We plan, we schedule; we want to know what will come next. We experience anxiety when it all doesn’t go as we planned. Human beings want to be in control of their world—or at least we want to think we are. I suppose the past few weeks remind the Ward family of the fallacy of that belief. Simply put: it’s an illusion!!
On Labor Day Laurie had an episode of sharp pain. The diagnosis was that her gall bladder was “full of stones” and needed to be removed. So we planned accordingly.
We scheduled the surgery; from all reports it was a fairly routine outpatient procedure. Nowadays they use a laparoscope to do the surgery, which makes recovery even quicker. Others who have had their gall bladder out reported that they recovered quickly. Based on all this, we assumed she would be out of action for a little while but nothing too significant. She planned to take one Sunday out of the pulpit in church and be back working the next week, and preaching the following Sunday.
But, true to life, things didn’t exactly go as we planned it. The first fly in the proverbial ointment was that the surgery had to be postponed a week because Laurie had a cold. The surgeon and chief anesthesiologist decided not to risk “added respiratory complications” with what was, at the end of the day, an “elective” procedure for Laurie. Ten minutes from the operating room, the procedure was cancelled and rescheduled for the following week. It was a nuisance—okay, it was more than a nuisance; we were not happy. We had to rearrange our lives again. Laurie’s mom had come up and would have to go home and then come back again the following week. Laurie had to arrange her pastoral schedule—which had already been rearranged in anticipation of surgery.
So we came back to the hospital a week later and did it all over again. This time the surgery went forward and seemed to go well. She went home the same day but she just didn’t recover as had been expected. At first we thought maybe it was “just bad gas” after being under anesthesia, but it didn’t get better; if anything it got worse. When she was still unable to eat anything without pain after several days we knew things weren’t going “according to plan”. She continued having pain, and, finally, early the following Saturday morning she went to the Emergency Room, and was subsequently admitted.
That brings us to today. As I write this, we’re in the pre-op area at Franklin Square. The working assumption now is that Laurie has a gallstone blocking one of her bile ducts and causing pain. She’ll have an ERCP (you can look it up if you really want to know what it means) where they go in and explore around her digestive track to try and find the “rogue” stone and if they find one they can dislodge it. It should take care of the problem. The only concern is that about 6% of the people who have these procedures end up with inflammation of the pancreas.
It’s funny isn’t it, “normal life” is really composed of lots of circumstances that don’t go the way we planned them. We take the good, the bad, and the ugly and merge it all together into something we call life.
As a follower of Christ, I believe that these events are not all random and meaningless. Sometimes I don’t have a clue what’s going on in the heat of the moment, but I trust there is a “bigger picture”, a “larger story” that extends beyond my finite perceptions of reality. Sometimes my humanness clouds my ability to see beyond my own nose. Francesca Battistelli expresses it well in one of her songs: “In the middle of my little mess I forget how big I’m blessed...” I get self-absorbed in my own little world; I lose sight of the “big picture”; I experience doubt about whether there really is a “larger story”.
Batistelli’s song lyric continues, “…but this is the stuff you use,”. I like this sentiment. I don’t think God brings “bad” things into our lives; they come because we live here on Earth—a place where sin and death are realities. However, I think God uses all the stuff of life—good, bad, joy, tragedy, and all the everyday moments too—to form us into the people God desires us to be. Paul reminds us that this is a bedrock of our faith. Even when I don’t understand how, God really does work all things together for good for those who love God.
There have been moments, such as when my daughter Hope unexpectedly died two days after she was born, when life’s howling storms stripped away everything else, that bedrock was all I had left to cling to. But the good news is that foundation held; it proved a very present help in time of need.
UPDATE: Laurie has just gone back for surgery now… Please pray that all goes well.