I just had surgery to reattach a ruptured biceps tendon. It’s been a difficult time from that first “Dang, that hurt!” moment. But I’ve learned a lot through this (in addition to being able to answer questions like, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to put your socks on with one hand?”).
I’ve had an audience with God in this. That’s about the only way I can put it at this point. And I didn’t even have to endure all that Job did to have that audience.
I’ve been on a real emotional roller coaster ride since the day I busted this tendon. I remember the pain and the shock and the fear when I felt it tear. I remember the anxiety when it seemed like my doctors were going to deny me the reattachment surgery (they told me things like, “Brett Favre ruptured his biceps tendon and he didn’t have it reattached – and he’s a professional athlete,” and “In Europe they don’t even do that surgery any more”). I remember how frustrated I was over all the dithering and all the delays I experienced trying to get myself fixed. And I remember the worry over the prospect that they may have waited too long and the tendon wasn’t repairable (a concern that the surgeon also had).
None of those memories is very positive, of course.
But I also remember my washer story. In short, after getting some good advice from a doctor friend and making an appointment with the doctor who would be my surgeon, I was consumed with making my case to him about why I needed to have this surgery that his boss the attending surgeon had pooh-poohed and argued couldn’t be done at this point. A lost washer from a ruptured cane tip that God helped me find in five miles of desert the day before that appointment got my attention long enough for God to tell me: “I’m in control here. And the fact that I care about your stupid washer ought to tell you that I care about what the most important things in your life. And if I want you to have your tendon repaired, it will be repaired; it’s not up to any bureaucrats or even any doctors. I’m the one you need to trust.”
I was able to trust God the next day when I went to my appointment with the surgeon with the peace of Christ rather than all the concerns I’d been having. But I was still amazed how easy that appointment turned out to be, as the surgeon said, “If you want me to try to reattach that tendon, I’ll try to do it. I can’t make any promises about whether the surgery will be successful, but we’ll try.” After several months of feeling like I’d been banging my head against the wall trying to get that surgery, the day after I found my washer I was finally hearing the words I wanted to hear hopefully just short of too late.
I was – after a lot of wrestling with it – able to trust God with the outcome of the surgery when I compared the various outcomes: during the four months since I’d ruptured the tendon, most of my strength had returned, and if the surgery were unsuccessful, I was told the recovery would be very rapid and I’d be back to my normal routine in no time. On the one hand. But on the other hand, I obviously didn’t want to have surgery if that surgery was going to be unsuccessful. I wanted that tendon attached. But the recovery will take a minimum of three months of very slow healing due to the fact that tendons get so little blood supply and tendons don’t just anchor themselves back to bones without a lot of time and a lot of pain and rehab. I finally decided that I wanted to do what was wisest for the long-term, rather than be distracted by the short-term. And I would have the surgery and put my trust in God, and if it wasn’t successful I would know that I’d at least tried versus realizing ten years from now that I wish I’d had that surgery and regretting that I hadn’t.
I had a similar moment of realization a month ago when I realized I had no idea whether I should zig or whether I should zag. And I was able to just turn it over to the Lord out of sheer realization that I had no way of knowing what would be best for me. A lot more of live is like that than we think – and it’s when we THINK we know what is best that we’re usually the most dangerous.
So that was the second thing I learned. Realize that God is the Creator of the Universe and has a far greater plan than you do. We think we know what’s best for us, but we simply don’t. for example, if you don’t get fired from that lousy job you were so afraid to lose, how would you have ended up getting that far better and more satisfying job? You were SURE losing that job would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to you; but it was the BEST thing. Or if you don’t lose that lousy, good for nothing boyfriend or girlfriend that you try so hard to please, how will you end up meeting that perfect man or woman that God has for you? We just don’t know what’s best for us. And the best thing for us is to trust a God who loves us and knows the end from the beginning.
Well, not long after I finally realized that my best plan was to let God do the planning and turn it over to Him, I had the surgery. And the surgery was successful. My parents drove me to the hospital and were the first to hear the doctor’s report after my surgery. And when I was in the recovery room I heard the report, too. The surgeon was very pleasantly surprised by something that he’d never heard of having happened: somehow my tendon had been hung-up or caught on the bone and even though it was ruptured it had not slipped down my arm the way busted biceps tendons tend to do. And while sometimes tendons that have ruptured are simply too damaged – literally in a spaghetti-like state – to be able to reattach to the bone, mine was still in pretty good shape in spite of the injury and in spite of the months that had gone by since I’d ruptured it. The surgeon was able to do a good, solid repair right where he wanted to do it, rather than having the choices limited by the location and condition of my tendon. And he literally finished in less than half the time he thought the surgery would take, because that tendon getting hung-up on the bone like that made it so easy for him.
That tendon getting hung-up on the bone was no fortunate accident; it was the result of a God who was letting me know that He is there and I can trust Him with everything I am and everything I have.
Well, anyway, I was thinking about the idea of praising God for all things, whether seemingly good things or even seemingly bad things, and of course I started out by manifesting the wrong attitude.
I thought, “Lord, if this surgery and all I’m going to have to go through end up being successful, I’ll be able to thank you for everything. The surgery was successful, but I’ve got to NOT MESS MYSELF UP while the tendon slowly reattaches itself to the bone over and above the surgical repair. And if I can get back to normal, yes, I’ll be grateful for the whole process. Even the pain and BOY DOES IT HURT sometimes. Even the fact that I would give ANYTHING to be able to take my arm out of this stupid sling and just STRETCH it. Even though I can hardly put my socks on and I can hardly brush my teeth wrong-handed and all the rest of the frustrating things that you find out you can’t do when you’re down to your non-dominant arm/hand to do them. I’ll be thankful for it all because it was all part of the process of getting to where I needed to be and I had to go through all of this to get there.
And that’s what life amounts to: trusting God that somehow you’ll end up all right, no matter what happens that seems to be really bad at the time.
There’s the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnibenevolent Creator of the space-time universe over there, and there’s little tiny me over here. And which one do I trust has the better plan??? Particularly given the fact that my entire life has been one long lesson in my propensity to screw things up???
A couple of famous Bible verses come to mind.
There’s Romans 8:28, which says:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
What is “the good”? How often have I THOUGHT something was best but been wrong. I didn’t have all the facts, I didn’t know all the angles, I didn’t have the right perspective. But my all-knowing God is never blindsided by unexpected developments. He always knows all the angles and He’s ALWAYS got the right perspective. And He knows that we often just have to go through unpleasant things that seem painful or hard for us because we need to go through those things to get where we most need to be when we need to be there.
We can trust Him.
But there’s also 1 Peter 5:7, which assures me:
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
This is the same God who created us in His image so that one day He could assume our image and live a perfectly life so that He could take the blame and literally be tortured and murdered so that He could die in our place and take the penalty that we deserved.
Yeah. He cares.
My whole life as I look up at the stars at night is the same thing that I’m thinking about in the aftermath of this surgery: as long as it all works out in the end, I can be thankful for everything that happened along the way.
I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But that doesn’t matter. Because I DO know that it will work out. I DO know that ultimately everything will be okay. I DO know that in a million years, a billion, a trillion, I’ll be with my God in heaven and everything I went through on this earth will seem very, very small.
There are things going on in my own life, and in the lives of friends who are very dear to me, that I can’t explain and don’t understand and don’t want. But we’re each of us in God’s hands and God has a plan and unlike me He knows what He’s doing.
A lot of people resent the idea of a sovereign, omnipotent God who is in control over all things. Because if God is in control over even the smallest things in life, YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL. And a lot of people simply cannot handle a God who precludes their being able to take credit for how wonderful they think they are and how successful they think they have been. If you are LeBron James, you didn’t create the body you would be born with, and if you are Bill Gates, you didn’t create your mind that you would be born with. God did. And in the same way neither were you responsible for putting most of the fortuitous circumstances into your life that enabled you to be what you are today, for better or for worse. God is.
So that’s my third lesson in all of this.
For most of us, life seems to come at us randomly. Good things happen, bad things happen. And we just muddle through.
God wants us to be able to look past the drudge and past the pain and past the seeming randomness and see Him.
And it really is true what Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). When you look for God, He has a way of making sure that you find Him. You’ll be able to see Him everywhere, even in the smallest details. When you don’t look for God, you won’t be able to see Him even when He makes Himself obvious. It is as if when you deny the reality of God, you become a cartoon character and live in a two-dimensional world when there is really so much more depth that you refuse to see. And in the same way, when you trust God, He has a way of making Himself trustworthy, whereas when you keep holding on to yourself and what you can do to change your world for yourself, you will somehow never be able to find a trustworthy God.
Trust comes down to the simple realization that God knows best and He’s able to make things happen in a way that you’re not able to make things happen. And it comes down to casting your anxiety upon Him, because you know He cares for you.
I of course STILL don’t know whether this surgery will ultimately result in a successful outcome. I could tear the tendon loose five minutes from now as the result of a fall or some accident, or it could heal to be every bit as stable as it was before I hurt it. That’s what we call “the uncertainties of life.” And we tend to fixate on all the uncertainties rather than THE certainty that there is a God at work working all things together for the good for those of us who have placed our trust in Him. There’s no uncertainty at ALL about our eternal future, and all we’re dealing with down here is rocks on the path to a great eternal destination.
So here’s to being thankful to God and trusting Him.