Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Autumn = Beautiful Leaves, Dying Trees

Have you ever felt like everything is beautiful on the outside, but inside you are dying?  Have you felt like to everyone around you, your life looks perfect, but in the privacy of your own home, you know it is falling apart?  That's how the first six months of my marriage felt to me. 

The first season of my life as a military wife began with a glorious sixty days of leave.  Since my husband went to West Point, he was able to take considerable time off before beginning his officer training at Ft.Benning, GA.  This was a utopian time for us as we celebrated our marriage, as well as the weddings of friends and family.  We traveled the country and enjoyed spending every waking (and sleeping!) moment together after 4 years of long distance dating.  Although this was a period of time that seemed perfect on the outside, unhappiness and discontent began to worm its way inside.  Not many days after our wedding, we realized that there was a problem.  Intimacy was not happening as a result of a medical condition I had.  Being novices at this whole intimacy thing, we didn’t understand the ramifications of this.  We thought if we just kept trying, eventually it would happen.

However, so much was occurring at this time with all the weddings we were in, traveling to each, then moving and finding an apartment, that I did not see a doctor right away.  When I finally did, I went to see a civilian doctor, knowing the slow unhelpfulness of Army hospitals.  It took a few weeks to schedule the surgery that would correct the problem.  The day before I was to get my blood checked for the surgery, I received a call from the doctor’s office that there was a problem with the insurance.  In my naiveté, I had thought I could still use my dad’s insurance.  In reality, this policy was invalid as soon as I married Matt.  How I could have gone through all these appointments and almost made it to the surgery without knowing was beyond me!  Needless to say, when the doctors told me they could not perform the surgery with only my Tricare health insurance, I was devastated.
Of course, by this point Matt had already begun his training.  This particular day he was in the field, and I could not even contact him to tell him what was happening.  I remember lying on my floor in our newly rented apartment, clinging to our newly adopted dog, balling my eyes out and asking God why.  Why was He letting this happen?  Why couldn’t He supernaturally heal me?  Why did He allow me to think that soon it would be fixed only to have my hopes dashed the day before?  Why couldn’t I have found out earlier?  Is God punishing me?  What did I do to deserve this?

I had NO idea what God was trying to teach me in this season of our lives.  I only knew I wanted to get out of it as soon as possible.

About a month later (yes, it can take that long with Tricare), I was finally able to get an appointment with a family practice doctor at the local Army hospital who could begin the process of setting up another surgery.  Leave it to the Army medical community to be at their most insensitive.  As I saw the male physician, he insisted on examining me, despite my explanations and sob story of what I had already been through.  When he realized I was not lying, he tried to comfort me by saying, “at least it’s not cancer.”  He then proceeded to put in a referral to the gynecologist but said it would take at least 10 days before I could expect to hear anything from them.  Despite my tears and begging him to rush it, he refused, saying it wasn’t an emergency, and sent me on my way – a traumatized, weeping, inconsolable twenty-one year old newlywed.

In my despairing state of mind, I called my parents to garner sympathy since my husband was – again – unavailable due to his military training.  God intervened at this point and gave my dad the wisdom to tell me to go to Patient Affairs.  In spite of how embarrassing this whole situation was, I was desperate for a resolution.  God faithfully provided a sensitive, understanding woman at Patient Affair who heard my case and sprang into action.  She rushed my referral, and days later, I was seen by a gynecologist, and surgery was scheduled.  Although it would still be 6 weeks after the surgery before my husband and I could even try to be intimate, the solution was in sight.  The only problem was…could my husband get off work?
The training schedule did not look promising.  My normal tendency was to beg my new husband to be at my side as I underwent a minimally invasive surgery that was of maximum emotional pain.  Of course, I intellectually knew he had no control over his schedule, but I had yet to really experience it deeply.  Despite his intense desire to be with me through this, he knew he could not promise me something he could not guarantee.  Therefore, we asked my parents to come as I would need someone to drive me home from the hospital.  Since we were still fairly new to the area (not to mention this was an extremely sensitive issue), I did not have any friends I felt I could rely upon for this.  Thankfully, my parents lived only 4 hours away and were more than ready to help out. 

It turned out, Matt was able to get the day off for my surgery, but my parents still came.  The day of, we all went to the hospital and experienced one of our least favorite Army traditions – “hurry up and wait.”  After a few hours of waiting to be taken into the OR, the nurses finally came to take me in.  Having had my gallbladder removed in a German hospital in high school, I was not particularly nervous about the surgery itself, and it was certainly a relief and comfort to have not only my parents present but also my kind, loving husband.

All went well with the surgery, and I was able to go home early that evening. 

In spite of all of the challenges within this particularly trying season, the Lord taught me several things.  The first and most lasting impression this season had on my life was the pure, unconditional love my husband has for me.  I truly believe that God allowed this hardship early on in our marriage to show me that I will never have to question Matt’s love for me.  What for most guys would have sent them over the edge only strengthened Matt.  This is not to say it wasn’t ridiculously difficult for him.  But he stood firm, not only bearing the pain but continuing to show his love for me in spite of it all.  Regardless of whatever else happens in our marriage, I have that to hold onto, and I will be forever thankful for it.
The second lesson God taught me in this season was to trust Him instead of trying to manipulate people and situations according to my will.  Now this is a very difficult lesson so I am not sure I have learned it fully, but I am definitely making progress.  In this case in particular, my negative experiences with Army medicine growing up did not make me wiser as an adult.  I clearly did not heed the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6.  In my attempt to bypass military doctors, I took the situation into my own hands, trying to make something happen without looking to the Lord to fix it.  Oh yes, I begged Him to heal me outright so I wouldn’t even have to go to a doctor.  But I never stopped to ask if He would lead me through the process He chose for us.  As a result, not only did I suffer longer than necessary but I got the same mistreatment I was trying to avoid.  Yet God’s grace led me to a caring, sensitive Army doctor (yes, they do exist!) to help me.  Had I trusted Him to start with, I think I would have missed a lot of that emotional angst.

But the great thing about the Lord is that no pain is ever wasted.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  Although I have been spared from heartache in much of my life, I do know what severe emotional pain feels life.  As my mom likes to say – pain is personal.  Whatever season you are in that involves suffering is personal and unique to you.  But in my personal pain, I truly learned what it means to have a Savior who can comfort me like no one else.  My husband, my mom, the doctors – despite their earnest endeavors – no one could make me feel better about this.  The only One who could comfort me was the Lord.  I can honestly say at my lowest point – lying on that carpet in Columbus, GA, begging God to take my life – I felt Him wrap His arms around me.  This probably seems utterly ridiculous, but I felt His warmth spread through me as I clung to my sleepy Beagle-Bassett Hound.  In the darkness, God is there, and He will bring the light of a new day if we will just hang on to Him.

 Maybe you are in a season of deep pain right now.  Pain so deep you don’t feel you can share it with anyone.  Please know that God wants to carry you through this season.  He not only wants to take you to the other side but He wants you to feel His love in the midst.  All you have to do is let Him love on you.  Don’t be afraid to tell Him how you feel, how bad it hurts, even if it requires railing against Him.  He can take it.  Give Him your pain and let Him give you comfort in return.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing girl! So proud of you for your abiding faith and desire to share what God has taught you in order to help and encourage others!

Melissa said...

Thanks, Amy! I really struggled for a long time about whether to share this as it is so personal. Hopefully though it will encourage other people and somehow bring glory to God.

Kathryn said...

I know it was difficult to share this personal story with the world. I have always respected you for your honesty and ability to share past experiences to help others grow. You are a precious friend to me, and I'm thankful for your wisdom, encouragement and faith. May God bless you (and Matt) as you seek to serve Him and minister to others. The beauty of being a military wife is your impact. You're like missionaries and everywhere you go, you touch lives along the way. Love you! -Kathryn

Melissa said...

Thank you, Kathryn! You are so sweet. I really appreciate the encouragement and support, especially after sharing something so difficult.

Angie Keller said...

You expressed your pain so beautifully. The Lord will be faithful to use it for His Glory. I am so very blessed to be your Mom. I love you!