This morning is the anniversary of the day I was admitted to the hospital for treatment of an infection that eventually resulted in the amputation of my left foot and the beginning of a long year of rehabilitation. I wouldn’t have remembered the anniversary except it was called to my mind by a very unusual and startlingly vivid dream last night. I rarely dream in color but this was spectacular! As I watched, someone in a fiery red robe pushed a door open in front of me revealing a bright landscape shaped by rolling spring green hills, shelves of deep blue mountains retreating into a distant horizon all gathered below a sky of perfect turquoise with white clouds roaming its wide expanse. As I looked at this stunning scene I also felt but did not see a shell of darkness extending behind me stirring memories of the shadowy parts of the extraordinary year gone by.
I didn’t know what the dream meant and as I write this I still don’t. It could mean that a long journey through many difficulties is ending for me and is about to be replaced by something better except I don’t need anything better. I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything (an almost universal feeling among amputees). The person I am and the health,strength and joy that fill me today constitute a miraculous gain not loss. So what did my vivid dream really mean? Right now I don’t think it necessarily had a meaning; all I know is that I woke to what for me is a fresh new year filled with a peace that has erased all my nagging anxieties and substituted a powerful feeling of optimism about all of life including its challenges. I know I have the strength to deal with tough times because I have done that. But most important I have beheld the presence of a God whose love transformed the darkness surrounding my year long passage into the same beautiful light I saw in my dream, the light in which I live every day.
I find myself in the most frustrating part of my journey these days. On one hand, I have been blest with a surge of strength and energy as my body seems to be getting ready to resume a style of living that includes walking. On the other hand, I’m stuck awaiting the arrival of my socket, the most important part of a prosthesis.
I have experienced many delays throughout my journey but this one is tough. I know I can walk because I’ve done it using a training socket but I’m still wheelchair bound. I feel like a caged lion especially because it’s not a matter of something I can’t do physically. I’m eager to do things like shopping and going to church but at the same time, I really don’t feel like doing things in the wheelchair because that’s just not who I am anymore.
So how do I try to handle this part of the journey? The answer is with gratefulness. God has been working with me for a long time teaching me what faith really is. As I’ve described in these posts, I’ve experienced convincing miracles but I know now that they really don’t convey God’s deepest message for me. That message is trust which means turning over the management of my life to God. Miracles showed me that God is real and is with me but waiting has taught me how to trust God.
I will certainly walk (that is God’s promise) but it will happen when God says. I know the delay has benefited my growth in faith but it also may well have afforded time for my leg to heal in some way that will prevent a crisis down the road. I also know that the wait has refined my thinking about what I will do when I can walk. Once I looked forward to doing things like going to Golden Corral and eating all sorts of foods my wife wisely forbids. But now I’m focused on lifting the burden of transporting me to dialysis from my family and on doing volunteer work for some organization that matters to me. My discovery has been that waiting is hard but sometimes waiting may be the best possible thing for a person.
My journey through amputation toward recovery has included extraordinary moments, some of which deserve the name miracle. I’ve written about a few of those events in this blog but I have also experienced one unique experience that has been an everyday part of my life since this entire thing began about a year ago.
The realities of amputation and the challenges of rehabilitation have driven me to frequent prayer, but these prayers have consistently been thwarted. Whenever I would try to pray about something weighing heavy on me like the prospect for surviving the surgery or the longing to walk again I would hear a voice say to me in clear words “I’ve got this.” Whenever I then tried to continue my prayer I felt my words being thrown back at me as if the effort reflected a disappointing lack of trust. This total experience was in no way vague or mystical; it was visceral and direct.
Living daily with this phenomenon has changed me. I have learned what it means to trust God. A year ago I would have said that trusting God meant believing that there is a God and that God loves me. I now understand that it means much more than that. Today I know that trust is a matter of holding on to the idea that in every aspect of my life no matter how small, mundane or even difficult, God is working on behalf of what is best for me. My greatest challenge, one that I’ve learned is much tougher than getting back on my feet, has been the task of abandoning worry and embracing all of life with joy knowing that God is at work in every situation. As a result my frightened pleas to God have been replaced by praise and my once constant worries have been driven away by unwavering confidence.
So, what’s the coincidence that my title refers to? Yesterday I was on the phone with my mom when she told me a story about the days before my surgery. She was continually imploring God for my survival and that I might walk again when she suddenly heard a voice say “Don’t pray about this anymore. Your prayer has already been answered.” She told me that it felt a bit like a rebuke but she understood that it meant it was time for her to let go and let God take care of this matter. Today she wonders if we both heard the same clear firm voice. Who can say for sure, but I suspect we did.