A part of me reached adulthood today. Well, in all honestly, it’s an added part of me, not something I was born with but something given to me. The rest of me is 46…turning 47 in June. But this small part just reached that magical age of 18. When I was a teenager, 18 had such allure. It was the age where I would get to do what I wanted with my life. It was the age where my decisions were my own,. From the other side, as a parent, 18 is the magical age of responsibility—the ultimate goal that we raise our children toward—the ability to be self sufficient and self regulating. The age where I don’t stop praying and guiding but where my control, my need to regulate, ends and theirs begins. When my kids have reached that age I realized they will either do what they’re supposed to do...or they won’t. It’s ultimately the time when I can trust that God, who was in the process from day one, will continue to be in their lives and continue to lead them.
So going back to the adult in my chest. 18 years ago today doctors cut out my shredded aorta, and my damaged aortic valve, and replaced them with a Dacron graft and a mechanical valve. (You can read part 1 and part 2 of that story by clicking those links) I woke up to learn that I had this new piece of equipment that I needed to watch out for. I had to take anticoagulants and monitor my blood levels. I had to go for regular follow up so that they could monitor the function. I had to take prophylactic antibiotics whenever I had a procedure—even just having my teeth cleaned—so the valve wouldn’t get infected. I even had to make sure my address stayed current with a registry so that I could be notified if there was ever a problem with the valve. (Yes, mechanical valves can malfunction and be recalled.) I listened to the loud click, click, click coming from my chest and was reminded that I had something foreign and new inside me and, while I was so thankful to be alive, my anxiety climbed because of the responsibility. I needed to monitor it, I needed to be on top of it and make sure it was doing exactly what it was supposed to do because my very life depended on it. So I lived grateful but also tightly wound from the vigilance required. My outward persona didn’t always show it, but the muscles in my shoulders and neck screamed out the secret that I was a bundle of stress and anxiety because I felt like it was my job to help God…and my valve…and my doctors…keep me alive.
As my children have grown up, I’ve developed a peace about them and their futures that has allowed me to fully turn them over to God and trust that they are responsible people who can make their own decisions. I also am at peace with the knowledge that I may not love or even agree with every choice they make. Reflecting on my now adult valve the other day, I asked myself if I could embrace that same peace when it came to this piece of equipment. Could I trust that this adult in my chest, who was created to do one thing, would do it? Could I trust that the same God who guided the doctors and saved my life 18 years ago was only asking me to do my part and then trust him with all of the rest? It can be pretty easy to look at my story and feel like my vigilance and my intelligence and my perseverance are the reasons I’m still here. But I can’t do that for long before I hear God’s voice from Job 38,
“Prepare yourself for the task at hand. I’ll be asking the questions, now— you will supply the answers. Where were you when I dug and laid the foundation of the earth? Explain it to me, if you are acquainted with understanding…In your short run of days, have you ever commanded the morning to begin or taught the sun to rise in its place? Under your watch has the early light ever taken hold of the earth by the edges and shaken the wicked loose?”
My response echoes Job’s, “I know you can do everything, therefore I realize the truth.” I don’t have to be constantly tense and anxious, waiting to catch the signs that my health is about to crash and burn. Instead I can rest, the kind of rest where my breath comes in slow, deep rhythm and I feel my muscles loosen. It is in that rest that I know that whether things are crashing or not, I choose to trust that the same God who saved me—who gave wisdom to scientists who created my valve, who gave skill to doctors who performed my surgery—that he will be the one who is on constant alert so that I don’t have to be.
I choose to embrace this second adulthood with freedom and peace. Care to join me?