I’m on a long 5 hour flight back home to Phoenix. I spent the last three days speaking at the Diocese of Richmond’s annual youth conference. It was a real treat to spend time with the 500 teenagers over the weekend. I do enjoy speaking from stage, but my favorite part is hanging out with the teenagers in between the sessions. It’s just fun to share a bit of our lives with one another like that. It adds warmth to a world that can be very cold.
There is an early episode of “The Office” where Michael Scott accidentally burns his foot on a George Foreman Grill. It’s a random and completely funny first five minutes of the show. Michael likes to eat bacon while in bed in the morning, so he lays bacon in his George Foreman Grill each night before he wakes up. Except on this day, he got clumsy and stepped into the hot grill on his bedroom floor and burns his foot.
He didn’t want to miss the chance for attention, so he becomes over-dramatic about his injury. He calls into the office and demands that someone come pick him up and drive his broken body to work. When he gets to the office, he’s using crutches and has a pitiful, desperate look on his face. He begs for help throughout the day on easy tasks because he is “disabled.” You get the idea. People can make such a big deal out of nothing.
I don’t want to be the guy that makes a big deal out of nothing. However, this is my life, and this is my story. And this is my injury.
I had a small cancerous area of skin cells removed from my back. It was a quick surgery and the surgical team promised me that I would l have a quick recover. I had to limit my motion for two weeks, but after that I should be feeling back to normal. I asked if I should cancel an out of town trip a few days later, and they said I would be fine. I canceled the trip anyway.
It seems like I take one step forward in healing, only to take two steps back. In the last six weeks, I’ve battled two staff infections, which made my back feel like it was on fire with pain. Sleeping was difficult because I couldn’t toss and turn. To make matter worse, a few weeks into recovery, I got a heavy cough and a fever too. My stitches broke free and my back opened up as if I never had stitches at all. It was a gory site! Plus I was in worse pain than week 1. So for some time now, my bandages must be changed several times a day.
When you are healing and feeling stronger with each day, you know that you are making progress towards being 100% better. But when you get worse with each day, it’s quite frightening because you don’t know how bad it’s going to get. It’s hard.
Last Week’s Detour through Denver
Sitting in this airplane seat is uncomfortable, but not nearly as bad as last week when I attempted to fly to Michigan while passing through Denver. That was random. Heavy rains in Phoenix delayed my flight to Denver. The ticket agent suggested that I fly to Denver, even though I will miss my connecting flight. I would need to stay the night in Denver and then take an early flight to Michigan. My friend Leah’s husband Rick picked me up from the airport and drove through heavy snow to get diner. It was fun getting to know Rick because we’d never met before, although I’ve met his wife a few times at different conferences. Soon we drove through more snow to get back to their place.
The next morning we drove back to the airport through heavy snow. I looked up to check departing flights, and every screen was covered with the word “CANCELED.” Anxiety surged through my body. What is going on? Will I be able to make it to Michigan? Will I have to spend a long weekend in Denver to wait out this snowstorm? After waiting in line for 30 minutes, the ticket agent explained to me that there was almost no chance that I could make it to Michigan today, but they might be able to get me in tomorrow. I looked at my weather app on my phone and saw that it would be heavy snow pounding the city of Denver for the next 48 hours. I knew that chances of me getting out tomorrow were even slim. I was getting more anxious. I wanted to be in Michigan to speak at this conference, but now it looked like I would be stuck in Denver away from the conference and my family. So everyone would lose.
So I asked for a flight back to Phoenix. Incredibly, she got me a seat on flight taking off in 35 minutes. Once I had my ticket, I ran down the escalator to get to the security checkpoint. I saw a line of 25 people to get through security, which surely would take 15 minutes. I walked to the front and gently explained to two friends that my plane was taking off in 19 minutes and would they let me through. They smiled and gestured me forward. Quick through security. Then onto a train, then up the escalators at the gates. Then sprinting down the moving sidewalks to finally arrive at my gate. I handed them my boarding pass and they closed the door behind me. I made it with less than a minute to spare. All that running while having a heavy cough and breathing the thin oxygen of the mile high city. Let’s not forget that my back was a mess too.
Back to the Situation
So yes, as I type this on my flight today, I am so so thankful to be feeling better. I still have a lot of healing to do, but I am very happy to be where I am right now. Thank you Jesus.
I understand that many people have suffered worse than I have. Once this is all done, it will probably be remembered as a rocky three months of my life. It will be remembered as a difficult time mostly because I couldn’t hold my children. A time where doing normal things like reaching for a glass on the shelf threatened my healing. But in the end—it’s no big deal. For whatever reason, God has wedged this small chapter into my life. A chapter that I didn’t see coming; a chapter that has lasted so much longer than I expected.
Here’s how I see all of this. When you are in good health, it’s hard to have compassion for those who suffer. It’s hard to even imagine that suffering is an option because day-to-day life is so consuming. You’re just living life. But once you’ve suffered, your heart becomes bigger with compassion for others. When friends ask for prayers on Facebook because they’re in poor health, I pray hard for them because I know what it’s like to feel desperate. To pray for these friends and friends-of-friends adds richness to this life.