Submitted by an anonymous contributor.
When I have a patient who has just had surgery, my attitude is generally one of encouragement. I understand they are in pain. I know they will have to do things to recover that are painful and frustrating, but I am very hopeful about their outcome. Initially, the patient might feel as if they will never get better. But, I don’t think that. I cheer them on and call them “all star” when they take their first post-surgery step. I try to talk them through the pain and nausea and the frustration of feeling dependant.
Sometimes the surgery is required because of the way a person lived. Perhaps a man needs a knee replacement because he neglected his health. Though maybe he neglected his health out of ignorance or necessity. Perhaps he had to work long hours to support his family that made exercise and healthy eating difficult. No matter the factors that rendered the surgery necessary, the person must still work to recover. Recovering from surgery can be long and frustrating. Patients are made to walk and do painful exercises when they would rather lie in bed. It’s for the patient’s good to comply, because when someone doesn’t move after surgery the consequences range from transitory to life threatening. Recovery often has set backs. On the first day after surgery, the patient feels as if the greatest hurdle has been overcome. The freezing hasn’t quite worn off from the surgical site, and they jump out of bed, asking frequently to be accompanied on walks. Then comes the second day, the freezing wears off, the exertion of the previous day kicks in, and the hope of recovery dissipates: “I’ll never feel better”. But, step-by-step, balancing rest and activity and treating their pain, they will certainly recover. And though a scar will remain reminding them what they went through, a new normal will be established and the pain and frustration of the first days will fade.
Watching patients recover from surgery sometimes calls to mind the struggle against habitual sin. We fall into it for many reasons. We can justify it by saying that we’re in pain, or lonely, or we’ve always done it. Maybe telling lies became a habit at an early age. Or we started by drinking socially, and then found that every time we went out we drank to excess. Or maybe we stumbled across pornography accidentally and someone we trusted told us that it was no big deal. At some point though, one realizes that this thing that has become so comfortable, so routine, is damaging. At that moment, when we realize it is wrong, the priority must be to overcome it. We may not be culpable for each sinful act we commit, but we are culpable if we aren’t using all resources available to us to overcome the sin. Just like my patient needs to get out of bed when it hurts, I have to do things that might be painful in the short term. I need to go to confession and go to therapy. I need to plan my life to avoid the occasion of sin. And just like I wouldn’t tell my patient two days after surgery that they are never going to get better, I shouldn’t let myself believe that I’ll never get better, because I have more than the patient has. That patient has a physiotherapist, and good pain medication, and maybe family support, and a surgeon, and nurses as motivators.
In the fight against habitual sin, I have friends who want me to succeed, I have the grace of the sacraments, I have priests who show me the wisdom and mercy of Jesus. I have the communion of saints, the thousands of faithful who have gone before me, cheering me on, urging me to continue the fight, to look heavenward. I have my guardian angel at my side, sword drawn, waiting for me to call him to my aid. I have my beautiful, gentle, loving mother in heaven, who is the Queen of Victory. And I have Jesus, who has already won the battle. I have Him as my savior, who makes eternal life possible for me. I have him as a friend who draws closer to me in my struggle, ready to lead if I’m willing to follow, to lead me to His love, to the Father’s love, and to true life and freedom. And so I should not fear that I will never get better, because I don’t fear that for my patients, and the Lord wants freedom in all areas of our lives.
I’ll always have the scar, I’ll always know that there was that fault that led me to a dark, isolated prison, that brought me heartache and suffering and suffocated me because I wanted to live and it was making me die. But the scar will remind me of the merciful love of Jesus, that He takes what is broken and He binds it, He lifts the weary and comforts the broken hearted, and He probably will even use my scar to show others that healing and freedom and true life is possible. Because He can make all things new.