“You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh & to all Egypt. You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs & wonders, the mighty hand & outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear.” (Deut. 7:17-19)
The very first thing I remember after waking up from surgery was pain. Excruciating, white-hot, unendurable, agonizing pain. The worst pain I have ever experienced to this day. I woke up from the four hour surgery with a full, eight inch abdominal incision that hadn’t been there before. I was in a foreign, dimly lit recovery room with a nurse who was a stranger, & pain medication that hadn’t been properly adjusted yet. I was definitely feeling the repercussions hardcore. Almost immediately I realized that both my parents were there with me & although I couldn’t communicate it I immediately felt a comfort by their presence coupled with the frustration that I was unable to communicate with them the amount of pain I was in or that I desperately needed someone to fix it now.
Actually, I was basically completely out of it for a few weeks after my surgery. The combination of my first major surgery, the anesthesia, the high doses of drugs, & the reactions I had to those drugs made me largely lethargic & disconnected. In fact, I don’t remember much of what went on during my hospital stay as a whole. I couldn’t recap it to you moment by moment. But ironically, I remember the complications, the toughest, scariest moments.
I remember the nurse coming into my hospital room in the middle of the night to inform my Mom & I that they’d removed my catheter (that they’d placed during surgery) prematurely & now they needed to place another one immediately. I remember it took three different nurses countless, fruitless tries to get another one in over the course of several hours & the pain that ensued during it. I remember throwing up non-stop through the night (despite the thick suction tube they’d also placed nasogastricly in surgery to prevent that very thing from happening) & the fear coupled with that. Fear because throwing up is already dreadful, but imagine throwing up with a fresh, raw incision down the length of your abdomen. 😳 I was terrified of the slashing pain that occurred every.single.time I threw up but also because I couldn’t stop & I was scared the violent convulsing would split my incision open. I remember itching all over from the dilauded, frequently hallucinating things that seemed so real, struggling to communicate with those around me, crying because I hurt like never before, & trying to get out of bed with everything I had to walk or use the restroom only to collapse back into it completely exhausted after just a few minutes. I remember really wanting to just go home & fighting like heck to get through one minute, one second at a time because that was all I could do. That was all I had in me.
I remember the day the splitting back pain started just a few days after my surgery. I remember it continued to climb throughout the day until I completely lost control over my body & the paralyzing panic that comes with that. I started to pseudo seize for the second time that year, but these were much more extreme. They were a completely different level of intensity. My back would grow very stiff & start arching until it couldn’t arch any further. My heart rate would spike anywhere from 180-200, I would start to tremble, & my eyes would roll back into my head. I was unresponsive to everyone around me, physically unable to communicate. The small, shared hospital room was completely packed to the brim with medical professionals from several different departments trying to figure out what was going on. I had an “episode”, as they called them, every few minutes….almost constantly over the course of several hours.
I just wanted them to stop. I needed to them to stop. I was feeling frustration that I was in a hospital yet not receiving help or relief, panic that they wouldn’t stop, & helplessness that I couldn’t control my body or verbally communicate with those around me. Especially my Mom. Because I knew she was really scared for me & I wanted to look her in the eye, smile at her, & reassure her that I would be okay…this would be okay.
But I couldn’t.
A lot of people, in an effort to encourage me, smile & say, “someday soon, you’ll be able to forget this ever happened.” & every single time, I smile back, & declare with confidence, “I never want to forget.”
Because it’s true. I never, ever, want to forget. No.matter.what.
I know. As usual, I sound crazy. But I don’t care.
I’ve been reading the book of Deuteronomy lately. Now I admit, I didn’t wake up one morning with a burning passion to read Deuteronomy (it’s not really one of those books most Christians get super excited to read 😜) but I definitely felt led by God to spend my daily Bible time there, & I am so glad I listened to the call.
In a sense, Deuteronomy is almost Moses’ “farewell address” to Israel before transferring leadership to Joshua. In it, Moses urges the people to trust & obey, while constantly reminding them of God’s faithfulness, uniqueness, power, & promises.
I think we tend to be fairly quick to judge the Israelites. We read about them in our Bibles, listen to their complicated, messy story being shared from the pulpit, hear about their failures, & automatically think of them as a prime example of what never to do. They whined, complained, frequently turned their backs on God, served idols, feared many things, & challenged God’s promises. Personally, I know I’ve judged their lapses of trust/faith, their foolish wanderings from God, their failure to obey His commandments & statues, & their constant doubt of God’s sovereignty, & faithfulness. I’ve condemned them more times than I can count. I mean, come on! God brought His chosen people out of slavery in the land of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, & they walked through it on dry land. But then, just a few months later, they complained about not having food to eat. They even went as far as to say, “would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots & ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” (Exodus 16: 3) So, God sent manna from the sky for them to eat to the full. Shortly after that, the Israelites complained yet again of thirst, implying yet again that God had delivered them from slavery to the wilderness just to kill them. Don’t you just want to shake them & remind them, “our God just parted an entire sea for you! Why do you continue to test Him?! Trust Him!!!”
But then I remember that when it comes to remembering God’s faithfulness, I too can be especially forgetful. I, too, have “God Amnesia.” You see, the hard truth is, we are definitely more like the Israelites than we care to admit.
It’s been a little over a year since my Left Renal Vein Transposition, & so much has changed. As I’m writing this, I have found almost complete healing. I’m no longer living with chronic pain. I am on my way to living a normal life, preparing to start work again very shortly, doors of opportunity are being re-opened, & God has given me the gift of a wonderful relationship. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer & I am truly joyful!
But despite that, my life still isn’t perfect. It still isn’t “easy.” It’s definitely not “permanently fixed.” There are still trials, attacks from the enemy, discouragements, & broken moments. I still cry, I still grieve, I still become overwhelmed with the brokenness of this world.
I’m still human.
In both the hardest & easiest moments, it can be really easy to forget everything that Jesus has done in my life. It can be easy to forget the wonders, marvels, & miracles I’ve seen with my own eyes the past few years. It can be easy to forget His glory & majesty. It can be easy to forget how far He’s brought me, how He revealed Himself to me, & the works only He could’ve performed.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my favorite chair in the peaceful solitude of my bedroom reading my Bible (when I didn’t really want to at all, might I add!) when this verse jumped out at me:
“Only be careful, & watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children & to their children after them.” (Deut 4.9)
& it hit me yet again, like a ton of bricks.
Why, despite everything I’ve learned in the past few years, despite every way God has clearly shown me His majesty, do I still doubt Him? Why do I still fear the future? Why do I question that He is enough in me to make me enough? Why do I hesitate that I can do all things in Christ alone?
Why do I continue to question both the Master & the Masterplan?
Because as someone very wise continues to patiently remind me, “God has brought you this far, through this much. He’s definitely not going to abandon you now.”
“Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, & in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deut. 1:29-31)
In the same way that Moses challenged the Israelites not to be afraid of anything that was to come, no matter how terrifying or impossible it may seem, my Heavenly Father used that very same passage to challenge me. He used it to remind me that He always goes before me, He always fights for me. Just like He’s always done the past few years before my very eyes.
So you know what? I never want to forget. I don’t want to be like the Israelites.
I want to remember the selfless, compassionate way my Mom stayed with me 24/7 in my cramped, uncomfortable hospital room that entire week….lovingly encouraging me & taking care of me. I want to remember the way my Dad stayed overnight the day of my pseudo seizures, sleeping in a hard, uncomfortable chair & always tenderly making sure I was covered with a blanket. I want to remember the exceptional way my favorite nurse ever (who was quite possibly an angel from heaven) cared for me & the blessing it was to be in her presence…even for a short time. I want to remember the love, support, help, & care our family received from precious adopted aunts, friends, & family that week…who came to give my Mom rest breaks & let me know I was loved.
I don’t necessarily want to remember the pain, the discomfort, & the fear, but how God carried me through it. I don’t necessarily want to remember that entire week of hell, but how God provided exactly what I needed to get through each moment of each day by His grace & strength alone.
Most of all, no matter how “easy” or downright difficult my life is from here on out, I want to remember the awe-inspiring miracles, the seemingly unmovable mountains moved, the incredible wonders, the breathtaking marvels. I want to remember what He’s mercifully taught me, the indescribable ways He’s molded me into the woman of God I’m meant to be, patiently grown me, & tenderly drawn me closer to Him. I want to remember the unique ways He’s revealed His glory, the beautiful times I’ve fallen on my knees in awe of His faithfulness, goodness, & promises.
I want to remember everything–both great & small.
I don’t know where you are today or what you may be going through, but I can promise you this. God has not forgotten you. You are never alone. He is always holding you, protecting you, loving you, strengthening you, & calming you. Just as He’s gotten you through various difficult times before, He’ll get you through this too, if you let Him. Because if you do let Him, just as Moses promised, “the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you & bless you.”
“Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs & wonders, by war, by a mighty hand & an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other.” (Deut. 4:34-35.)