The other day, I glanced down at Mark at just the right time. As he revealed a big ol’ toothy grin, I noticed a small growth peeking out from the top of his jaw.
Fast forward 2 weeks, and that once tiny bump had doubled in size and Mark and I found ourselves waiting in an exam room for an ENT specialist to take a look. I assumed that he’d push and prod and maybe even take a needle biopsy. That’s honestly all I expected. But that’s not what happened.
“I strongly suggest that it come out today,” he said. “How do you think he’d handle it?”
“What would be involved?” I asked. “Mark’s had Novocaine before and a few dental procedures. He did just fine with those…”
“Any laughing gas?” the doctor countered.
I correctly assumed that that question implied a bit more would be involved.
“No, Mark doesn’t do very well with that. Leaves him feeling sick,” I said. “Would you mind if I talk through the entire procedure?”
“Sure,” the doctor responded. “I don’t mind.”
“Then,” I said with a smile as I glanced over at Mark, “I think we can do it.”
The room quickly became a flurry of activity. The nurse came in with forms for me to sign. The doctor left to prepare for the procedure. What looked like a large flood light was wheeled in along with a tray of mysterious looking tools and equipment.
“Mark,” I said as I rested my hand on his knee. “Do you know that bump in your mouth? The doctor wants to take it out now…”
“Will it hurt?”
“Do I ever lie?”
Whenever I have to walk Mark through a painful or upsetting situation, I always remind him that he can trust me unequivocally. Without trust to hold on to, there’s no anchor, no stability for him to cling to during the scary uncertainty.
“No,” he replied as he looked down at his lap. I could see his jaw clenching up in recognition of what was to come. Unfortunately, we’d both been here before.
“Look at me. I want I eyes,” I began, allowing my voice to become louder in order to rise above the cling and clatter of metal instruments all around us. “You know I never lie. It will hurt for a few seconds, but then it will be over. All you have to do is listen to my words and obey them. Just listen. Do you want to squeeze my hand?”
“No,” he said, clearly attempting to be brave. But his emotions and worry were clearly—and understandably—overwhelming him. A glance downward revealed that his fingernails had already dug deep grooves into his knees.
“Remember, do exactly as I say and listen to me,” I said. “Sit on your hands…”
As I saw the doctor preparing the needle, I continued.
“Now, close your eyes. We don’t want this bright light to hurt your eyes! It’s like the sun. You don’t want to stare right at it…”
The entire procedure only took about 10 minutes. But it was long enough for all the color to drain out of Mark’s face. I wasn’t used to seeing his warm, gingerbread-colored skin so cold and pale.
“You did great,” the doctor said glancing at me with a smile. But the truth was, Mark did great. And I couldn’t help but reflect on my own weakness, my own inability to maintain focus and simply obey.
God can and wants to be for us the same kind of powerful presence that I am often for Mark. We all wade our way through hardships and struggles, but we don’t have to wonder and worry because we’re not alone. All we need to do is listen to His words and obey.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Psalm 56:3 (ESV)