Monday, November 3, 2014

A Nightmare to Calm My Fear? Part 2

(Writing this story has helped to prepare me for my husband's surgery tomorrow, so I wanted to publish Part 2 for this week's blog post earlier than my usual time. I hope it is an encouragement to you too.)

Awaking from a troubling nightmare, I pulled myself together, got dressed, and drove my husband to nearby Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York, before sunrise.

“You’re late,” they said. We had been given the wrong arrival time. They rushed Bob through the preparations, called me in to kiss him goodbye, and abruptly sent me off to the waiting room.

Not wanting Bob to see me cry, I managed to hold back the tears until I headed down the hall. Then the storm broke. I sobbed uncontrollably. I couldn't stop.

With reconstruction for the new cardiac surgery department in the hospital still ongoing in 2000, the waiting room was actually a wide hallway where everyone passing by could see me. Embarrassed, I retreated to a restroom down the hall to hide from curious eyes.

“I’m a minister.” I kept berating myself. “I comfort others. Why can’t I handle this better?”

On Friday, I’d been told that a nurse-social worker would bring me a pager so I could walk around, but she didn’t show up. After an hour or so, a volunteer began to set up coffee nearby. I have never been able to drink coffee, but I finally calmed myself enough to ask her about the nurse-social worker. She called her. It turned out that we had not been put on her list because Bob’s surgery was scheduled so late on Friday at the beginning of the holiday weekend.

The nurse-social worker took me into a consultation room where we could talk. “Your reaction is normal,” she assured me. What a comfort she was!

Soon after, a friend arrived to sit with me. With a pager now in my possession, I could go outside to get some fresh air and walk off my tension.

Shortly after noon, the surgery was over. All had gone well. “Go to the cafeteria and eat something,” the nurse told me. “When you get back, we’ll take you in to see your husband.”

“But I’m not hungry,” I protested.

“You must eat. We don’t want you to faint.”

Over salads, I told my friend about my disturbing dream. That’s when its meaning dawned on me.

The dormant animal that suddenly attacked me represented my fear of losing my husband. The setting at a women’s retreat, where all of us were carefully skirting around that seemingly dead animal, stood for all wives who experience that fear from time to time. I’d experienced it the year Bob fought in the Vietnam War. Then, narrowly escaping death several times, he was the only officer in his unit to come home alive, on Memorial Day 1970. That fear had lain dormant but had roared to life at this new threat to his life thirty years later.

Even in the midst of the nightmare, however, my instinctive reaction to that animal clutching at my throat was to rebuke it in the name of Jesus.

That was God’s word for me: rebuke your fear in the name of Jesus.

The Bible often tells us to trust and not be afraid. But we forget so easily. Even the Psalmist (56:3) admitted that he was afraid and needed to trust God, who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Fourteen years later, my husband is again facing open heart surgery to replace his mitral valve. A “resternotomy” has its additional set of possible complications—scar tissue, adhesions, bleeding, stroke. As we prepare for the surgery and fear threatens to overwhelm me, I remind myself often to “trust God and fear not.” I may cry, but I’m putting my trust in Him.

When have you experienced overwhelming fear? How did you get through it?

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