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.