The story of Jacob wrestling with God–or the angel of God depending on who you read–has special meaning for me. In my twentieth year I was told that I had a benign tumour at the tip of my femur. I remember the surgeon saying I was damned if I did and damned if I did not (have the surgery). The procedure he was proposing had never been done here and there were no guarantees it would work. One of the fears was that I would limp for life. I learned this weeks before I was to leave for the United States to attend a post-secondary school. I was angry with God that this was happening. I cried a bucket of tears but in the end, after wrestling with the decision, I acquiesced. I was in too much pain to fight any more. The day I was supposed to leave for my studies ended up being the day I had my surgery.
This time around as I waited all these months for a diagnosis and prognosis around the suspected cancer, I found myself not really wrestling with God, but resting in Hands-that-held-me. I had survived that earlier match and have no visible limp. I am not sure I was given a new name then but I was most certainly blessed. I knew that I was resilient going into this surgery even though the stakes were much higher. The Great Physician had struck me in the hip joint once already and so now had permission to leave yet another mark on me.
We can see God face-to-face in the hard times of life–in the hard consolations as we call them in Ignatian terms. I knew God was with me every step of the way and this time I did not rage so much. As I have said in an earlier blog post, I felt wrapped in Mary’s mantle and Christ’s cloak. I had no idea what the outcome would be–and in many ways still do not as I await a decision about radiation or not–but I continue to be mostly calm at my centre.
I saw my family doctor today who said I looked great–that seems to be the consensus of those around me. As we talked though, I was honest about my physical and emotional limits right now. We had a good conversation. At one point as I was discussing my wellness plan with her, she said that I was amazing. I did not see the compliment coming and my response was not too gracious as I replied Only on the surface and began to cry. She begged to differ and said she had been impressed with how I had handled these past months. I did find my bearings and properly accept her assessment. I know I have done remarkably well on so many levels and that the turmoil inside is just bubbling over now on this side of surgery. I do not feel as if I am wrestling with God but I do sense a desire to have a deep conversation with this Great Physician, a longing to know the Name of this healer, and to allow myself to be renamed and healed. I know I will prevail as Jacob did.
In Matthew 9 today, Jesus goes about teaching, proclaiming the Good News, and curing every kind of disease and illness. He had compassion on the crowds because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Psalm 17 reveals the prayer of the one in need: Guard me as the apple of your eye. When I think about this recent medical experience, I know that God guarded me throughout it. I feel a bit harassed and helpless at the moment but I know without a doubt that I have a Shepherd. I may limp for the rest of my life this time but God’s abiding care will suffice for these next steps.
What has caused you to wrestle with God? How has that experience changed you?
Great Physician, guard me as the apple of Your eye.
Do not leave me until You bless me
and leave Your mark upon me forever.
May I prevail until I see You face to face.
In the Name of the One names us anew,