Glad.  Fear.  Lonely.  Shame.  

I had extensive sinus surgery last week.  Before the surgery the ear/nose/throat specialist warned me that the recovery would be pretty miserable.  She was not exaggerating but she left me with a promise, “A week from now after we are able to remove the plastic splints that will be left in your sinuses after the surgery, you will feel much better.”

I have been miserable.  It’s Sunday night and I go in tomorrow morning to have the doctor take out these stiff plastic straw-like splints that I can see poking out of my nostrils and can feel touching the back of my brain.  As I look back over the past week, I am struck by the survival techniques I instinctively reached for to endure it. 

Medication.  Sleep.  Distraction.  News.  Election politics.  More sleep.  I look at the clock and three hours have passed.  I wake up in the morning and I am another day closer to this long week being over.

I have been too weak to work.  I have felt too much pain to read.  I’ve been too uncomfortable to talk to any friends.  Last night I kept thinking, “I just need some ice-cream!”  But then realized that even a food treat would not take away my misery since I would not be able to taste it. 

Seven nights and eight days.  Then six nights.  Then five.  Then four.  If there had been a way for me to stay asleep from last Monday until tomorrow morning, I would have chosen it.

How much of my life have I lived this way?   Distracted.  Medicated.  Entertained.  Busy.  Numbed.  Asleep with my eyes open.

Life is hard.  Marriage is hard.  Parenting is harder.  Health is failing.  Friendships are elusive.  So we reflexively reach for survival tools to get through life without having to fully feel it.  We survive but we don’t live.  

Seven years ago I was thriving externally but dying on the inside.  I wasn’t enough for my wife.  I wasn’t enough for my kids.  I wasn’t enough for the church I was pastoring that was doubling in size every year.  I buried my dad and my oldest sister.  Multiple failed adoptions that felt like miscarriages.  A best friend and partner went emotionally AWOL.  And I could not work hard enough to make the hurt, loneliness, sadness, shame, guilt, and fear go away.   I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.  

Today I am thanking God for Chip Dodd and Phil Herndon, two men who helped me begin to face life on life’s terms.  Two men who woke me up . . . not to deny the voice of my heart but instead awaken to it . . . to counter-intuitively move deeper in the direction of the pain I had been working so feverishly to avoid or deny . . . seeing more which meant feeling more which meant needing more.  

Surrendered.  Crying out.

  • Sadness offered the gift of acceptance.  
  • Fear offered the gift of faith.  
  • Loneliness offered the gift of into-me-see.   
  • Hurt offered the gift of healing.
  • Shame offered the gift of humility.  
  • Guilt offered the gift of forgiveness and freedom.