I return, patient Reader. My apologies for the absence; last week I was at a conference in
Hoth the upper Midwest, which was pretty neat. I got to see a really, really cool session on dramatic presentations of Scripture and how we can play with the Word as a theatrical thing. I gathered my courage to talk to the director after the session about practicalities of doing this, and then we got to talking about my theatrical background and a little of where I am now and he told me, “You’re perfectly placed to do this!”
Cue small heart explosions, because who doesn’t like affirmation?
But the week before that I was recovering from surgery. Yes, another one. I would have thought I would need to be older for my body to start falling apart, but apparently not. This time I knew it was coming, though; I’ve had ear trouble since I was a kid, on top of genetic issues around hearing and eardrum formation. So I had a tympanoplasty and mastoidectomy.
I know, Reader. Aren’t you so jealous of my exciting life?
So I tell you this not because having surgery is a spiritual revelation—being out cold via anesthesia, it wasn’t much of any kind of revelation—nor because I want to educate you on the leaps and bounds of auricular surgery. (Although, scientifically speaking, the whole thing is just dang cool; it is so impressive what doctors can do these days. I mean, it would be much cooler if were happening to someone else, of course; this is an even less fun process than the appendectomy because my head was essentially filleted, but still.) It is to tell you, in part, what a ridiculously spiritual experience the healing is.
I don’t mean that it’s been a hazy, mystical process of growth and understanding, the kind of spiritual that comes with auras and bitonal music. I mean the gritty kind of spirituality that brings the God out of people while you’re wanting to rip off your own head.
That’s spiritual, right?
Let me admit this right out: I’m a pansy when it comes to head injuries. I want my head to work the way it’s supposed to, and it’s very frustrating to me when I can’t power through head wounds the way I can through other hurts. So the aftermath of this surgery is driving me nuts; for one thing, I can’t hear out of that ear, which means I listen to the inside of my own head instead. Trust me, you don’t want to know what you sound like when you talk, sing, eat, breathe. You want to know what other people sound like. You want to know what someone just said to you without having to shut down every other sound in the room. And you definitely would like your head not to hurt and/or itch all the time. (There is no sensation quite like an itch inside your head.) I’m over this healing process, really—and I have at least two more weeks to go, likely three.
The spiritual part of responding to this is not so much a “why me, God” as a “You can’t be serious; this too?” It’s the heartbreak of having to quit all of my musical activities because I physically can’t do them right now. It’s the moments when I totally make up understanding what someone said to me because I don’t want to have to ask them again, and I don’t want to draw even more attention to the fact that I’m not operating on all cylinders. It’s having to sit through the well-meaning platitudes of “this isn’t permanent,” “you’ll be good as new,” “I hope it doesn’t hurt too much” with a smile on my face and a recognition that they do mean well. I have received such an outpouring of love and concern—but it is (hopefully) temporary, and so people move on.
I say this because I am absolutely guilty of it myself. I completely forget about the woman who asked for prayers for a knee injury a month ago. I gloss right over the man who seems to be healing just fine from an operation for skin cancer. And that’s not wholly bad—we can’t keep everyone and all their ailments in our minds all the time.
That’s God’s job.
It has been so magnificently weird to see beyond the pat sayings I don’t know how to answer (please, someone tell me what to say to “Let us know if you need anything,” because the only things I can ever come up with are things they can’t give) to the One Who actually knows whether it hurts. I have had people pray over me, people bring me spaghetti because I hate soup, people let me prattle about instruments because I get so sick of talking about my ear’s progress, people shift seating so I can hear, people listen to me complain yet again because I hate this and how limiting it is. I have seen agape, selfless love, and I have learned not only to receive it (sort of) but also to appreciate the difficulties of people for whom pain like this is permanent.
I can’t say this is fun, or that I recommend it. It sucks. But in the frustration of muscles mending ever-so-slowly, the pain of skin stretched taut in incisions, the nerves that stop working out of pure shock for a time, there is the soft Voice of the God Who made the muscles, the skin, the nerves. There’s the God Who wore them, and Who understands what it feels like to have them torn, to wait while they knit themselves back together. There’s the God Who also has scars and a body that will never be “good as new” but will have a thousand stories told on this strange and improbable mess of blood and bone and heart and soul. In this I wait, and heal, and rail, and learn.
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:13, KJV)