months and 1 day, we poured out our hearts to one another.  Nothing was left unsaid.  She knew how much I loved her and I knew how much she loved me. It was a sweet, beautiful, precious time.  And yet watching her suffer was almost unbearable.

She truly made me a better person.  So these “anniversaries” are tough.  But I know that one day I will be reunited with this best friend a girl could ever dream of.  And we will laugh.  And we will sing.  And there will be no more pain.

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:3-5 ESV