It is in the arena of feelings that most of us get tossed around unwittingly. Sometimes feelings (especially those we label as ‘negative’) can be so powerful that we let them rule our lives. We tend to resist and push away the feelings we don’t want and hold on tightly to those we wish would last forever. Even though experience teaches us that neither approach is effective for maintaining serenity, we continue to behave in this way because it seems to make sense to us. We push away that which we don’t like and hold on to that which we do. No matter what the external landscape in any given moment happens to be, remember that you have the power to choose your mental environment.”
-Nancy O’Hara, Find a Quiet Corner
Even though today is quite possibly one of the most celebrated, fabricated, “scare-inducing” days of the year, sometimes the fear we face in our own realities is even more frightening.
I had waited for this day for a very long time. After my recent diagnosis with Achalasia, a rare digestive disease that affects the muscles and nerves of the lower esophagus, I needed help. Eating and drinking, something I sincerely took for granted, was becoming harder and harder by the day. Shortness of breath and esophageal spasms interrupt me at the darnedest times.
My third visit to the surgeon was hopefully going to give me direction and answers. First and foremost on my agenda was establishing the date for a Heller Myotemy, the golden standard of treatment for Achalasia. After months of praying (seeking the spiritual first) and trying to get insurance approval (always looking for the physical) for a brand new POEM procedure, Rob and I had decided it wasn’t wise to wait any longer. Everything I read on the disease said the earlier the treatment the better.
Instead, more delays, more bad news and more haunting projections of future issues. Long story short: Achalasia is “a rare, incurable and progressive esophageal motility disease with only palliative treatment.” Three words no one wants to hear. Rare. Incurable. Progressive. Any surgery done to assist in the digestive process is “deconstructive,” not constructive. Hence, the delays in decisions about which mode of treatment.
For some reason, I felt oddly stuck and if I am honest, frightened.
I felt as if there was no “wind in my sails,” you might say.
As I was leaving my surgeon’s office, cold pelting rain mixed with the tears falling down my face and the fear mounting in my heart. Discouraged and a bit hopeless, which isn’t like me, I fumbled with balancing my umbrella while digging around in my purse to find my keys.
Doesn’t anxiety have a way of making everything seem a little harder?
Doesn’t fear have a way of making bad news sound worse than it really is?
Finally, keys in hand, I went to open the door. At that exact moment, I saw it.
A simple green leaf.
When God Reassures Us
“The righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (Proverbs [11:28], ESV).
To anyone else, it would be just that—a simple green leaf stuck to the car.
But to me, it was God speaking—reassuring me that he is with me in my crisis and cares very much about me.
For years, I would give that same reassurance to my younger daughter, Brooke. Troubled by menacing medical issues throughout her childhood and young adulthood, this verse became very special to us. I’m not sure how or why, but I remember looking for verses that talked about the word “thrive,” because that is exactly what I wanted to pray for her. God, make Brooke thrive.
Thrive, v. grow or develop well or vigorously; prosper, flourish.
I drove home with that little green leaf in my hand. Okay, God, I guess it is my turn to ask for you to make my physical health thrive.
I prayed all the way home. God, please help me.
As I moved the leaf back and forth between my thumb and forefinger, whispering Proverbs [11:28] over and over again, the fear in my heart slowly went away.
Facing Fear and Making Adjustments
The next day, through a series of very fortunate events, I found a surgeon who had just performed the first POEM procedure in the state of Virginia. By the next day, he emailed me, his office called twice, and an appointment for a consult was scheduled. The wind had shifted and the sails of my life blew in a new direction to a new surgeon.
Sometimes, in the midst of life, we have to make adjustments. Small changes that catch the wind and release a whole new direction or way of doing things. We may not understand, at the time, why progress is delayed or hindered or even stalled, but given time, it will all make sense.
This simple acrostic, H.O.P.E., helps me:
H = Hold on, help is on the way.
O = Open my eyes, ears, and heart to God.
P = Pray without ceasing.
E = Expect an answer.
Sometimes, the answer might look like a simple green leaf.
I’d love to know how you face your fears. Has God ever spoken through something a little “uncanny,” say, like a leaf? Will you share with us? You never know how your story will bring someone else hope!