Scheduling Surgery

by Susannah Baker

About a week and a half ago, I had surgery in order to fix some abdominal issues that have needed fixing since my first pregnancy nine years ago. I decided I had put off surgery long enough (nine years isn’t too long to put off surgery, is it?) because, let’s face it, who really wants to have surgery? My doctor, a man I respect both as a physician and a person, assured me about the pain involved by saying, “Don’t worry. You just won’t like me for a couple of days.” Well, I don’t know about you, but to me, a couple of days means, you know, a couple of days. Like two days, three days, four days max. Like a long weekend, not a few long weeks.

It’s been nine days now since my surgery, and I still can’t stand up straight, I have an incision that goes hip to hip, I have burning muscle spams at night, which means I have to take a muscle relaxer for another week, and I still haven’t attempted to drive my car (did I mention that I have three kids, and things like standing up, driving a car, and not being under the influence of a muscle relaxer during the morning routine of breakfast, making lunches, brushing hair, and TEACHING HOME SCHOOL are sort of essentials in everyday normal parental care?).

The truth is, it’s a pretty good thing I didn’t know recovery would take this long or be this intense because I don’t think I ever would have actually scheduled the surgery even though it was a surgery my body needed to have. Because, let’s face it: who, in their right mind, says, “Yes; sign me up for two good weeks of pain and being totally out of commission while I have a household to run. There’s a space on my calendar that fits in perfectly with that plan.”

All I can say is the Lord has been so gracious to me through the help He has provided. My family and friends have been game-changers, stepping-in, filling in gaps for us with meals, driving, and help with our kids. For that, I have been so grateful. Their help has given me the time and space I have needed to heal and to rest.

But this whole process has given me perspective about the process of healing: how many of us are like me underneath with some serious abdominal issues, in need of surgery, in need of fixing, but for years we run around and avoid the necessary fixing because we are afraid of the constraints that healing will put upon us?

Because fixing takes surgery. And surgery means pain. And pain means an incision. And an incision means a tearing open, a getting rid of the bad and a making of the new. And then it means stitching you back up, and sending you home with wounds that need time and space in our busy schedules and lives that need to heal.

Dr. Boutros was gracious to me: he knew I needed the surgery, and I don’t think he was flat out lying to me about how long recovery would take (right, Sean?), but I do think he was probably trying to shield me from some of the reality of the pain and intensity of the healing process.

The Lord is a little bit like that with us. When our pain from our injuries begin to outweigh the shame and messiness of delving into the stories of our past, we go to Him, sometimes willingly, but often times reluctantly, and say, “OK, Lord, what has to happen for You to fix this, and how long is this really going to take for me to heal?”

And here’s where the breakdown of the analogy between Dr. Boutros and the Lord begins (sorry, Sean). The Lord never responds with a formula or a direct timetable, like, “Come in once for surgery, twice for post-ops, and you should be good to go.” Nor does He say, “Don’t worry: you won’t like Me for a couple of days but then you’ll be as good as new.” Instead, what He asks us is a question, and the question is always this: “Do you want to get well?”

Because to take the time and pain necessary to heal is Oh. So. Hard. It is usually time intensive. Time in God’s Word. Time in consistent, persistent prayer on our knees. Time of consistently turning to Him instead of turning to the tangible, familiar things that we normally use to medicate the pain. Time of learning to rest and be satisfied instead of having to be entertained. Time in going to see the right counselor, searching and seeking out the right fellowship, getting in place the right accountability.

And the cost of healing is often so high. We must often pay dearly out of the wallets of our emotional, spiritual, and material resources. And we always must pay with humility as we learn to forgive and to ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt and wounded along the way.

That’s why there are so few people who really want to get well and take the time for the necessary surgery and recuperation. They prefer the paralytic mat better than the walking-around-straight-up position. They like blind eyes instead of eyes open wide that can actually see. They like the excuses of a victim instead of the demands made upon someone who is well.

I know I do. I like to hold onto my grudges like they were treasures, when all they do is rot my soul. I like to hold onto the inadequate, self-made coverings for shame, refusing to trade them in for the covering of Divine Love because it means I might actually have to learn how to let someone in and love me for who I really am and not who I desperately pretend to be. I like to hold on to the things that money, security, and status in this world can buy because they are things that are tangible, things that I can hold on to, they that help soothe the pain or the shame or the hurt when old wounds and past insecurities flare up and demand entrance in.

But there comes a point in our journeys with the Lord when a fully surrendered and yielded life means saying “Yes” to the surgery, “Yes” to the pain, and “Yes” to the healing because there comes a point when saying “No” is just plain old disobedience. And in our desperation, we can no longer refuse the invitation to get well. We can no longer continue to hold on to our rules and religion instead of real relationship with a living God. We can no longer stand the pain of walking around with bent backs, broken down body parts, and paralyzed wills.

We have to learn to trust the surgeon’s hand, the surgeon’s knife, and the surgeon’s time table. And we have to learn to trust that the demands made upon a person who is well are far better than the consequences of living life as a poor, paralyzed, blind, sick soul.

So where are you today in this process of healing? You may be on the couch like me recovering from surgery in the physical realm. Or you may be in a far more difficult position of being on the proverbial spiritual couch, learning to rest, learning to heal, learning to take the steps of a person who is well.

But all of us must stop asking ourselves the question: Where on my calendar is the time and space to heal? Instead, we must put our calendars down and listen instead to the Voice of the Great Physician within. He will not put us through more than we can handle. He will not ask more of us than we can bear. But He will not stop pursuing us in our wounded, broken down states until we are willing to look at Him and answer His question honestly: “Do you want to get well?”

And if you choose to trust Him in the healing, you too will be blown away by the meals He provides, by the body of Christ He sends to come and aid, surround, and protect you in the healing journey, and in the blessing of rest, joy, and peace your soul ultimately experiences, perhaps for the very first time.

So don’t wait a day longer to schedule your surgery. Let the healing begin.