Two weeks ago I came out of a wisdom teeth operation feeling right as rain--wasn't a big deal at all. I was even sunbathing on my first post-op day. Then my face proceeded to puff up, but one side became increasingly swollen. It was hard to talk, my smile was lopsided, and my right cheek looked like I had a goiter. By Monday morning I was in tears back in the doctor's office, finding out I had an infection on one side of my face.
The hard part wasn't that I got the infection--complications like that happen frequently. The pain was bothersome too, for sure (oxycodone, man...talk about knocking you out). It was the waiting game. Watching the mirror throughout the day, hoping to see deflation but instead only seeing small changes day-by-day. I did everything in my power to help the process along...hot presses, saline solutions, even propping myself up to sleep and staying in bed to rest during all my free-time. But after a week of all that care, frustration, and worry of if it would ever go away (and one painful mouth incision later that week which swelled me up once again) I felt completely helpless. It was so hard to be patient for things to heal on their own when I didn't look or feel like myself. I prayed to God for complete healing and asked others to as well. I wanted to trust that things would work out, that God would answer my prayers--but in my head I knew that I lacked the faith that God truly was in control. Impatience and insecurity heightened my fear that this ailment would not be resolved....that I would look like this forever.
Let me take this moment to say that I had a lot of great support that week. My parents, the Churches, Ross, and many friend's concern and compassion. But after a week or two of praying, trying, caring, doing... I broke down in my room and cried, hard. The hardest I have in a while. I was frustrated, tired, and so so scared that I would not be healed.
Exactly one month ago Richard from Bethany preached on trials (James 1), and how they will inevitably happen, no matter who you are or what you've done. He reminded us that God uses them to refine us, because it is through trials that our character (and subsequent flaws) are truly shown and we realize our deep, deep need for Him.
I'm going to be completely honest with you--I have lived a beyond privileged life. So many people I know have endured SUCH BIGGER THINGS than I have, and experienced trials I can't even imagine. But in a season of life where things have relatively peachy, this was my trial.
And I realized--out of all the ugly sides this trial was revealing about me (my pride, concern with outer appearances, impatience, and wavering faith) he was showing me that I am not in control. EVER. Ever breath I take, every hour of every day, my body, my possessions, MY LIFE--it's all His. A voice in my head whispered, "Stop trying to control every part of your life, and lean into the present moment. Embrace uncertainty and altered plans and days not going your way. God is making you new in those moments if you'll only let go and choose to walk joyfully into the circumstances he has put before you."
In the midst of this crying session I opened up a book my mom gave me called "One Thousand Gifts" in which the author wrote down all the things (big, but mainly small) she was thankful for everyday. Despite whatever she was going through that day, this woman chose joy.
Whether I would heal up or look lopsided forever was now irrelevant--for what I looked like in the mirror that day, and everyday forward, was (is) the reality of life. You cannot control it. The question now was "In this trial, and in every trial that comes your way (and they will come)... are you going to choose discouragement and fear and empty grabs for control, or chose joy, peace, and thankfulness?"
I chose the latter that day. I gave up control, and resolved to carry on with my normal life, this time with thanksgiving and trust written on my arm to remind me to embrace my circumstances. I left the house that night, attended to a party with some good friends, and danced--hard--with a joyful heart.
That's when the real healing began, both outside and in.
A week later and I am pleased to say I am much improved; only minimal swollenness from scar tissue remains. They say it should heal completely in the next few weeks to months. For now the scar tissue serves as a reminder of all God taught me that week. And for that, I am very, very thankful.