Just last week I had surgery on my spine. They called it minimally invasive. I had good doctors, a good hospital, and good support but I thought I’d share some thoughts from the experience and what it meant to me, what I learned, and how we might grow from experiences like this. Fear is the first emotion that I want to share. I was afraid. Over the years I have been in thousands of hospital rooms. There have been patients who have been dying and others with minor surgeries who I prayed with and tried to comfort. Being on the other end of surgery is something completely different. Big revelation, right? Those of you who have had surgery are saying – “Now you know what I went through.”
Training helps, experience matters, and first hand experience is the best teacher. When people start talking about cutting things near your spine the emotion of fear creeps in and takes up residence in your mind. Partly it was the fear of losing control. Having someone put you to sleep, which sounds strangely like taking an old dog to the vet. Then you realize they will take over breathing for you with a machine and you begin to over-think these details and how they are all connected. What if there is a power failure? What if the Chinese shut down the power grid in Chicago? What if the anesthesiologist turns the nob the wrong way and suddenly five minutes later says, “Whoops.” What if they are playing some song from Captain and Tennille in the operating room and you get that song stuck in your mind for years?
You reassure yourself by saying, “These are trained people with years of experience.” Yet, my doctor is younger than me. I guess a lot of the population is younger than me now – but that is beside the point – HE IS YOUNGER THAN ME. Again he was trained at one of the best hospitals in the world and only operates on spines. “It’s going to be OK.” Everyone is saying that and I’m saying that to myself but Mr. Fear Emotion interrupts. So, I repeat a little mantra that I learned many years ago at a retreat to help me through moments of fear – “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Over and over I say it and move through the valley of the shadows waiting for those words, “Alright Mr. Meyer, take some deep breaths now.”
Fear has no meaning at that point and all that I am is in the hands of others. Was it all a dream. I’m in pain – but oh, its the gurney with a really uncomfortable mattress that’s hurting. I’m awake again – sort of – I’m alive because I seem to be thinking. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His mercy endures forever.” Fear was the emotion of yesterday. It only pitches a tent for awhile until Faith comes along and kicks it out.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Tim 1:7