Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why Not How?

Two days from now will mark the one-year anniversary of beginning a battle I didn’t know I was entering into. I knew that 12 months ago I was bidding farewell to life as I had always known, to my body as I had always been accustomed, and to dreams that I had always held onto but I was unaware that I was shaking the box of its contents completely. Everything as I knew it would be turned upside down and inside out, nothing was sacred and left untouched because of it and I’ve spent the last 12 months waiting to find footing so I could finally sit down to write that the storm has settled. 

I knew my hysterectomy would leave me with grief.  How could it not? You don’t exhaust all other options, pray for a hail Mary miracle, and literally pound your fists against the bathroom floor, while laying in a puddle of your own tears, and then gracefully oblige like a ballerina into the operating room. At the age of thirty, days before Thanksgiving and my next birthday, I followed the recommendation of doctors and the ones I had gone to for second, third, fourth, and fifth opinions, and let them strip me bare for a total hysterectomy. On that cold Seattle morning, my husband and I were discouraged and defenseless. In a matter of 3-4 hours my body would age just as many decades, and I would hand in my mamma-to-be hopes and dreams for the chance at a better quality of life. Our hope was that pain would no longer dictate my day and perhaps after almost 20 years of being the bleeding woman, His cloak would cover me, bind up my wounds and heal me.

However, after my operation, not only did I go head to head with “Monster Menopause” without the assistance hormone replacement therapy but my body suffered many physical repercussions because of the surgery, leaving me in a far worse state post surgery than prior. Everyday felt like living life with a stranger. Not only did I not physically look like my old self, I felt completely different. Foods tasted different, I was no longer able to sleep, I had inexplicable pain, my feet were swollen, my blood tests began to go awry, and life began to simply come undone.

With each passing day, my circumstances and my health status worsened and my heart grew weaker. As someone who had lived with chronic illness for so long I had mastered the ability to put on a happy face when needed, to get through a specific task, social event, or even a conversation. But now I found myself not even able to hide the pain I was in. Even the people I thought were my inner circle proved to not want much to do with me until I reached safe harbor.

I was dizzy. In circles I cried out to God.
Where are you?!??
Why, Lord. Why?
I spent hours in tears wondering if I could make it through. I was questioning God, wondering why He still had me in this place. After two decades of pain, illness, surgeries, hospitalizations and having been stripped of my dream to have children, instead of turning a corner I sink deeper.
The rains beat down heavier.
Have you been there? Have you asked those questions? Crying out to God, have you wondered, why? Why, me? Why, this? Why, now?

Why, did my parents get divorced?
Why, my sister, in that car accident?
Why, me that was raped?
Why, my mom that has to die from cancer?
Why, my brother with autism?
Why, did my husband cheat on me?

So many questions. And we feel entitled to every.single.answer. Sometimes, even worse, others believe they have the answers for us.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 9, verses 1-2, Jesus and his disciples pass by a blind man and the disciples ask Jesus who sinned, the blind man or his parents. The disciples assume that the reason this man is blind is because he either committed a sin or his parents did and being blind is his punishment. The disciples believe they have the answer.

I’ve been in that place before. Have you? I’ve been asked by very dear friends what un-confessed sin I had in my life that was making me so sick. How do you think that would go over if I told my best friend what a shame it was that it was the sin in his sister’s life that killed her in that tragic car accident? I’m guessing it would go over as well as it did when my friend asked me what sin was causing me to be physically ill.

Jesus answers his disciples by saying, “Neither this man or his parents sinned but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in Him.” And after he says this, Jesus heals this blind man.

We ask questions of “why” and Jesus turns and asks questions of “how.” It does not promise us in the bible that all of our questions will be answered before we meet our Maker face to face. However, that does not mean we are not encouraged to talk to God about them, to go before Him and pour out our hearts to Him. Yet, often times our entitled “why” will be met with Jesus asking us “how” the glory of the Father can be displayed in this situation.

I’m not sure the answer to the “why?” is even enough for us. I don’t know if it would provide the healing we need. But, knowing that in some way we are part of God’s greater plan, and “God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose,” that elicits hope. I will never get to see God’s hugely dynamic peripheral perspective but I can claim victory that no matter “why” in some way it is for His greater glory.

In looking at “how” we now get the opportunity to ask:
How might this current trial glorify God?
How might the pain be used for a purpose?
How might God use your weakness to display His power?
How might God reveal a characteristic of Himself to you in this situation that you would never have seen before?

It’s a hard transition moving from “why” to “how” and I will admit I go back and forth. It’s hard to even acknowledge that such immense pain in my life could do anyone else any type of good. However, earlier I mentioned how anxious I was for the storm to pass so I could sit down and write that we had reached a place of calm, a safe harbor of sorts. I was anxiously waiting to find my footing, to find my health. I wanted to send out a declaration from the mountaintops, to report something amazingly positive about how God had met me in my greatest time of need.

Yet, here I am. I write to you in the midst of a major storm. My health is substantially worse now than it was entering into that operating room one year ago. There are a lot of unknowns, a lot of defeats, frustrations, and still puddles of tears. But, in the brokenness He is choosing to use me. I don’t have to be stitched up and a picture of perfect health before I stand up and say something. My inner circle may have changed but my marriage takes deeper roots with each challenge we fight together and while the “why” seems relentlessly unfair, “how” the Father wants to take this and use it for His glory is what is most important. I’m beginning to ask how God wants me to see Him in deeper ways, how He wants to reveal Himself to me even in my physical pain and emotional exhaustion that I would never have been able to see otherwise, and how even in the darkness He wants to use me as a source of His light.

As someone who has never been a fan of confusion, this quote, written by Rainer Maria Rilke and given to me by my dad, many years ago, has never been more true: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 

Beloved Daughters, even in our brokenness we are a part of His masterpiece. Intricately woven into His grand design. You don’t have to be ready you just have to be willing. “Why” may never be an answer we receive but if we offer ourselves to live into the “how,” we can find moments of peace even during the downpour.

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