It is not an easy thing to both exit and reenter this world on the same day. And I believe it’s even worse when you reenter it as a different person.
This is what happened in the early stages of writing this book. I initially thought the timing to be terrible. I had a book to write—a book on identity and making peace, once and for all, with who we truly are. I now wonder if the timing was divine.
I should note I did not experience actual death. No reincarnation or resurrection. And no Lazarus-sized miracles, in spite of my repeated, face-on-the-floor prayers. But I did endure a very real death. A death I would’ve done just about anything to avoid.
After the third cancer diagnosis and brutal surgery that included the removal of two-thirds of my tongue, multiple incisions, skin grafts, and major reconstruction, I arose from anesthetic bliss to discover a woman I no longer recognized.
I went to sleep whole and woke up broken.
Before the doctor injected happy-sleepy serum into my veins, I was able to talk and swallow and sing and kiss my husband and eat a four-course gourmet meal.
Nine hours later, I woke up in a cold and hollow hospital room unable to do any of those things.
In that moment, and countless times in the days, weeks, and months that followed, I discovered, to my deep pain, that I was not—nor will ever be—the woman I was before. Like watching a horror movie looping its most terrifying scene, I was forced to face the brutal truth again and again.
Permanent physical disability, they call it. Eating is now an exercise that takes at least twice as long as it used to. Even worse, the exercise comes with no reward. I taste little of what I work so hard to chew and swallow. I can speak, but only with great effort, imperfect enunciation, and a gravelly voice I don’t recognize. And then there’s the constant choking, a body scissored with scars, and chronic discomfort.
Permanent disability? Yes, you could say that.
For a woman who long prided herself on living a well-ordered life, it’s not an easy thing to accept a body that won’t fall into line. For months I raged against it, grieved the loss with tears that wouldn’t stop.
Until I started to see that wrestling with my physical self was simply mirroring a deeper, inward struggle.
For too long I’d lived a slave to my performance. In school. In parenting. In marriage. In career. In housekeeping. In faith. In spite of my near-constant exhaustion, I could never allow myself to rest. There were always flaws that needed fixing, attitudes that needed adjusting, countertops that required cleaning, and relationships that needed mending. Everywhere I looked I saw a disability that needed healing. And so I rolled up my emotional sleeves and determined to be better.
But in all that striving, I failed to realize two important truths:
The first truth? I’d had a permanent disability long before surgery. In spite of all my good intentions and hard efforts, I have always been and always will be human. That means I’m complicated, flawed, sinful.
No amount of hard work will heal my brokenness. Any attempts to fix myself will merely lead to further disappointment and insecurity.
The second truth I realized is this: I am enough. I don’t need to wipe up all my messes and fix all my flaws. I’m not required to get my act together or put on a good show. My identity has nothing to do with me. Instead, I am loved by someone who has loved me from the beginning of time, even knowing the ways I’d end up disfigured and disabled.
Romans 5:6–8 says this:
“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (MSG).
No use whatever.
He didn’t choose and love and save because you and I were useful. He did it simply for love. —www.iambook.net #iambook
He sees beyond our failures and flaws, our successes and showing off. He knows our fickle hearts and our inability to keep our promises. And yet He promises to stay true to us. Forever. That means, disabled or not, I’m enough. You’re enough. Exactly as we are. Because the miracle never hinged on us in the first place.
That is the one thing I long for you to take away from these sixty days together.
You are not your mistakes. Nor are you your successes.
You are not your accusers’ criticisms. Nor are you your fans’ affirmations.
You are not your character flaws or your character strengths.
You are because He is.
Created. Saved. Worth coming back for.
Question: What does it mean to YOU that God sees beyond both your successes and your failures? You can leave a comment by clicking here.