“A greater understanding of who God is, what God is like, what He does—that was God’s revealed glory, not a brilliant flash of light or some undefined ecstasy.” -Vaneetha Risner
I’d undergone my next step–a gastro emptying study–at the beginning of April & compared to previous tests, it wasn’t too terrible. Basically, I ate two pieces of toast & three eggs that had nasty contrast dye cooked into it (so the machine could track the food processing) & once an hour I would be escorted to & from the waiting room by a nice radiology guy (I wish I remembered his name!) & talked about his afternoon plans & how unfortunate it was I had to do this at such a young age (Oh, radiology guy, if you only knew…) & then I’d spend two minutes in the scanner. The test as a whole took five hours, but I only spent thirty minutes of that time not in the waiting room. 😛
After the last picture was taken & radiology guy & I celebrated our mutual victory with a high-five, my Mom & I headed up to my appointment in the vascular clinic to discuss my results with the team only to find I actually didn’t have an appointment. Suddenly the dirty looks from people who actually did have appointments & the complete bafflement of the receptionist as she told us she couldn’t find my name in the system anywhere made complete sense. #awkward
Because of my Mom’s insistence we did have an appointment, we lucked out & got to talk with my favorite medical professional in the history of ever for a few minutes. He patiently explained we didn’t have an appointment, they just wanted us to come up to book an appointment while we were here. Plus, there was no way my scans would be ready yet. But as it turns out, our airheadedness actually did work to our benefit. When he offered to schedule me an appointment for three weeks from that day, I was able to explain to him in person how much worse my pain had gotten, how the severity was scaring me, how I didn’t think I could make it three weeks without landing in the Emergency Room several times. I was able to look him in the eye, tell him how much I was struggling even just sitting there, & ask him if there was any possible way they could fit me in sooner. Because I needed to address this asap, & I knew it.
Let me just say there is a reason this guy is my favorite! He worked the system & was able to get me an appointment for just one week later!
Now, around this time, I had made it my life’s work to mask what was going on with my health & in my heart, & I was doing a really good job. I don’t even remember what/if I told my friends. A huge part of my reasoning was the fact that it was April, & April is always a very happy/busy time for our family. I wanted to put all the focus on the happy things going on. I wanted to pretend I didn’t have health limitations & seize the moment. I wanted to pretend to be normal, & I did.
In just one week, we visited Regionals (my last tournament ever), visited my godparents at the same time, celebrated Luke’s birthday, celebrated my birthday in three parts, I graduated Chemistry (which was a huge deal considering all I’d gone through), hosted a huge 18th birthday party, & I had a sleepover with my best friend. While I paid dearly for these activities later on, I cherished these memories & still do! That week is one I remember feeling the most loved. ❤
If I’m perfectly honest with myself, I think another reason I’d put on a mask was because I was struggling emotionally. I wasn’t ready to deal with my feelings…or I was simply unwilling. I was faking it until I made it because I was scared to be vulnerable with people. Scared of feeling things, scared of condemnation & rejection. My friends knew I wasn’t being completely honest with them about how I was doing & encouraged me to be honest, but I was terrified of being hurt if I did.
On the way to Regionals, as I listened to my Mom update our family & as I had time to actually think about everything, my resolve to be okay started to break & I felt overwhelmingly weak. While I did my best to smile through the tournament, be present with my friends, & seize a “normal” senior year experience, my heart kept pounding, “fear” with every beat. Among other things, we were concerned I was at risk for something called, “mesenteric ischemia” at the time, which is a condition in which there isn’t adequate bloodflow to the small intestine. Googling that term does not bring comfort & peace, but rather terror! Needless to say, I had a lot on my mind.
The next week–as we sat in the vascular clinic for the second time–that visit, whether I knew it or not, changed me. We discussed the debilitating pain, how my situation was only worsening with time, & what our options were. Little did I know those options would change my life forever.
& that’s when he told us he would consider offering me a Left Renal Vein Transposition. One of the rarest major surgeries done in the United States. A crazy difficult surgery with a very long recovery time & only a 50% chance of success.
& the decision was up to me.
But despite everything, at least I didn’t have any signs of gastroparesis, so that was great, right?
At the tournament, one of my sweet friends gifted me the book, “The Scars That Have Shaped Me,” by Vaneetha Risner. She had twenty one surgeries by the time she was thirteen, spent years in the hospital, endured physical & emotional abuse, was left by her husband, suffered multiple miscarriages, watched her child die, & was diagnosed by a very painful, progressive disease. & yet she still writes & uses her story to uplift others. She is an inspiration. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, it is just that good. I know I’ll re-read it for years to come.
A few days before the festivities began, I sat down in my favorite chair in the sun & thought about the book title & felt drawn to start it simply because I was now facing the looming possibility of a very huge scar myself. I opened it & it drew my attention to John 11.
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, in the village of Mary & her sister Martha….so the sisters sent to Him saying, “Lord, he whom You love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, He said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha & her sister & Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” (vs. 1-6)
Okay, when I first read this passage, I was flabbergasted & a little disgusted. In my opinion, if Jesus actually loved them, why did He purposefully stay where He was? Why would He delay? Why would He let Lazarus die? I mean, come on! He didn’t even have to actually go where Lazarus was, He’s God, He could’ve just said the word & Lazarus could’ve been healed on the spot!
I also deeply identified with this passage. It was reminding me of how my Father had allowed me to suffer for the past year. Because like Lazarus, I was ill. Despite my prayers, my surrender, my cries of desperation, there was no answer….just like He didn’t answer Mary & Martha. There was no healing. There was no miracles. Just deafening silence. & I realized that hurt me. Because when you have faith & you know Jesus can take the suffering from you & He doesn’t….it crushes you. It can feel like abandonment.
I’ve asked myself (& God…mostly God) a lot of questions over the years. Why me? What in God’s holy name did I do to deserve this? Where was my deliverance? For that matter, where was God?
Because doesn’t love run to help? Doesn’t love respond?
But what I had failed to see was that Jesus was not silent. Jesus hadn’t abandoned me. He was most definitely responding. He responded to Lazarus, & He would respond to me. In some ways, in fact, He already had.
I had failed to get past my anger & see that the point of the passage is that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, & Lazarus enough to not answer immediately. He loved them enough to show them His glory so they could be transformed, renewed. He loved them enough to let them suffer so they could experience His holy comfort. He loved them enough to delay His coming so they could learn to walk by faith.
& that’s when I realized. God loves me enough to not instantly rescue me. Through this journey, little by little, He is showing me His glory not only through actions, but through teaching me who He is & what He does. He knows I need to see Him, sense His presence, & understand His heart. & He knows I need these things more than I need instant rescue. Because there will always be things I need rescued from, no matter what, but encounters like these with my Father will last forever. They will shape me into the woman of God I’m meant to be. They will help me to encourage those who are placed on my life path. They will help me to grow where I am planted. They will transform me.
& until I am rescued, I am not alone & He is not silent. He is holding me, surrounding me with His presence, filling me with His strength, lifting me up when I fall, filling my mind with His promises….because He knows explanations can be cold comfort when His arms are warm. Love responds.
If you continue reading John 11, you discover that after a few days, Jesus travels to comfort Mary & Martha. Both sisters, though they greet Him at different times & not together, greet Him the same way: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (vs. 21)
The sisters didn’t see it yet….the secret, the revelation, the transformation.
But Jesus knows what He’s doing. Why do I still doubt that?
He responds, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (vs. 40)
& then Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
I sat there, allowing the magnitude of that moment to seep into my heart, & I voiced outloud the raw surrender of Risner as she experienced the greatness of that very same moment, “I want to see You & I want to believe that You are for me. I believe, help me to overcome my unbelief. Show me Your glory.”
Today, one year later, I still cling to what I believe was one of the most vital lessons God has ever taught me: that seeing His glory is a much greater gift than instant rescue.