…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Around mid-day on Wednesday, December 7, I was wheeled from the step-down unit in which I had spent the night after surgery, to a room on a floor in a different part of the hospital, one in which I would stay until I was discharged. Getting to my new room was a bit of an adventure as I was wheeled down long hallways, around tight corners and from one bank of elevators to another. Eventually I arrived on the floor on which I would be staying.
The transport specialist who was moving me said, “Your room is straight ahead,” and as I looked up I saw a man whom I didn’t recognize sitting in a visitor’s chair. “Oh, that can’t be my room,” I said, “that man is not my husband.” But I was wheeled-in anyway. As I took note of the room I discovered that there was a curtain on the far side of my bed and that the room was deeper than I first realized. Then it dawned on me: on the other side of the curtain was another bed – and the man sitting in the chair was there to see my roommate. My heart sank.
I had just been through major surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in the large salivary gland on the right side of my face. By God’s infinite grace and mercy the surgeon did not have to remove the facial nerve, which ran through the tumor, although I had been told before surgery it would be impossible to save it. My surgeon had also gotten clean margins when he removed the tumor; also something previously thought impossible. Two miracles in one day! Yet, on this particular afternoon, when I had so very much for which to be thankful, all I could think about was my immediate comfort and privacy. Thoughts of having to get up and walk past my roommate’s family and visitors in my flimsy hospital gown flashed before my eyes – and I felt sorry for myself.
Sin is so often small and petty. And although some people may want to excuse my self-pity as something of no lasting consequence – and perfectly understandable under stressful circumstances – I quickly realized it was not something to overlook. If I did, I would be giving resentment “permanent resident status” in my heart. I’ve learned over the years that holding on to caustic feelings, even if they are perfectly understandable from a human point of view, is always very costly. My small and petty sin needed to be surrendered to the Lord.
The analogy that comes to mind is that of my surgeon scraping away every visible sign of cancer he could find after removing my tumor. Although I did not feel the force of his scalpel at the time, I certainly felt it later. But I wouldn’t have wanted him to do anything less. The pain, swelling and discomfort, which eventually go away, are a small price to pay in the scheme of things. Why would I want him to leave a bit of cancer behind?
So too, with sin. My heavenly Surgeon wants to remove sin from me whenever it arises. What I was unwilling to do, initially, when wheeled into my new room was to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Doing so would have opened up my soul and spirit to receive whatever blessings God had for me and would have turned my attention outward, so that I could have done the work he gives us all to do – to be a witness to him.
Instead, I was feeling sorry for myself. And although it was not a big instance of sin, yet like cancer, it was not something that should be left to fester. Surrendering one’s sin is not a sacrifice (although an effort – at least for me) because holding on to it is so deadly. I do myself a favor by naming it as such before the Lord and releasing it to him. I could have sat in my hospital bed feeling aggrieved and put-upon (a reaction with which I have lots of practice); but I realized it comes down, as it always does with sin, to choosing death or choosing life. So, I closed my eyes and prayed silently, “Thank you, Lord, for my roommate and her family. Please fill this room with your presence, so that your peace and your grace are palpable.”
What I didn’t realize at that time was that my roommate had already been discharged and was simply waiting around for the paperwork to be finalized. Soon she and her parents left. But later in the afternoon I could hear a bit of commotion outside the room and an older woman was wheeled in and past my bed, with members of her family trailing behind. The success of the Lord’s “surgery” on me was evident in that I smiled and welcomed them – and I prayed for his grace to continue to flow through me as I silently gave thanks.