What Heart Surgery Taught Me about Myself, Pain, and God
Two of my four children have had open heart surgery. In fact, between the two of them we’ve gone through six open-heart surgeries.
It’s a heavy responsibility to sign papers consenting for your child’s surgery, anesthesia, and blood transfusions after they give you the speech about all the potentially-fatal risks of everything they are going to do. It’s one thing to make that kind of decision for yourself. It’s quite another to have to make such a weighty, life-or-death decision for another human being.
Then there’s the impossible task of explaining what is going to happen to the child. Our kids so far have been too young to understand anything. We just took them to the hospital, kissed them goodbye in the surgery hallway, and watched, hearts wringing, as the masked gloved nurse carried them through double doors into the operating room.
Then hours and hours later, we would finally be allowed to see them in the intensive care unit. We’d sit by their bed, hold their hands, stroke their heads, and cry with them. They would thrash around, trying to pull the tubes out of their chest and throat. They would turn their eyes on us and burn their accusations into our hearts.
“Why did you let them do this to me? Why don’t you do anything? Why don’t you take the pain away?”
Sitting there helplessly, I’ve realized that this is exactly what I say to God when He allows things in my life that look and feel terrible. I thrash and scream and fight it and demand answers of him.
“Why did you let this happen? Why don’t you do anything? Why don’t you take the pain away?”
And then I think of my son or daughter in the cardiac intensive care unit. I remember that even if I did explain it to her, she would not understand. He would still scream and cry and fight the very things that were keeping him alive and helping him heal.
I am like my infant daughter and son, and God is my parent, my loving Father.
I must trust him in the pain, trust that all his promises are true. That his character is good. That he truly does make all things work together for good for his children. And I must accept that some things I simply cannot understand.