Tuesday, July 28, 2020

When the pain is blinding.

I have had something like fifteen surgeries. Seven of them have been cesarean section births, two new feet, some corrective plastic surgery, hand surgery, and oral surgery. The worse by far was the parotidectomy. Your parotid gland incorporates nearly the entire side of your face.  One day I found a tumor right next to my right ear.  Everyone told me it was nothing, probably a benign cyst, that I shouldn’t worry, but I knew different. This was one of those times when the voice in the back of your head says, “God’s got a work for you to do. Be prepared, He’s turning up the heat.”
That voice is almost always the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding or convicting us.  Almost two agonizing months after I found the tumor, I lay on an operating table for near six hours while my gifted oncologist, with great precision, removed the tumor which did have some nerve involvement.  Because the nerve was involved, I was supposed be left with anywhere from minor to major facial paralysis. to completely unable to even blink or smile.   Best case scenario would have been Bell’s Palsy as a lasting effect for the rest of my life. By the gracious and miraculous hand of GOD, and complete surprise to all medical personnel, I experienced none of the above.  The story doesn’t end there. After proving to be a stage one malignant tumor, my oncologist recommended daily radiation therapy for a period of six weeks to burn out any remaining cancer cells in the area
I foolishly assumed that the recovery from that surgery was the most painful experience in my life, however, it was a scratch on my cheek compared to what came next. For ten weeks, I endured swallowing razor blades, radiation burns, radiation sores, complete loss of my ability to taste anything, and fatigue like I’ve never known, even after having birthed and raised eight babies. I was supposed to lose all my teeth and very little hair, but GOD had a different plan.  I lost no teeth at all, but half a head of hair. I was bald as an eagle from the middle of my scalp down, but no one knew because the top layer covered it.  I had to walk around with a mullet hair style for over a year, but considering I wasn’t supposed to keep my teeth, I was all too happy to be out of style, looking like that achy-breaky, country artist from the early 90’s. 
 The last difficult ordeal, and I use that term loosely, was pain-med withdrawal.  The fool that I was, about two weeks after my last treatment, when I figured I could stand the physical pain, I just removed the pain patches and threw them away. Let me suggest, NEVER to do that!  I wasn’t interested in tapering down, I was interested in getting back to work and normal life.  The withdrawal I experience was similar to the kind of withdrawal a heroin addict experiences. Now, don’t go assuming I was high and having a ball all that time, because when narcotic painkillers are used properly for pain, there is no high as a kite. There is only pain-relief to a degree, enough to live, but not enough to forget the pain that was ever present.
 All during those months, I had lost sight of the reason for the pain. I had forgotten that it was all for a greater purpose. I grew angry, bitter and near impossible to live with, a time of my life of which I greatly grieve. It’s a funny thing about pain, sometimes it can be so severe and life-draining, that the only thing we can focus on in our daily life is the pain. Everything else becomes a blur, and we think is this the way it’s always going to be?  We wonder what if felt like to not be in pain.  We can’t remember life without it. It drains our energy, saps our joy, and steals any happiness or hope we have for the future. Compassion and agape love are gifts given to us by GOD, some get more some get less, while empathy is an equal opportunity employer of our future work. 
That year my husband and I both survived dual cases of cancer, however, our three decade old difficult marriage did not.  The physical pain was over, but the heart pain was only to get worse.  I do thank GOD for every dark, dreary, bleak, hopeless, despairing, oppressed and painful moment in my life, because good will come from all of this. I’ve heard over and over the amount of difficulties and obstacles a person has to endure is in proportion to the size of the ministry GOD has planned for us after we have survived it all.  I hope that is true. 
Currently, I am in one of those extremely emotionally painful times where my back is against the wall and there is no way out of my situation, short of the Hand of GOD. There is no easy way out of this one, and sometimes, I get so lost in the pain, I can’t remember the thousands of promises GOD gives us in His Word.  One of them is what GOD gave me the weekend before my cancer surgery. This one is in Exodus, when the Israelites were at the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army closing in on them. There was no way out for them, or so they thought
Sometimes I lose focus, and I look too much at the circumstances, the storm, the waves, and not the LORD who just told me I could walk on water.  Sometimes we fall into the devil’s trap of only seeing and feeling the pain.  This is the time that GOD uses not to test us, because He knows if we will pass, but to prove to us that, yes, we can endure it. We have two choices in pain, grow a deeper love for GOD or withdraw from Him. I choose to grow deeper in love, my husband on the other hand, chose the opposite road. People tell me everyday that GOD would never end a marriage. People who say that don't know GOD very well, because in His Grace, He did.  We were both drowning in a sea of despair. I was on the top trying to keep my head above water, while he was under the water, trying to pull me under with him.  
I thought being free from the trap of a dying marriage would make it better, it only caused more grief, because daily, he is a reminder that it didn't work.  I am in constant daily heart pain from that and a few other heart-crushing events since then, but I march on, or as I tell my children when they are in physical pain, "Kerri-Strugg-it. If she can do a perfect vault and win the gold for her team on a broken ankle, then you can do whatever it is you have to do while smarting a little, or even a lot.“

Recently, I learned that I focused too much on Psalm 27:13, the promise that life would get better and that I would see the "goodness" of the LORD in the land of the living, and that made it worse.  NOW, I focus on the character of GOD, because that is always good, always gracious, always faithful, and always for my good and the good of His Kingdom.  That is where the numbing agent really is. 

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