Weakness to the Extreme

When challenges force you to listen to God.
Hands setting birds free - adenoid cystic carcinoma

Weakness to the Extreme

When challenges force you to listen to God.

Weakness to the Extreme

When challenges force you to listen to God.

By Randy Brewer

On the day of the surgery, my friend Jeff picked me up. We drove through the pre-dawn quiet to the USC Keck Hospital. Los Angeles–the massive, over-crowded metropolis–would wake up soon. As we drove, mostly in silence, down the freeway into this City of Angels, I could almost feel those spiritual guardians moving alongside me. Despite my underlying anxiety, I could sense a larger presence surrounding me.

I walked into the hospital feeling relatively fine. Other than the earache, I had the health of a twenty-something, as I had been told.

After they had prepped me, Dr. Kokot came in and said, in the matter-of-fact tone of a scientist “If you wake up with a cast on your left arm, it means the surgery was successful.” Of course, no cast meant, no reconstructed throat. They would have removed the larynx.

Imagine the anxiety going under anesthesia not knowing whether you’ll wake up with a voice? But there was no turning back. My last memory was the white ceiling and lights of the operating room. They soon faded as I went into the darkness of anesthetized sleep.

When I woke up, I was anything but fine. In fact, I was a mess. The one who had the health of a twenty-something, now was in agonizing pain. I was trapped within a tangle of tubes, I.V. s, and a catheter. I was sick from the anesthesia–hot, sweaty, and in agony.

In my groggy state, I managed to look over. And there was a cast on my left arm! While good news, I was in no mood to celebrate. I couldn’t even manage a smile. I was miserable. There not only was the cast, there was the incision in my chest to retrieve the rib cartilage and also a cut on my upper leg to secure a skin graft. The most excruciating misery, of course, was my throat. It throbbed. Worse, I could not speak at all. Not even a raspy squeak. I couldn’t utter a word.

I was completely and utterly out of control. Like an infant I couldn’t even go to the bathroom on my own. Emotionally, it was like I was that six-year-old boy–helpless, trapped once more in a dysfunctional home. The adult Randy had worked so hard for years never to be in a helpless position again. But now I was pinned down and in physical misery. But in those moments of utter powerlessness, my new friend, grace, found me–the real me. Grace had not abandoned me. She came forth with all her lavish goodness.

My weakness had been taken to the ultimate extreme. In my letting go, I received God’s strength in new, unfathomable ways. Not able to speak, I became the ultimate listener. In the 17th century, a simple monk named Brother Lawrence lived at a monastery in France. While he humbly did the most mundane tasks as a dishwasher and sandal repairer, he became aware of how to listen to God. He wrote a short but profound treatise called “Practicing the Presence of God.” One quote was particularly relevant, given my circumstances: “Stand there before God like a poor, mute paralytic at the door of a rich man.”

That’s exactly the position I was in. In essence I was a paralytic, bound to a hospital bed, unable to move. And in the first days after the surgery, I was mute. I couldn’t utter a word. I had really no choice but to stand (or in my case, lay) before God. I was held before him, the rich man possessing all the treasures of the universe.