The sabbatical started more suddenly and violently than anticipated. A high fever, a few scans, multiple masses, possibly a lethal abscess… the specialists convened, conferred, counseled me to cancel all engagements, and began cutting.
The reduction had begun.
Though the masses, thankfully, were all benign, my body did not respond well to the invasion. The area’s organs went into hibernation and for the first time in my life, I became familiar with breathtaking pain.
The experience redefined that word for me. It hurt to be awake. It hurt to see my children’s fear. It hurt to hear, “We don’t know why.” In time, it would even hurt to hope.
Reductions, it seems, have blurry release dates. Days stacked upon one another in vain like whisper-thin blankets with no warmth to offer. Though technology blinked, beeped, and buzzed noisily around me, the organs slept on. This healing simply would not be hurried. The wound was evidently too great to risk haste.
After eight days in the hospital, the doctors sent me home and my entire recovery-time “to do” list vaporized in the desert heat of pain. All I could do was sit and be loved — a need that my family filled extravagantly. Little did I know that the pain was under assignment: it was making room in my life for another operation well beyond the reach of any surgeon’s scalpel.
I would not trade that desert of pain for the world.
Deserts unclutter the soul.
The hot desert sun vaporizes all manner of luxuries. Then the cold, shelterless nights expose the essential guts of life. I needed to eat, to sleep, to be protected, and to not be alone. God asked me to fast mental and physical strength. He invited me into holy weakness.
As the days blurred into weeks and months, helplessness exposed the contents of my heart. My eyes were opened to see an invisible danger that had been growing within me. Prior to surgery, God was not absent. The challenge was that self was so very present. Though I had purposed to live simply, clutter was collecting around my faith. I was becoming more vulnerable to sin, but sin of a slightly different strain than in earlier years.
We all guard against sins of commission and we are vigilant toward sins of omission. But achievements — even in small doses — can make us vulnerable to sins of addition: adding niceties and luxuries to our list of basic needs, adding imaginations onto the strong back of vision, adding self-satisfaction to the purity of peace.
Years later, the pain from that surgery has, thankfully, disappeared. The fruit of pain’s assignment in my soul has, thankfully, remained. My desert decrease was divine.
Throughout our 40 Days of Decrease journey, let us rest assured that when Father God calls us to fast increase, decrease will purify our souls.
Excerpted with permission from the Prologue of 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast. by Dr. Alicia Britt Chole. www.40fasts.com
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What do you think needs to be decreased in your life particularly during the season of Lent? In what area of your life does God look at you with love and ask you to set something aside for a closer walk with Him? Come share with us on our blog! We want to hear from you!