I’ve read through quite a lot of devotionals, and I always find myself disagreeing as much as agreeing with them. Often times it’s just simply that I’m not in the same place as the person speaking. It’s also safe to say compassion and empathy are not my gifts, but I’m a work in progress. However, these last three weeks have found me with much in common with words of Streams in the Desert, And many of you know what we’ve been going through this year. But for me, these last two to three weeks have been brutal.
I’m not sure why this latest surgery hit me so hard. You might assume it’s because I’m in a foreign country, but that really isn’t it. It could be because it was and is still painful, but that’s not it either. If I dig deep, I think the reason I have struggled so much more with this surgery has to do with the cumulative effect of everything that’s happened in the last year. Or rather the last two and a half years. Many of you know I had surgery for a broken elbow in 2015. When that happened, I was in a different place mentally than I am now. I wasn’t stressed emotionally or spiritually. I didn’t have a church depending on me at some level. I wasn’t trying to establish consistency with bible studies in the community with unchurched people. I was getting plenty of rest; there weren’t 5 bars outside my inner-city windows. On the contrary the struggle with this latest surgery comes on the heals of poor management of my emotional and spiritual well-being. This surgery, unlike the last, happened in a place emptiness. Last time I was full (maybe I wasn’t, but relative to what I am now, I may as well have been). Last time I was prepared. I had good practices and a solid foundation. The trial was an inconvenience at most. Sure there was the scare about my fingers not working and all that. But that was never a scare to me. I had full assurance of God’s call, so whatever happened in the lead up just seemed like preparation for God’s delivery on His promise. I didn’t realize I had gone this far away from who I wanted to be, let alone who God wants me to become.
Of course no one plans on having surgery twice in two years. Otherwise I would have chosen a different insurance policy. Hindsight is 20/20 but sacrifice is something I’m getting a little tired of. When we were called to this, sacrifice was expected. I prepared myself as best I could, and I believe well. I’ve been ready for this last year. Until now. I really, really, wasn’t ready for this. I’ll spare you the details of my recovery process, but suffice it to say, it’s humbling, daily life-altering, painful, uncomfortable, and well honestly humiliating. Initially I just wanted it to go away. Be healed and move on. Just get it over with. I think God has much larger more important things in mind however. This time, there were mere drops in the tank when this bombshell struck and I didn’t even know it.
Immediately after surgery, I had to go back to the hospital for some green skin. I still organized and administered the church service that week… somehow. I remember asking God about it and knowing that I was supposed to. But then I lead the next week as well, without asking Him about it. And I probably overdid it, or at least the effects of everything that had transpired in the last year was weighing down on me, like playing dog pile as a child at school. It’s bearable and fun and then all of a sudden you realize there’s way too many people on top! There were certainly a few very overweight issues I’d been neglecting. And when they jumped on, fat from lack of attention and discipline, the weight was crushing.
So the Monday before last, I had a little bit of a break down. For the first time in my life I think I experienced what it means to be the wrong kind of overwhelmed. I knew I couldn’t lead another church service in that state. So I called a few trusted people and took the weekend off. I gave it up, for a short time. Immediately I felt the beginnings of relief. One of my mentors recommended a book, and this book has been forcing me to take some inventory, which is much needed. That is no surprise, I knew I needed this and was really looking forward to a retreat put on by our organization that would force and allow me to spend a lot of time alone with God. Unfortunately because of my recovery I can’t go. But that isn’t the real issue and this book is highlighting that. The issue is I’ve fallen into the trap of overextending myself for God and have been neglecting my own relationship with Him. I’ve found satisfaction in what God is doing, rather than in Him alone. So I continued to busy myself with things to get and see results. No result, no satisfaction.
There are many reasons for this. Some are very legitimate. Some aren’t even my fault. But ultimately God has shown me that this time is extremely important and valuable for me, that is: my slow and arduous recovery from surgery. I have accepted it and no longer am I asking it to end, but rather that I would be internally healed first and physically healed whenever God is ready. My real problem is inside. That’s what needs to be fixed. If physically I am healed today, I don’t honestly think it would be the best God has for me.
Which brings me to a related story. Yesterday, one of the nurses that changes my dressings each day asked if she could pray to heal to heal me. Now… a little background. In France, spirituality is far from non-existent. Many people believe in the spirit world. And not surprisingly many people have a convoluted idea of who or what God is, taking religious ideas and personal experiences and mashing them together to form a self-created spirituality. There are also some very disguised occult practices that have a somewhat accepted usage among many people. For example, Reiki seems to be common place. Anyways, this nurse asked me what I do and I told her, which is difficult because I’m still not really sure what I do or how to describe it (“I am here to make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus” isn’t a generally accepted response). She responded that she dances for Jesus and loves God. Sounds fine. But I remain skeptical. My french and her english aren’t good enough to determine what she really thinks of Jesus. I had Jehovah’s Witnesses a few months ago tell me we believe in the same Jesus. They then told me Jesus was my brother, the bible is unreliable, and Hannah and I will remain married in heaven. So you just never know. Jesus here doesn’t mean what it means in the bible. More than half the country connects with catholicism, which can be right and theologically sound, but it often times has superstitions and meaningless or even dangerous cultural traditions attached to it here. For example, I witnessed a French Pénitent, which is a procession where someone wears a pointy hat that disguises their face and does a walk of shame carrying a cross through the city to receive forgiveness for a sin they committed. It looks like a KKK procession to Americans, but isn’t that ominous on the surface over here. However, under the surface it’s at best a very elaborate form of 1 John 1:9. At worst it distorts the free forgiveness that is available to us all simply by asking God, and gives that power to forgive in God’s name to a person or ritual. Abuse of power? Old testament second commandment? I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that thin line. But back to the story. I told her, as long as she prays to Jesus, she could ask whatever she wants. So while she prayed for me, I prayed against any demonic activity and especially that my pain would not be transferred to her (one of the workings of reiki), and figured that Jesus is powerful enough to make this mean something to her and still work out his plan in my life (this has also since allowed me an opportunity to talk about these kind of spiritual things with a few other people who are aware of Reiki and not yet believers, allowing for some good conversations. More about those later). But… my point in all this is that people are wanting to pray for my physical healing. I know now, as I said before, this isn’t the problem and I’d rather retain the physical discomfort for the sake of fixing the internal problems. Yes I just said that. The way I see it, some day I leave this body behind. But everything on the inside comes with me and must get dealt with when I meet Jesus face to face. Suffice it to say, I’d rather deal with it now.
So if you feel like praying for me, please pray for my spiritual and emotional recovery. I know the physical will come in it’s time, but I’d rather come out of this healthy on all fronts than physically healed and internally sick. Also pray for Hannah, she has to live with me.