A Spiritual Operating Theater

The only surgery I’ve ever had to endure was getting my tonsils removed when I was 18. I remember being happy when I was told I needed to get them out. They had swollen to about the size of some pool balls and made it hard to breathe. On the other hand, I was nervous about getting put to sleep and also nervous about the pain that would ensue after surgery. I can imagine surgery for others can evoke a lot of similar reactions. Especially, for a more serious surgery, or health crisis. I bet there would be swarming feelings of fear, anxiety, or maybe even denial. Everything revolving around surgery is scary to me. I hate making appointments, I hate waiting rooms with their expired issues of Good Housekeeping, I hate the smell, and the very thought of incisions/blood on me is repulsive.

I’m probably preaching to the choir when it comes to talking about physical surgery. I don’t know many people who get overly excited about that sort of thing. I bring it up because I wanted to write about an illustration that’s been developing in my mind for a month or so now. It deals with spiritual surgery and breaking. To those reading that have a relationship with Christ, it’s probably safe to say that you will experience some level of spiritual surgery and breaking in your life as you walk with the Lord.

Knowing you are Sick.

I walked around for many years knowing I had issues. I knew God was always coming to me with something. It could be something destructive I was getting into or it could be a reservation I was holding onto in my heart. The desire was always there to deepen in my relationship with God, but I couldn’t let some things go. I also didn’t want to go through any suffering that may occur to get to that point. It’s like when someone gets cancer. Most would want to be rid of the cancer and be able to live life without the fear of impending death. Then, the truth is made known. The cancer that this person has, needs to be cut-out of their body and they must undergo extreme treatments. I don’t know what it’s like to know I have cancer but I do know what it’s like to know I am spiritually sick. I denied that I was sick for many years. I procrastinated in my dealing with it. I manipulated my way out of others seeing that I was sick. Regardless, it came to a point where I couldn’t function normally. Pure frustration. Constant relational failure. Joy depleting. It was obvious. God finally said to me, “Alright, we’ve gotta do something about this Jordan”. I think we all get to this point when we live with unattended spiritual sickness. If you feel a spiritual sickness in your own life, pray to God that he can break you. It’s not a very glamorous prayer, but it’s effective.

God’s Waiting Room.

I visited God’s waiting room recently. I was frustrated with God that he would uproot me like that and just plop me down in some bleak waiting room. Why me God? I mean, don’t people live with cancer all the time? Why are you so determined to take mine out? Why is my cancer so severe and debilitating?

waiting room

It feels like an eternity sometimes in a waiting room. Bad tv, nothing to read, disgruntled people sitting next to you, etc. God’s waiting room is similar but also has its perks . As I sat in God’s waiting room, He started to show me things. Unseen things, revealed. It was like a new episode of a television show. He didn’t give me an expired magazine, but He provided His unchanging Word. God’s Word doesn’t become irrelevant like waiting room magazines. I wasn’t surrounded by disengaged people but rather surrounded by people who cared and were praying for me as I await the next step.

It was nice to have those provisions. I needed them more than ever because lo, A familiar voice was heard in the waiting room. The voice utters nothing but lies. The voice utters nothing but accusations. I’m well aware that Satan knows what God is trying to do in my life and wants to see none of that happen.

“You aren’t even sick”

“You are hopeless. No way you will ever get better”

“It would probably be better for these other people if you didn’t exist”

“You’ve only ever been a burden to others”

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “ Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings”

Satan wanted me to walk right out of that waiting room. He wanted me to continue living life as if the cancer had subsided and everything was fine. I’m so thankful the Lord kept me in that waiting room. The lies that Satan likes to throw around are very common among believers. I’m sure that Satan has put the exact thoughts above, in other believer’s heads. We can stand firm against these ideas because we know that our fellow brothers and sisters struggle with the same thoughts all the time. This is why fellowship is so important. We must share the thoughts we are having with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must also take these thoughts to the Lord.

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

Walking toward Anesthesia.

Your name is called and you get up from your seat in the waiting room to head in and talk with the nurses about the procedure. There’s still a chance to back out. You are just making a short walk from the waiting room and into a different room. Often when we experience breaking/surgery in our lives, it’s not instant. It takes constant decisions to hang in there and take additional steps. Personally, I tend to thrash around and make things miserable for myself. I say to myself, “uhhh can’t this just be over? Can’t I just be better NOW?” This is where patience in our walks is so critical. God doesn’t usually just snap a finger and then we are healed all of a sudden. He throws things in our path that demand a decision to either trust him or trust ourselves. We must learn to take our doubtful thoughts captive at this point (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is what it looks like when we are walking out of the waiting room.

Then comes one of the strangest parts and possibly the scariest. The anesthesia.

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Anesthesia has a very low chance of killing you in and of itself. At the same time, it is at this point where your lose control. You basically fall into a fake sleep/coma. You cannot speak for yourself. You cannot make decisions. You just get to lie there as the doctor performs the surgery you need. Up until the point where the needle enters your arm you have control, but after that, none. In a similar fashion, we must decide to give the Lord control over everything in our lives. The truth is that we are so very sick and we really don’t know how to fix it ourselves. Our methods of fixing our sickness only lead to more sickness. We need a doctor. We need the Lord’s steady hand to operate. When you tell the Lord that you will allow it, He can begin.

The Operating Theater.

An incision here. An incision over there. The Lord begins to carefully and gracefully remove the cancer from your body. When God performs surgery on us in life, we obviously aren’t unconscious. We are still conscious and still have choices we can make. We must continue to allow the surgery to continue. This is why its important that we don’t squirm and try to do the surgery ourselves. We must treat it as a real surgery of sorts. If we start trying to take the knife and cut out the cancer ourselves, we could really prolong or worsen the whole process. It’s still very important to resonate on the verses previously stated in 1 Peter 5 while going through surgery (V. 8 & 9). Something I’ve been learning is how to just be still. I need to let the Lord do what I don’t know how to do.

Coming Home.

 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

Spiritual surgery and breaking can be miserable to go through at times. Comfort can be elusive. You can feel overwhelmed to the point of tears so often. But when everything is done and you are released to head home, I imagine it feeling like sweet release. I’ve seen this to be true in people’s lives close to me.

I only say “I imagine” because I don’t think I’m there yet.  I’m most definitely still in the operating theater when it comes to my walk. Sometimes I feel like the anesthesia is wearing off and then God asks if I’d like another shot. If I say yes, he gladly begins operating again. The more I learn how to be still and not thrash around, the easier the operating becomes.

Verse 10 in 1 Peter 5 is quite the promise to look forward to for those of us undergoing some surgery, is it not?

 

-Jordan

Spiritual Cancer: Pride

Some of the most terrifying dreams I’ve ever had were dreams in which I lost something. You wake up in a cold sweat and it takes a few moments to regain your sense of reality. It’s a great sigh of relief to know that your life, your plans, your kingdom– are still intact. Often, you can go about your day feeling that relief but sometimes, dreams have tended to haunt me. I’m no expert in regards to dreams, but I have been told by a few people that dreams in fact represent some part of your subconscious mind. When I ponder about dreams, I tend to think about one that Nebuchadnezzar had. He was deeply troubled by his dream…

     “I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed,the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me.”  Daniel 4:5-6

The dream depicted a very large tree that was full of fruit and radiated prosperity. The tree was then cut down, it’s branches were cut-off, and it’s fruits were scattered. The tree is personified in the dream as a “him” and it was decreed for the tree to lie down like an animal.

Neb has the prophet Daniel interpret the dream for him:

“My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth […] Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.” Daniel 4:19-23

Neb felt as if he had it all. He felt that he had no need for God. He knew that he was important. He was entitled to the life that he wanted to live. He was INFECTED with a spiritual cancer called pride. Then, after the interpretation of a dream, his plans were gutted. God sent Neb a “Daniel” to remind him that he isn’t in charge. Just like that, everything Neb thought he earned, was stripped.

“Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.”  Daniel 4:33

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It’s quite the scary picture (and depiction above). To be honest though, this is what it’s like when God “Opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. Our minds turn into clouded machines, we grow into beasts, we lose the sanity we once had, and our thought lives become polluted with lies. Neb came face to face with his worst fear. He lost what he kept so dear to his heart. All the control over things he had before was gone and he couldn’t change it.

I can relate to Neb’s situation. I described this in a some detail in my previous blog but I felt it could use a little more depth. I was king of my kingdom. I didn’t develop a nickname like “King Jordan” for nothing. A year ago, things were going well in my life. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. I was FINALLY going to graduate college, I already locked in a full-time engineering position, I was set to propose to the woman I loved, I bought a new car, I was leading house/cell, etc. I was like a kid in a candy store with unlimited pocket change. I became very contented and felt utterly entitled to have control of every part of my life moving forward. That’s when the branches started to get cut off and the tree (me) started to take axe hits to my foundation.

The things I thought I earned, the things I thought I deserved, were slowly slipping through the holes in the net of my control. My terrible dreams about losing everything that would sometimes frequent me, started to become reality. Not completely, but in some sense. Over the past year, it has become more clear than ever before that the prideful control I thought I had over my life, really wasn’t there. God has started to show me who’s really in control, and that is Him. When you become so accustomed to controlling everything in your life, it is honestly brutal to give it up to God. It is absolutely a daily decision and battle to give it up. Will I let my feelings overwhelm me today? Will I let the temptation to make myself feel good, take over today? Will I seek to establish a false image of myself today? Will I choose to be vulnerable about my feelings or will I hold everything in today? These are questions that I find myself asking daily.

I will say, the days in which I took these questions to the Lord and let him work, have been my best days. I stumble and fumble around, a lot. I get frustrated in moments. I get depressed. Sometimes I feel gross. But, I have found that WITHOUT FAIL, when I take these things to the Lord and say “I trust you with this right now Lord. What is it that you want to show me?”, he answers that prayer. Sometimes he shows me somewhere I can be effective, sometimes he puts an edifying thought in my mind that i can act on, and sometimes he even wants me to be still and reflect on some truths.

There is a really cool hope in this passage. Neb didn’t just become an animal and that was all she wrote. We read in verse 34:

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.”

Sometimes, we as Christians have to have our tree cut down. God even leaves the roots so we can grow again! However, the spiritual cancer of pride can develop deep strongholds, and God is willing to go to drastic lengths to oppose these strongholds in us because of His unconditional love. He knows that our pride will only lead to spiritual death. When this happens, we must learn to lift our eyes towards heaven like Neb did. God is the only one who can change your situation. When I lift my eyes to heaven, God helps me look at my situation and find things that I can be grateful for. What a gift that is. I have a hard time remembering how much God loves me and how much he has ALREADY blessed me with. A pride killer is gratefulness coming from the heart. Gratefulness produces humility in knowing that everything you have has been given to you. (1 Cor 4:7)

I think there are a few important lessons we can learn from this experience Neb had with pride that I will mention briefly.

  1. God will send you Daniels. Messengers in your life to wake you up and remind you that you aren’t in charge. Don’t reject them. (Proverbs 19:20)
  2. Coined by Tim Keller, pride is a form of “cosmic plagiarism”. It takes what God has created or given you and says, “look what I did!”
  3. A joyous life is that which receives everything as a gift from God.
  4. Pride defaces our humanity. We want to become more than what God created, therefore we become less.
  5. Pride is a joy killer.
  6. We are the works of art created by the greatest mercy of God.

How do you treat the blessings in your life? How do you react to miserable situations in your life? How much of the things in your life are ACTUALLY in your control?

Lastly, here’s some nice music:

Anyways, I’m done.

-Jordan