“I don’t think you realize how close you were [to dying]…” my mom’s physician said to her, several times, in the past few weeks. And every time she relayed his words to me this past week, I remembered the not-so-distant memory of the heaviness that weighed on me so many times in the previous weeks because I could feel how close she was.
It started with excruciating back pain and ended up with two [major] emergency surgeries, multiple [serious] infections and [over] three weeks in the hospital.
But do you know what it DIDN’T end with?
It didn’t end with death, even though it could have. It didn’t end with death, even though it was close. It ended with LIFE. God was so, so merciful to us.
I remember getting the news that she was in the hospital (while we were out of the state, nonetheless) and praying that God would take away her pain. But soon after we discovered that the pain was caused by a very serious Staph infection that had severely damaged two of her discs. And then? Then I began to praise God for the pain. Before, I had been asking him to take it away, to relieve her, to calm her body, when that pain was the very thing that saved her life. Oh, how this has had me pondering. How quick I am to pray for others’ pain to be relieved. How quick I am to pray that my pain should be lifted, when perhaps God is using that pain as the very tool to save my life. Maybe not always in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense…to draw me closer to Him…to teach me His ways…to show me how to depend on Him and Him alone…to save me from the ways I have put my hope in false things without even realizing it. I am too quick to want to remove pain and not quick enough to surrender to God’s hand that sometimes brings pain to save us.
The last 3+ weeks have been so hard. It was an incredibly (awful) roller coaster of one day receiving good news and the next day receiving the news of a terrible twist in the recovery. One day, while she was in the middle of her second emergency surgery, I just shut my door (“kids, I’ve got to go pray and cry my heart out to God”) and I let the wails go. In reality, I think this second emergency surgery does not typically end in death, but death just felt so near. I don’t even know how else to describe it, but I was gripped with fear of losing my mom. Oh boy, did I cry. Begging God to have mercy on my mom and tears flooding my open bible, He led me to a verse (an entire chapter, really) that has carried me through some of my darkest days over the years.
“His tender mercies are over all of His works.” Psalm 145:9
Now, in that moment, I wanted to be led to a verse that promised me he wouldn’t take my mom’s life (I know, never gonna find that in the bible) and I began to protest: “MERCIFUL? TENDERLY merciful??” I wanted to scream. I imagined doctors and nurses frantically prepping my mom for surgery and rushing her into the operating room. “Tender” is not exactly the word I would use to describe what was happening to her. But I couldn’t even get my protest into audible words because God’s peace was so immediately with me (He is near to those who call upon Him! v.18) and I remembered. I remembered that His word is true and He IS merciful, all the time, despite what circumstances look like. He IS merciful in the midst of pain. In fact, the pain IS often THE MERCY. It had been the pain that mercifully saved my mom’s life just days before and although I couldn’t understand how this second surgery could be merciful, I had to have faith that it was. Even if it ended in death. And so I thanked God for being merciful to my mama, even though I couldn’t understand. I prayed that His mercies wouldn’t cease and that He would protect her, take care of her, and spare her life. And you know what? He did all of those things. And it turns out the pain that the led them to discover the perforated intestine which led them to this second emergency surgery was, indeed, His great mercies again. Although we will never know for sure, it seems like the issue was a pre-existing condition that no one knew about. That, in and of itself, also could have killed her if it had gone undetected for much longer.
His tender mercies are over all of His works.
This past week I have been able to talk to my mom several times (!!!) and each time, she testified over and over and over to how God has ordained every single minute of her time in the hospital. How He has provided and taken care of her and seen to every detail of her needs. I am in awe of how the doctors caught various issues–multiple times–that all could have led to death if untreated. So thankful for the amazing physicians that cared for her. So thankful for the spit-fire nurse who washed her hair (Ahhhh the mercy of clean hair!). For every doctor and nurse who so tenderly cared for my mama in the midst of her great suffering and need. So thankful for the dearest friends, family, and church family who covered us all in prayer and love the past few weeks. So thankful for my mom’s sisters, my dear aunts, who responded to emails and updates with contagious hope and joy, who texted me to check in on me in my lowest hour, who loved us all so tenderly. So thankful for the ways that the Lord sustained and protected my dad, who spent hours upon hours tirelessly caring for my mom, loving her well, and commuting back and forth from the Springs to Denver to be with her. How could I miss the shower of tender mercies raining down upon my family?
And so, she LIVES. (Hallelujah!) Just a few days ago my mom said “goodbye” to the hospital staff and “hello” to a rehab facility. Although we don’t know how long she will be there, I am learning to rest in the peace of Christ and trust that God’s plans for my mom are far more merciful than my best thoughts and ideas. I am trusting that He will be with her as she re-learns how to walk and do life with a slightly different body. Trusting that although there probably will still be a long, difficult road ahead, that His tender mercies cover that road in the peace of Christ. And, that the Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth. He is so tenderly near.
Thank you, Father, for sparing my mom’s life.
Mom, I don’t know when we’ll accidentally dress as twins (unless I can find me a butterfly back brace!), be able to take a four-wheeler ride or bake pies together again…but none of those things matter…I am just so thankful to still have you.