I often speak of life as viewing it through a lens. Because, we do. Sometimes, our lenses are clouded up with despair. Other times, they are full of bright light and joy. For me, the lenses to which we view trauma and relationships can get quite complicated. However, life can change when we view it through the lens of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is something that I’ve always thought I understood. I’ve never been one to carry grudges. Truth be told, I never really had to face the hardship of truly forgiving someone until I had to come to terms with the grim reality that my illness, which resulted in my hysterectomy, was caused by infection left in my body accidentally by the doctor who performed an appendectomy on me when I was just 2-years-old. I had carried the notion for over twenty years that it was a medical mistake, but did not get that confirmation until approximately three to four years ago.
I was told by the doctor who performed my hysterectomy that somehow, during my appendectomy, a pocket of the infection was missed, encapsulated itself, and became something similar to a fluid-filled sac. The bacterium inside the sac was very opportunistic, anaerobic and in the same family as botulism.
Even though this type of bacterium is commonly known about today, in 1983, I was the second known case of a person having it in the United States. It protected itself and thrived for many years in my body until, for whatever reason, the sac ruptured. Perhaps it ruptured because of the heavy weight of something I had carried a week prior on my right hip after exploring my uncle’s farm. Perhaps not; guess I will never really know for sure.
The summer before my illness, I was healthy, dancing competitively, and gearing up for my 6th grade year. I did not know that a time-bomb was ticking away in my body. The doctor who performed my appendectomy nine years earlier never knew either. He still may not know.
He may not know about how close I came to dying during that fateful time in September of 1983. He may not know about the spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical toll it took on my parents. He may not know that my body was never the same again; and, neither was I. He will never understand what it is like to be the only girl around who never got her first period. He may not ever know how confused I was during my teenage years, how tormented I felt about what happened, and how I believed I would never find a man who would love me….just me….without the promise of children.
The doctor who performed my appendectomy may never know how the foot-long scar on my belly stared back at me in the mirror, how I regretted that scar, how I wished it away, and how I didn’t want it to show my vulnerability. He does not know that I never saw myself as a mother, or that I waited until I was almost thirty to get married. He never sat next to me while driving away from baby showers with painful tears. He never had to explain over and over again to medical professionals why I had a hysterectomy at a young age, or pretend to understand pregnancy during conversations. He didn’t have to hear all of the unwarranted words of wisdom given to me from others regarding my barrenness.
The doctor may not know about the heavy blanket of sorrow I wrapped around myself while weeping in my bed, alone, and away from the world. He may never know how close I came to fully turning away from the Heavenly Father I believed in as a young child. He will never hear the prayers I cried to my God for some answers; for just one chance to be a mother.
No, he will never know these things…but…he will also never know how I don’t blame him for what happened. I don’t harbor ill feelings. I don’t wish to go back in time and correct his oversight. There is no need to lash out. I won’t say his name. There is no desire to grieve over my barrenness that was caused by the work of his hands. I’ve grieved enough.
I have forgiven him. I know in my heart that he would have never intentionally left this bacteria in my system and that he did the best he could with a very ill toddler whose appendix had ruptured. Who I am not to forgive him? Who am I to look at this and think anything different from how I feel? It was a mistake; pure and simple.
Truthfully speaking, if the mistake had not happened, I would have grown into adolescence and adulthood, never comprehending the beauty that comes out of struggles. Joy comes when being encountered with the revelation of the Lord’s penmanship in life. Would I have ever sought to become a foster parent, experienced the humbling path of loving another mother’s child, or discovered faith while declaring my children’s names to the Lord in prayer for their safety and for His will to be done? I’m not sure.
I don’t know if I would have ever grasped the full measure of just how vulnerable I am without the presence of a Living God in my life. If I had not experienced the darkness of the valley I’ve walked through, I’m not sure that I would be able to completely comprehend that forgiveness doesn’t come from my own ability. It comes from the grace and forgiveness that was first given to me. I don’t blame the doctor who left the life-changing infection in my body. I have no feelings for him that would cause one to question if I am capable of forgiving someone.
No, I don’t blame the doctor, I forgive him. If I would have clung onto the knowledge of this mistake and allowed it to blur my vision, I don’t know how my story would be written. My life story that I view through the lens of forgiveness is one of pain, but also of promise.
Forgiveness is cleansing. It leaps, dances, and embraces. It grabs a hold of one’s heart, tears out the pain, and flies off with it. Forgiveness wipes off the lens that life is viewed through, and it retells the story of life without the aftertaste of bitterness left behind in life’s tragedies.
The Lord sees us through the lens of forgiveness. Surely, we can see each other through it as well.
Forgiveness is a mightily freeing thing.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32
Friends, Is there someone you need to forgive? Are you at a place where you feel stuck in past transgressions? Go to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to help you forgive. Unleash what is pulling at you. Let it fly away, and forgive. May God bless you.