You see, my scars aren’t just surgical. As a result of the surgery to remove the cancer from my leg, I developed a permanent, incurable disease that leaves me with deformity, daily unrelenting pain, and which has changed my way of life in radical ways. On some days, the pain is so bad that I can’t walk at all.
Managing the illness is challenging, to say the least. Through it, though, I have come to rely on His presence and the peace that passes all understanding with a depth that I never imagined possible before cancer and lymphedema. For that, I am so very grateful.
Yet even so, I can’t lie. Living with this stinks, with a capital “S”. I mean it really, really stinks. Every day, it is a challenge to reclaim the sense of femininity I once knew. Every day, I choose to fight for a sense of external beauty that now so often seems so far out of reach when I see my own reflection. Friends, on most days, that emotional and spiritual battle is exhausting.
After trying many treatments to “manage” the disease to the point of utter emotional and physical exhaustion, including wearing a cast from hip to toe for 8 weeks (THAT was fun!), spending thousands of dollars on physical therapy and custom compression garments, and exercising for countless hours on treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes (all of which made it even worse), I recently found myself officially at the last resort…
THE POOL! (cue the scary music here…)
Y’all know what that means, right? A bathing suit. A bathing suit would never, ever be able to hide my scars, not to mention the fact that I’d be in a public pool, and the last time I checked, “public” means that other people would be there. Seriously, God?
Since my surgery two years ago, I had never exposed my leg in public and had zero plans to do so, but something inside me just knew that my answer was in the water. So, I bought an athletic swimsuit and signed up for water exercise classes at the community aquatic center. I swallowed ALL of my pride as I donned that swimsuit and showed up for the “Get Wet and Sweat” class a few days later. My head was down, and I didn’t make eye contact with anyone, but I was there.
It was a lot to take in at first – familiarizing myself with the movements, trying not to drown (ha!), chuckling inwardly at the cheesy background music, and conquering the many fears that I’d brought in with me. The instructor guided us to do a high-intensity segment of “flutter kicks”, and all at once I realized that in the water I was able to move in ways that were not possible on the ground.
Wait…how can this be? In the water, my pain is gone.
In that moment, I completely lost it, and started sobbing. I don’t mean a delicate little girly cry. I mean full-blown-snotty-faced WEEPING, right in the middle of thirty men and women doing flutter kicks in the pool to the beat of “Build Me Up Buttercup”. Worship comes at the most unexpected moments sometimes! The freedom and healing that came in the water was more than I could comprehend, and my gratitude came pouring out (literally). After years of suffering on “dry land”, for the first time, I felt whole. For the first time, I was free.
In the pool that day, the metaphor of the ages had come to life in my heart.
Jesus spoke often of living water, as did the prophets, and water was the venue for miracles, teaching, and healing in the Bible. One well-known example of this teaching was to the Samaritan Woman. To her, he explained, “…Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, NIV). She had come to the well to fill up her jar with stagnant water from the cistern to drink, but instead she encountered Jesus, who knew everything about her and filled her empty heart with streams of fresh, flowing mercy and grace.
The water in the pool doesn’t heal me. His mercy in the water is what makes my broken, diseased body whole again.
Only when I allow myself to come bare and exposed, showing my scars, at the end of myself, can he show me what is possible with Him.
What are you struggling with today? Whatever it is, He is knocking on the door of your tired and empty heart, waiting to fill it with the living water that gives new life. Let Him.
Melissa is an itinerant speaker/teacher, blogger, and author residing in the South. She is single (although she prefers the term “unclaimed treasure”) and lives with her two children, Henry and Hannah, who are “technically” canine (ssshhhh… they don’t know they aren’t human). Her vision and passion for ministry is to shepherd others to the grace, hope, healing, and restoration found only in Jesus Christ! Through her own life journey, God has transformed her heart, and she has experienced the true meaning of “beauty from ashes”.
You can connect with Melissa through her web site, at www.infieldsofgrace.com