I can't wait for spinal fusion surgery.
Admittedly, those are words I never thought I'd utter, but here we are.
Like a jet endlessly circling an airport, waiting for the fog to clear, I’m currently stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for my neurosurgeon to read my most recent spine MRIs and waiting for insurance to approve my surgery before I can get it scheduled.
So I wait.
In the meantime, I’m told to not make any sudden movements or lift anything. I still can’t be put in a back brace despite my unstable thoracic spine, because all the way around on the other side of my body, my sternum remains unstable as well, can’t withstand the pressure of a brace, and will not heal properly without surgery, either.
So, partially due to my desire to remain unparalyzed and partially due to the unrelenting pain in my back and neck, I spend 23 hours a day or so in either bed or recliner. You may see me up and about on social media, but what you don’t see is how brief and how excruciating these excursions are. As a result of me spending so much time horizontal, other parts of my body that weren’t injured in the fall, such as my lumbar and the back of my head, often cause me more pain than my actual injuries themselves.
If you know me in real life at all, you can probably guess that what hurts the worst is my soul. I'm not a 23-hours-a-day-in-bed kind of guy, and not only that, but all the things I typically turn to in order to revive my soul, like hiking, travel, and even writing for any length of time, are unavailable to me. Thus, the vicious cycle continues, while I wait for any sort of progress to be made.
It's been nine weeks since the accident. Had surgery taken place at the time of the fall, I would be nine weeks along in my recovery. Had surgery taken place when I returned to Portland, I would be six weeks along. Instead, I'm not even at Day One yet, since two major surgeries await that haven't even been scheduled.
And so I wait.
The truth is, we are all waiting.
Waiting for the right person. The right job. The right opportunity. The right time.
Waiting for our financial situations to improve before we become the giving people we know we want to be. Waiting for our schedules to clear up a little bit before we make more time for our families, our kids, our friends. Waiting for someone else, anyone else, to do something about problems we have the power to change. Waiting till we work ourselves into an early grave before we create the kind of life that we know we want, know we need.
Grains of sand fall relentlessly through the hourglass of life, grains whose descent will slow down for no one.
What are you waiting for?
I hate lying in bed. Feeling useless. Trying to endure nonstop pain. I hate the fact that I haven't been able to go on a single waterfall hike, to stand on the summit of a single mountain, or to even climb a flight of stairs without my sternum and back reminding me how much they hate me.
However, I have two choices. No more, no less.
I can lie here and complain, working myself deeper into this cycle of pain and frustration. I can write this time off as time wasted, and do my best to fashion some form of opioid-induced fast-forward button while I wait for things to change.
Or, I can find a way, in the midst of my waiting game, to still be a light even when my soul feels overwhelmingly dark.
Years ago, I wrote a song called "Comatose." I never recorded or released it, but the words, though I penned them, speak to me still.
Maybe she will sit and wait
As she succumbs to every fate
Or maybe she will wake again
To life and love and blood and pain
For in the face of hardship lies
The choice to simply shut her eyes
Or take the pain as grace and know
That she will never be alone
We are all waiting. This whole earth waits and groans to be made new. Sometimes, the promise of heaven doesn’t do much to buoy my spirits as I wait in pain down here on earth. As I write these words, I feel farther from God than I have in years. As I wait, my doubt grows. I have looked to Him for answers in the midst of the most difficult waiting game I have ever played and have found few. But without the hope that I believe to be found in Him, what hope do I have at all? Without the promise that one day, all we have waited for will become a reality, what reason is there to go on?
Yes, I will heal, assuming my surgeries go well. And then? Life may go well for a spell. I will find temporary fulfillment in the things of earth that bring me joy. But, even though I will do all I can to stay away from any cliffs, the next metaphorical precipices will inevitably arrive, and I will inevitably fall again.
Eventually, I will die. Eventually, so will you.
Without hope that this waiting game will end, there is not much to be hopeful about. Without a reason to stretch out our hands and love, even in the times when we would rather curl up and cry, our lives will shrink into a perpetual cycle of waiting for the next mountaintop, the next drug, the next girl, the next paycheck, to make us, for a moment, forget the pain that lies just around the corner.
Just a few hours ago, a good friend who knows firsthand the sting of suffering stopped by to see me. We talked about mundane stuff. Investments. Real estate appreciation. Memphis. But as he left, he said these words: "Suffering is going to happen to everyone, whether we love God or not. When it comes, we have two options: either walk through it alone, or let the God who has Himself suffered walk through it with us."
God has promised, bet His life on, a future with no more death, no more tears, no more waiting. But until then, in the midst of this waiting game, He longs to be the One you, and I, put our hope and trust in. Longs to be the One who waits with us, who walks with us through the good and the bad alike. Longs for us to know that He has redeemed this agonizing wait with the timeless glory of eternity.
He's standing at the door of your waiting room and knocking.
What are you waiting for?