HomePrayer Updates"Seriously, God?!"

"Seriously, God?!"

Seven weeks had passed since His House of Hope Hospital had reopened.  I was the only doctor on site, and my partner was not due back for another six weeks.  I noticed some blurriness in my right eye, which I casually mentioned to others.  "Must be sleep deprivation," we mused-- which made sense, given that we were doing 40-60 deliveries per month, and awake at least part of most nights.  

Day by day, the blurriness grew worse.  I started to self-diagnose, and realized it was a darkening of the upper inner quadrant of my vision.  After consulting a book, then emailing several eye doctor friends around the world, it became apparent that I was having a progressive problem with either my optic nerve or my retina (the inside surface of the back of the eye which receives images and transmits them to the brain).  It was unsettling-- I was 42 years old, running a mission hospital by myself, and potentially losing my vision.

One friend happened to be a retinal surgeon, serving as a missionary in Kenya.  As we exchanged emails, he suggested I objectively test my vision. I kept second-guessing myself, thinking I was making it up. However, doing these simple tests made it apparent that the visual loss was real and progressive.  Late one Friday night we talked on the phone— "I think you need to make a trip to Kenya..." he told me—bringing the reality of the situation to light.

With only two flights out of our South Sudanese town each week, we quickly called the local airline representative (on his cell phone, at 9PM on a Friday night) to see if there was space on the flight the next morning.  There was-- but only one seat. We had wanted someone to accompany me, but that was not an option. In the midst of it all, our first response was “Seriously, God?!”

I left Saturday morning, taking several plane flights and a long car ride to reach Tenwek Mission Hospital in Western Kenya on a Sunday afternoon. Our friend, the retinal surgeon, immediately took me to the eye ward and examined me. I wasn’t making it up. My retina was detached, nearly to the focal point of my vision. He recommended surgery—a vitrectomy to remove the gel-like fluid (vitreous) in the back of my eye, then laser treatment to scar the retina back in place. I nearly passed out as I considered the radical nature of the surgery he was describing. I had been hoping he could just zap me with a burst of laser and call it good.

During the trip to Tenwek, I had been wrestling with God in my thoughts, telling Him how I didn’t want to have surgery. (Similar to the previous few months, when I had wrestled with Him about doing emergency C-sections when exhausted…) Something about 3 large needles and draining my eye didn’t interest me. Late that Saturday night as I waited at the Nairobi airport, He impressed upon me that I needed to surrender ALL to Jesus. “But Lord, I have surrendered all to you—we are serving in South Sudan!” Yet I knew if I trusted Him completely, I would submit to Him even in this very unexpected reality.

Less than an hour after diagnosis, I was in surgery. Under local anesthesia, I was awake, and being a doctor, I understood more than I wished I did. Near the end of the surgery, I was aware of the electrocautery being used to control bleeding. In the last few minutes of the surgery, my eye swelled up due to bleeding around and inside the eye.

After the shock of the diagnosis and surgery passed, the two weeks of waiting, recovery, and keeping my face down toward the ground began. Not only had I required surgery, but I had a complication of surgery (one of those things all of us that do surgery tell people can occasionally, but rarely, happen). More significantly, my family was 600 miles away in South Sudan (not a particularly safe or stable place) while I recovered. What was God doing in all of this?

Again I cried out, “Seriously, God?!” I was struck by my powerlessness, weakness, and lack of understanding—and simultaneously by the fact that He is God. I knew Him to be good, and I could trust what He was doing.

He is God. It isn’t my right to understand what He is doing—even in my own life. What He allows in my life often seems harsh, unnecessary, and unpractical in the common sense of the world. But He is God, and He knows what I need a lot better than I. This is the essence of surrendering and trusting Him completely.

I thought we were through most of the difficulty, but the story was not yet done.

(to be continued in a subsequent post…)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 05:24

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