I’m writing this sitting in the hospital. We are an hour and a half from home. It’s quiet. But it’s not peaceful. Terri had full knee replacement surgery on Tuesday, and we’ve been here ever since. The pain is intense. The therapy is intense and painful, but it has to be done. The last thing you want after a joint replacement is for the joint to freeze and lock up.
This has been a long overdue process. Terri’s knees have been giving her fits for several years. She has pushed herself to the limit. She’s lived off Advil for several years. While she never complains, I see and know more of the story. Some mornings she could barely get out of bed.
When she had outpatient surgery on her “good” knee in May, it took a long time to recover because her bad knee was so bad. She has severe arthritis in both knees. The right knee has basically been bone on bone, rubbing a nerve for a year.
The weeks ahead of rehab will be difficult, frustrating, and, at times, very painful. On the other hand, we rejoice that we have this option—one my grandparents would have never had.
To say the least, it’s a bummer getting older. Nothing works like it used to work. I don’t remember the day when I realized I couldn’t do the same things I could do as a young man. But it was a wake-up call. Now with both of us approaching our 60s (I grew up in the ‘60s—they were fun, this is not.), we are realizing our limitations and making adjustments accordingly. It’s not fun, but sometimes reality never is.
Our view for the last five days has been the air-conditioning units on the roof. Not much of a view. When we opened the blinds, it was always dreary and raining. Not much of a view. It’s so barren on that roof that birds wouldn’t even fly in to play in the puddles.
The white board reminds us of the name of the nurse, the name of the clinical tech, and the exercises Terri is supposed to do. Beyond that, besides an occasional TV show, there’s not much to look at. Being on pain meds makes it impossible for Terri to read. I’ve been able to do some reading and sermon work while she was sleeping.
I must say, there’s never been a comfortable chair in a hospital room. There must be a warehouse from Hades where they sell hospital furniture. It may be practical, but it’s like sitting on a piece of plywood. Maybe they buy this stuff at the same place airlines buy their seats now.
Today my former youth minister called me. Now in his mid-70s, he has seen his share of hurt and pain. Two of his children have preceded him in death. He has been through several major surgeries. In 2006 he spent six weeks in surgical intensive care. He has a perspective I think we needed to hear.
James is teaching a class right now on “True Worship.” He was asked, “Where have you had the greatest worship experience?” He said, “It was in surgical ICU for six weeks. It was so deep, so real, that it’s hard for me to even talk about it. I don’t want to trivialize it.”
He went on to say that which I already knew, but needed to be reminded of. “We don’t always know why things happen. Sometimes it’s a few months, years, or eternity before we find out all God had in mind.” Perspective. There’s a word I’m learning more about in the last few years.
In a room with no view, James met with God. This shouldn’t surprise us. People have met with God in caves, concentration camps, battlefields, hospitals, and nursing homes. Some have been in the experience themselves. Others have met with God while watching a loved one go through a crisis.
We are not alone in our struggles. Big or small, God is never absent. He is sometimes silent. He is, at times, mysterious. We don’t always understand His ways, but we can always trust His heart.
I wouldn’t choose pain for myself or someone I love. In my finite ability and understanding, it doesn’t seem like a good teacher to me. But through God’s economy, in this fallen world, it drives us to Him. It makes us depend on Him. It causes us to cry out to Him.
Cynthia Clawson sang a song in the ‘70s from the musical Celebrate Life. I love the words, “There was nowhere else to turn, and nowhere else to go. My body knew all the pain a body can know…and I quietly turned to you, I quietly turned to you, I quietly turned to you, and you turned to me.”
We’ll probably head home later this week or next week. As a man, I don’t do nurturing well. Women are better at that. Men are, well, we’re wimps. But in times like this, serving our wives is one of the ways we picture the love of Christ. It is not a chore or a job; it’s a ministry of love. It’s sometimes praying with them. It’s sometimes saying nothing. But it is being there, being available, being “all in” that gives perspective when you are in a place with no view.
The view will get better. Our bedroom faces a wooded area. The birds are there. The squirrels are building and adding on to their large nest. The dogs run around in the back yard. The surroundings are familiar. The view is better.
But God is the same, whether you find yourself in a room with no view or beside a window with a view. The panoramic summit of a mountain top may make you feel God is bigger. But the reality is that even in a hospital room, He is still large and in charge. Because of that, we have hope.
Today our room has a terrible view. But our spiritual vision gives us a new appreciation for the grace of God, the Great Physician and Comforter, and the prayers of friends.