A year and a half ago, our lives changed forever. In the morning, we suspected Jeff had an ulcer. By the evening, he was in emergency surgery to remove a blockage in his colon. It was cancerous. When it was over, I was talking with his surgeon in one of the little rooms off to the side of the waiting room. It was then, she asked me a question.
“Are you squeamish?”
Because, looking back, I was clearly in denial…and because I had no experience yet in what exactly a surgeon might possibly mean by this… I told her I was a former biology teacher who had done numerous dissections. I had a pretty strong stomach. So when she asked if I wanted to see a picture of Jeff’s intestines, I said in that enthusiastically optimistic way Davises do, “Sure, I’ll take a look.”
I am not a TMI writer and I don’t want to gross anyone out but…his guts were so sick…so inflamed and infected that it looked like balloon animals were exploding out of his abdominal cavity. I could go on with the description, but… sit with that image a minute.
And in one of those moments of unintentional clarity, I blurted out words that have stuck with me ever since. I said, “Um, this would be so fascinating if it wasn’t…you know… my husband.” And then, as my intellect collided with my heart and life, the gravity of it all began to sink in. Emotion began to rise and my stomach started moving in that way that let me know it was time to look away.
Who knew… I actually was squeamish.
A season of life has passed and now I am in graduate school studying marriage and family therapy. I am on my way to becoming a counselor who, hopefully, will walk with people when their insides are hurting and need attention…or when they are in metaphorical waiting rooms of their own, wondering just what the hell happened to their world…
My days are often spent learning about the many ways people and families can be wounded and broken. I love what I am studying and could read and discuss it till the cows come home. For the most part, I can’t wait to get out there and enter the world of helping. (Did I mention I can be enthusiastically optimistic?)
Sometimes, I find myself flashing back to my waiting room moment…where the consequences of something on a piece of paper became very personal to me.
I see all the more clearly now that these things I am learning about…Dysfunction. Shame. Fear. Loneliness. Grief. Unhealthy boundaries. Anger. Emotional woundedness. Trauma. Painful memories. These topics aren’t just ideas in books. They are real things that happen in people’s lives. And not just to others, but to me. These are the things that, if I were to make the right incision, just might pop like balloon animals out of me too. I am more fully awakening to the realization that I am living what I am studying. I always have been. And in these moments when I glimpse the reality of the spiritual cancer that lies inside of me, inside of all of us, these words are echoing through my heart, “Um, this would be fascinating if it wasn’t…you know…me.”
Coming face to face with the depth and significance of one’s (read “my”) mess can be a weighty experience. Coming face to face with Jesus, not just on the pages of a book, but as a Person who is with me…in the middle of all the emotion and pain…it is fascinating and horrifying… and so absolutely fittingly beautiful.
While the messiness of it all sometimes scares me, it seems to energize Him. Thank goodness.
Hopefully, a counselor who knows Jesus as Healer for herself, is a better travel companion for one who is hurting, than someone who has just read about the process and the Savior in a book. Hopefully, I am on the path to becoming both book smart AND experienced. That waiting room a year and a half ago was an important stop along the way.