Letters from the Wilderness: 2

The mind of man plans his way, but Yahweh directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

Well, this is beginning to look familiar.

This time two weeks ago I had just gotten home from the emergency room and was resting on the sofa with a very sore forehead. Earlier that morning I had had three quick episodes of blacking out, during the first of which I whacked my forehead on the bathroom counter as I went down.

The last time I took a ride in an ambulance was about 8 ½ years ago when I had a grand mal seizure after having brain surgery. All I remember about that trip is waking up strapped to a board as the EMT crew carried me down the stairs and out to the ambulance, which I somewhat grouchily said at the time was an unnecessary expense.

This trip I was fully conscious by the time the EMT crew arrived and was carried down the stairs strapped to a chair — from the standpoint of my nerves I think I preferred the backboard. In the ambulance the EMT crew leader calmly asked me a series of questions while her counterpart, who was a visiting EMT from South Dakota, tried to put an IV in my wrist. “What’s fun to do in Kansas City?” he asked after he had given up. “Well … the World War I museum is really cool,” I replied after a moment.

In the emergency room I got a hospital gown and those funny socks with non-slip designs on both sides. The nurse gave me an ID bracelet and successfully found a vein for an IV. She scanned the barcodes on my bracelet as she worked her way through all the standard operating procedures. She brought me toasty warm hospital blankets to combat my shivers; it was a chilly morning and the air conditioning made the room quite cold.

A technician came and put sticky pads all over me to get an EKG reading.

One of our pastors came to pick up my dad, who was still recovering from a February ice-related broken ankle, and asked how I was doing. “Not too bad,” I said, and it was true, aside from a sore head. “How are you?” “Recovering from a mysterious leg injury,” he said. “I woke up yesterday and couldn’t walk on one of my legs.” “What?!” my mom, my dad and I must have exclaimed in unison.

Another tech came and wheeled me down to the cat scan room. On our way I saw my pastor and my dad (who is also my pastor, too) farther down the hall, slowly walking toward the exit. Once in the scan room, the tech watched me carefully as I moved from the hospital cart to the bed of the imaging machine. Cat scans haven’t changed much in the past 20 years, I thought as I lay there, remembering the first one I’d had at 5 or 6 when I’d fallen off a wall and had a concussion. He got me another warm blanket and wheeled me back to my little room. The physician’s assistant came in a while later, said my scans were all fine, washed out my head wound (which hurt like blazes), glued it shut, and said I could go home, but to see my GP as soon as possible the next week for a follow-up.

The next week at the doctor’s office, the practice’s physician’s assistant wasn’t as quick as the ER PA to classify my adventure as a vasal-vagal response blackout, so she referred me to a cardiologist and to the neurologist who looked after me after my brain surgery and seizure to get some additional tests done.

Yesterday, as I sat in the patient room at the cardiologist’s, I thought back to 9 years ago when I had sat waiting in the office of a different cardiologist as my doctor sought answers for why I had inexplicably fainted one evening. I had not realized it yet back then, but I was angry — angry that something had happened to interrupt my schedule, my plans, my ideas of how normal life and existence were supposed to work.

I was angry that my perceived right to run my personal universe as I saw fit had been challenged. I was angry that my control over my circumstances had been threatened.

It took me a long time to recognize and then to admit that anger and frustration and fear to God. It took me a long time to be able to let go of dreams and hopes and plans that I was tightly clutching. But finally it happened. I wouldn’t wish brain surgery, a seizure and 11 months of not being allowed to drive on anyone, but I am so thankful that God brought all of those things into my life to teach me Who He is. I would not be the woman I am today had He not used all of those circumstances to shape me and refine me and teach me to trust Him.

So here I am today, wearing a Holter monitor under my sweater, wondering what, if anything, it will have to say about my heart. It’s so much … easier … this time. Not the Holter monitor (although it actually is; the tech has advanced a lot in 9 years) — the testing, the waiting, the unknowing. It is so much easier to trust that God is good and that He is using this entire experience for my good to accomplish things He had planned before I was a thought in anybody’s mind but His.

Still, I wonder what am I supposed to learn this time? What is it You want to teach me? I may have grown up in 9 years, but I still need a lot of work. What will it be this time?

What lies beyond the bend in the road?

Further reading:
“something ridiculous”
letter no. 1
what will you?
“show me how to die”
willing to be brave
here, now
should you find yourself curious …