Life & Health Theology

Meditations on Surgery VIII: This is Home (Sort of…)

February 12, 2010

Well, I’ve been out of the hospital for a week and am at home (living with the Briix’s — a family from my church here). Let me just say this, being out of the hospital is infinitely better than being in there, and being in a home is amazing. I am so thankful for the Briix’s and their willingness to let me into their home for up to 6 weeks.

I may have said this before, but I will say it again, going through a difficulty like this has given me the great opportunity to see the Church be a real and physical manifestation of Jesus to me. I can’t imagine what I would do without the Church to take care of me in times of need such as this. I can’t even begin to tell you all of the things they have done (without me asking!) to make sure that I can recover well without any worries. If the Church around the world would love people like they have loved me, I think we would see the world’s view of the church redeemed as it becomes the hands and feet of Jesus. Perhaps that’s why James calls “pure and undefiled religion” as taking care of widows and orphans in their need. I’ve seen that firsthand, and it’s beautiful.

Experiencing the Church as it ought to be has changed my view on giving to charities to help people in need. I’ve realized I don’t want to give to charities anymore. I don’t even want to give to Christian charities per se.  It’s not that I disagree with what they are doing (it’s great!), but I don’t want to give glory so much to the charities. Instead, I want to give to churches. When I give to charities who help people, people get helped (and often hear the gospel), but the people look to the charity workers/volunteers/etc. as the people who have helped them. But when I give to the local church, not only is it typically more financially efficient, but (ideally) it redeems the local church in that area. That’s what I want! I want the local churches around the world to be radically seen differently when they begin to love like Christ. Then the gospel is proclaimed, the church (the people of God) are redeemed, and people are helped by a local body. I know that’s a tangent from surgery, but it’s been on my mind a lot with everything going on in Haiti. If anyone knows a way to give to local churches in Haiti, I’d love to know so I can give to help redeem the church in Haiti and around the world.

Anyways, the Church can be a beautiful thing when it loves as it is loved by God. Sadly that doesn’t happen enough.

Back to surgery. Being back in Hillsdale is great. It’s awesome to have visitors, and that is often the highlight of my day. I also very much enjoy Tanya (and Victoria’s) amazing home cooking! Great food is constantly put before me. I just wish I could eat more, or taste everything fully. The most difficult thing about the past week has been that I’m on some heavy antibiotics to get rid of the big blood clot I have (or hopefully, had) near my J-Pouch. Not only do they make me drowsy and antsy all day long (which is no fun), but they also slow down my output and take away my appetite and ability to fully taste. I honestly have not been hungry since I had my surgery — which is really weird. I see food that looks really good to my eyes, but I’m never hungry for it. So Tanya and Steve just put tons of food in front of me all the time and I have to work hard at eating it. At first, I could hardly taste anything and so it was mind over matter to simply eat anything. During that time Steve said I “ate like a 90-pound girl,” not like a man. It was true. Eating became a discipline.

Over time my ability to taste food has come back, but the hunger hasn’t. It’s odd how much I miss hunger now. Losing things makes you so much more appreciative of them. Other things I have lost that I now appreciate: the ability to put my own socks on, the ability to pick things I’ve dropped off the floor, the ability to drive, the ability to laugh deeply (without pain), among many other things. If you can do those things, be very thankful and praise God everyday that you are able to do them. We get so ungrateful when we are so blessed everyday. Sadly, I don’t think telling you to be grateful works as well as actually losing the little things and realizing how much you miss them. Oh, Pain and Loss can be such sweet companions if we have the proper perspective and look for God’s hand in them. He is not ignorant of their workings and effects. What a God we serve, who uses pain, loss, and sin for our good and his glory! It blows my mind every time I realize it.

Another thing I’ve become appreciative of is the ability to work. I thought this recovery time would be a good time to get ahead on my Seminary classes, read a ton of books, and get a lot of good thinking/writing done. I was terribly wrong. Because of the antibiotics I hardly am able to do anything. A 10 minute phone conversation is a victory. I must constantly be changing things because I can’t stay focused long. I usually write these posts in sections because it’s hard to concentrate so long. I thought doing nothing for a couple of weeks would be relaxing, but now I wish I could go back to work 60 hours a week. A good friend of mine once shared a quote from Pascal’s Pensees, which says, “When a soldier complains of his hard life (or a labourer, etc.), try giving him nothing to do.” That quote rings so true right now. Doing nothing is not what we were created to do, and it puts one on edge when that is practically all he can do. I experience that firsthand everyday.

A couple more random thoughts that have been in my head and I need to write down:

I have named my stoma (the part of my ilium [small intestine] that sticks through my belly). I call it “Skoobs.” It has nothing to do with Scooby-do, it comes from the Greek word σκυβαλον (“skubalon”). If you want to know what that means then just Google it, and you’ll understand why I named it that. I often converse with Skoobs, although he is a poor communicator. You can often find me cheering him on throughout this whole process. He is a constant reminder how I can’t really control life, or anyone in life. He does everything of his own will, often against mine. But overall we have a good relationship as long as he’s not being a recluse and pack-rat, which pains me much.

I also have a sweet scar. I had 35 staples, and the incision runs from just below my sternum down 2-3 inches below my belly button. It’s long! Don’t worry, they cut around the belly button and preserved it! I was worried too. That was one of the hardest parts of deciding to go through with the surgery, and so knowing my belly button would remain intact was reassuring to me and enabled me to go through with the procedure. It was hard to allow them to cut through my abdomen though. In fact, the one thing I remember from the surgery was hearing a lot of crying from the nurses in the operating room before I went under. I was confused at first, but realized that they were weeping and lamenting the need to ruin my perfectly chiseled abs. I’ve never heard such intense mourning before. I imagine it must be difficult to destroy such an exquisite beach body merely to add days to my life, but life is full of difficult things that need to be done. I heard talk after surgery about how my surgeon dulled at least four scalpels trying to break through my six-pack, but I can’t verify that.

I think that’s enough sporadic rambling for now. I will post more as it comes to mind (and I am able). Only 4-5 more days of taking antibiotics, so I hope to be more clear headed then!

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