The entire month of July was spent commuting 120 miles from my house to Mayo Clinic. My weight continued to drop, I was incredibly malnourished and the sheer number of IVs I had in a single month probably rivaled that of most IV drug users. I sat in a room full of chemo patients for three days straight while I received IV steroids in an attempt to calm down an angry G.I. system. Whispers of feeding tubes and conversations like “she’s not progressing” filled the silent air, that silence only interrupted by the beeps of the heart monitor. They thought I was sleeping. But I heard them and I understood them–I understood every single word. When they weren’t talking, the silence was deafening.
Tests continued and for most of them I went by myself. Having plenty of experience in hospitals, I preferred it that way.
Until I didn’t.
After receiving one test result that would result in removal of polyps in my small intestines, I caved and asked Crissy to go with me. By the time the day of the procedure came, I was at my lowest weight–and it was impossible to ignore the concern in the eyes of everybody involved in my care. I’d managed to avoid mirrors, scales and even pictures because I realized I looked like I felt and for once in my life I was terrified.
As these things seem to go, the procedure was on a Thursday so the official results would not be ready until Monday. The weekend that followed that procedure was the longest weekend of my life. Even though the doctors told us that the polyps were likely just a result of an auto immune inflammatory process, I was terrified. This terror was new to me it occurred to me that unlike most times in my life I legitimately wanted to stick around on this planet. This was unlike the time I spent five days in the hospital after what should’ve been an accidental overdose. This new feeling of wanting to be alive, while it surprised me, also brought night terrors. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to live with cancer or some other scary diagnoses. This was new to me as I often would say over the years that if a diagnosis like that came, I would be okay with that. Something changed inside of me. I wanted to be and stay alive.
That weekend God and I had lots of conversations about performance and how much better or more efficiently I needed to perform for Him to give me a break. I remembered all the times I considered myself a mistake to a woman who did not want me and who left me. One of those weekend nights I remembered a portion of a book (“Falling For You” by Becky Wade)I’d read. And in the wee hours of the night I found myself looking for a particular portion of this beautifully written story that is laced with struggles of guilt, remorse and questions of God–big questions like being abandoned by a parent.
There is a part I’ve since dubbed “Willow’s Surrender” and when I found that passage in the book that night, tears dropped on the page as I was experiencing exactly what was being described there. I found the words on those pages anointed. A single quote is highlighted, underlined and then smeared because of tear drops. The heroine wondered “Is my faith too small or my regrets too big?” I had plenty of regrets, and I wondered if those regrets landed me in the health crisis I was experiencing. I knew my faith was too small. On the outside, I proclaimed a God Who does all things well, but the reality is that the heroine and I shared the same questions and experienced the same confusion of God.
But then I read two simple words:
Those words stuck with me. I tried to go back to sleep, but the panic attacks and fear kept creeping up and stealing the air from my lungs. I was simply terrified that I was going to die. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and frantically tried to calm down and the the Lord brought those words to my mind:
I repeated the words over and over and then finally screamed:
“But Jesus WHAT?”
Suddenly my mind was flooded with the truth of Who He is, Who I had learned Him to be and Who He had proven Himself to be.
This I know, Jesus loves you because the Bible tells you so.
Jesus is not unfamiliar with our sorrows, because He Himself felt sorrow, He felt abandonment, and He carried my sin to my cross.
Jesus will finish what He stared, because when He starts a work, He finishes it.
Jesus accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished to cover my regret when He died on a tree made of wood He created–my performance is inconsequential because, He meant what He said when He said “It is finished”. It is, indeed, finished.
The remembrance of these things, and more importantly the recognition of them flipped the switch on my faith and my regrets. I found my faith to be growing and my regret shrinking.
I crawled back into bed that night with the surrendered heart not unlike that of the heroine in that beautiful work of fiction that is dripping with Jesus.
I closed my eyes and fell asleep but not before remembering one more “But Jesus”:
“I will never leave you or forsake you”.
I woke up the next morning with a peace that cannot be explained–even by the best wordsmith. So, when the phone rang and I realized it was the doctor I remembered those two words as I touched the green button to accept the call.
I barely heard his words that everything was benign. I truly think that no matter what the result would have been, I was in sweet community with Jesus, and while that book is written by a Christian author, those words were not hers. Those two words are imprinted on my heart and soul and would serve me greatly as 2018 was not done with me yet.