Well, today I got a call from the kidney stone specialist who had finally received all my test results. Good news - he thinks we've finally gotten my regime down to prevent further stones (we'll see!). So, as I thought about my long journey through stones (that picture is right before my last surgery!), I remembered that God taught me to be thankful not for the pain but in the pain. It is a strange sort thankfulness …
Here's how it happened:
I hate kidney stones. In “Marlo’s Perfect World,” there would be no such thing as a kidney stone. But clearly this is not my perfect world.
I sat in the doctor’s waiting room trying not to scream, or faint, or moan like a tortured spirit and frighten the other patients. Instead, I squirmed, I wiggled, I pressed my fist into my back to try to relieve the pain.
The door opened. A nurse called a patient who was not me. The door closed.
The pattern repeated while minutes fell like the drops from water torture, and pain stabbed through me, sending waves of nausea rippling through my gut.
I didn’t shout.
I didn’t cry.
I didn’t fall on the floor and kick my feet like a toddler throwing a fit about a green shirt.
I didn’t. But I wanted to.
And then, the pain vanished. No more stabbing agony. No more nausea. Nothing.
The door opened. The nurse called my name, at last.
I strode into the exam room, waited a few moments, and then the doctor walked in. “How are you doing?”
I shrugged. “I’m fine. I think the kidney stone passed while I was in the waiting room.”
“Well, let’s see. Go get an X-ray and come back this afternoon.”
I left, got the x-ray, and returned as ordered. This time, I only had to wait a few moments to see the doctor. He walked in the room and asked me the same question as before. “How are you doing?”
I gave the same answer. “I’m fine.”
“I looked at your X-rays.”
A little doubt seeped past my confidence. “And?”
He sighed. “Inconclusive.”
“But there aren’t any stones, right? I feel okay.”
He pulled a chair close to mine, sat down, and looked me in the face. “Truth is, I can’t say for sure from your X-rays. I can’t see stones, but something just isn’t right.”
I swallowed and didn’t say a word.
He leaned forward. “Marlo, I’m very worried about you. I want you to have a PET scan.”
My shoulders slumped. “Okay. I guess.”
I had the scan on Tuesday. Wednesday morning the doctor’s office called me in. I had two large stones in both ureters, along with four other big stones in my kidneys.
I was in emergency surgery the next morning. Just in time, the doctor was able to break up the stones before they caused any permanent damage.
I still hate kidney stones. But these six big boulders taught me something important. They taught me a strange sort of thankfulness.
I learned to be thankful in pain, not for the pain, but for the process by which hidden, harmful things in our lives are exposed and broken up by God. Pain alerted me to something gone wrong. But then, when it vanished, I thought the problem was passed. It wasn’t.
The same can happen in our souls. We may not realize that old hurts or hangups are causing damage inside us; we may think that a painful thing has “passed.” But God sees deep within us, and in his love, brings things to the surface to be truly taken care of, even when it hurts.
Jesus tells us in Mark 4:22 (NIV), “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” And Daniel says about God in Daniel 2:22 (NIV), “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”
I’m grateful for a doctor who didn’t just look on the surface and declare everything okay. He didn’t settle for “good enough.” I’m also grateful for a God who knows the condition of my soul, exposes the stones he finds there, and works to make me whole. He also will never settle for “good enough.”
So, when God presses the sore places that we think are all better, it could be that there are stones there, hard places that need to broken up so that we can truly heal.
Kidney stones have taught me that God is not interested in “Marlo’s Perfect World,” but he is interested in perfecting Marlo’s heart, even if that means pain, and surgery, and digging around in places that I thought were just fine.
And for that, I am thankful, not for the pain, but in the pain, because God is a surgeon I trust.