Five Life-Changing Lessons from Major Surgery

My docs teased me last night with the possibility of discharging me today. No such luck. Just as well. I don’t want out of Camp Jackson South until we can stay on top of pain at home. So, another day in the hospital. And, as promised, part two of yesterday’s post.

vastly improvedThe Lord has graciously given me five lessons so far from “Operation Robojaw.”  With them come wisdom responses so as to make the most of the opportunity and not waste the sorrow. Two down; three to go.

Lesson Three: How Proud & Self-Reliant I Still Am

Hospitals humble a person. Big time. You have so little control. And you can need so much help. You lose all dignity–though I’ve fought hard to minimize my number of “Dancing Henrys.” Think Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give.

But some personal matters just go flat-out public in ICU. Thank God my nurse was male! More than that, I rediscovered once again my self-reliance idol. Pure pride drives me to think I can do whatever all by my lonesome. Trauma surgeries get you in touch with that arrogance fast.

Response? Remember the example of the Lord Jesus. Facing His darkest trauma outside Gethsemane He took three of His band of brothers to watch and pray with Him (Matt. 26:36-46). He needed their community in the furnace of the cup.

I know only one way to escape the gravitational pull of pride or any other sin issue. I must drench myself continually in the gospel river of the One who humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8).

Lesson Four: How Meaningful & Refreshing a Visit Can Be

Please understand. I’m in Miami–Kendall–to be exact. I can see Cuba from here. That’s over 250 miles from my home in Orlando. And yet every day but one on this delightful little healing assignment visitors from my church have fought the traffic and spent precious time, not to say gas money, to come see me–even in ICU where I could barely talk.

Just today two other brothers camped out for a few hours–even did my laps with me around the floor. I get what Paul felt when he wrote: But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus (2 Cor. 7:6).

Never underestimate the significance of hanging out with someone in distress. You too can be an Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 1:16).


Lesson Five: How Powerful & Necessary the Prayers of Others Are

Now I know that. Pastors preach that. But this week again I came to treasure it all over again. Paul boasted this confidence from prison in Phil. 1:19–for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.

Not for a moment would I try to minimize the degree of difficulty associated with this week. But the prayers of God’s people from all over the country and even other nations–thank you Hungary!–have played a huge role in my light speed recovery.

Response? Build a community of relationships, especially in your church. Pray for one another, particularly in trauma. God hears and answers. To Him be all the glory.

Question: What help has served you well in surviving some trauma. You can leave your comment here.


Five Life-Changing Lessons from Major Surgery

Perhaps “major” doesn’t quite capture it. What a war on Monday! Eight hours on the table. Resection of my right mandible plus extraction of three teeth. Insertion of a titanium plate affixed with screws. Twelve inch arterial-vein transplant from my left thigh to my neck creating a “free flap” blood supply both inside my mouth and out. This ordeal made my cancer surgery feel like a day at the ballpark in comparison.

icuYou know you’re feeling better when your thoughts turn to blogging. Much improvement has occurred. The docs say things look fantastic. If I remain on track, they may ship me home on Sunday. Sweet. How come Stryker doesn’t manufacture hospital beds for guys over 6 foot?

Traumatic experiences like prolonged hospitalizations make marvelous tutors. Not that I would volunteer of my own will, anymore than I did for my cancer disaster. But God uses these things in strikingly effective ways to instruct us along the way of shaping us more and more into the character of His beloved Son, our older Brother, Jesus (James 1:2-4).

Today the Lord crystallized five lessons so far from this jawful ordeal for me.  With them come wisdom responses so as to make the most of the opportunity and not waste the sorrow.

Lesson One: How Fearfully & Wonderfully Made We Are

While one of the residents cleaned the question mark-like looking incision on my thigh this morning, I asked him this: Doc, I’m a theist. I believe God put parts in every place for specific reasons. What happens down there with those twelve inches now doing duty neck-side? He answered this way: Redundant systems. The body has ways of compensating. Peripherals (I think that’s what he called them}. take over for them. No wonder David spoke of the human body the way he did (Psalm 139:14).

Response? Worship and wonder at the goodness of God in your creation. Give thanks for your working parts and God’s healing power built into the body.

Lesson Two: How Frail & Mist-Like Our Lives Are

I gave serious thought to the prospect of not waking up from that surgery–at least not here. Nancy received a letter from me to guard her shalom should I have gone home. Obviously His purposes proved otherwise for now. But walking these halls–they had me up the next day–seeing some of the other patients on life support, well, it sobers you to say the least. James said it well:  What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (4:19).

Response? Take no day for granted. Give thanks for the new breaths you draw first thing every morning. And, like James, acknowledge that your plans will only materialize according to His gracious will, so be sure to say your share of “If the Lord wills” (James 4:15).

I’ve hit the wall. This patient needs some rest. Lessons three through five will have to wait for tomorrow, Lord willing. No big deal. Plenty of time to kill at this place on a Saturday.

Question: When have you gotten some significant insight from a traumatic experience? You can leave a comment here.