Saturday, October 8, 2011

on trust, and being sanguine


Some years ago, I saw a distinguished skin specialist about a cut I had on my leg. This man is internationally renowned in his field, and accustomed to dealing with issues decisively and with authority; before I quite knew it, he was injecting the wounded area to prevent infection and help it heal well.

In the immediate however, the area swelled and turned an alarming, widening shade of dark purple -- this was right on the front of my thigh -- and appeared far worse than it did before I saw him. I didn't realise this till I got home and took off the plaster; when I saw how awful the area looked, well, I felt every word you can think of that's synonymous with panic. Agitation, fear, dismay, sheer terror -- you name it, I felt it. Never mind that the man is "internationally renowned in his field" -- my negativity immediately sent me into a spiral of fear and doubt.

I started thinking, "O gosh, that looks so bad! What if it stays like that forever? I'll have to wear long pants for the rest of my life! Why did I let him do that??" And I called the specialist up in a suppressed state of hysteria, and asked him why it was the way it was.

Essentially, I was saying, "Was that really necessary?? Are you sure you know what you're doing??"

And busy man though he is, he reassured me that he did indeed know what he was doing, and that, in time, the horrible purplish-black would fade and the wound would heal well.

I tremulously asked, "Are you sure it will heal?" And he replied, "Of course it will. Everything heals". And then he said something else which I've never forgotten. He said to me: "You need to learn to be more sanguine".

Now I don't know about you, but it's not everyday someone uses the word "sanguine" when they're talking to me. I don't think he was necessarily referring to the ancient theory of humours, but rather the basic modern definition: cheerfully confident; optimistic.

In the weeks that followed I thought a lot about what he'd said, what it meant, and I felt in my spirit that God was using the situation to show me something. If I wanted to stop spiralling downward every so often -- stop being on some sort of unpredictable, emotional roller-coaster -- and truly enjoy the peaceful life Jesus had given me as my inheritance, I had to stop being so anxious and negative.

Indeed, I had to learn to stop being so anxious and negative. For it had become a habit with me, and I needed to actively, consciously change my perspective and my thinking. As a child of God, I had to change my mindset, be "transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of [my] mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude]" (Rom 12:2) -- I had to learn to truly trust God and stop asking Him, "Are you sure you know what you're doing??"

So I prayed about it. A lot. And God faithfully saw me through. At first, the wound hurt, and looked terrible. The more I dwelt on it, the worse it seemed, the more magnified. Sometimes people would come along and say unhelpful things like, "Gosh, that sure looks bad". The whole thing just seemed to last forever. But, it did pass. God gave me the grace to press on, to change my thinking, to trust and hope in Him -- to stop focusing on it, and instead focus on all my blessings, and Him.

"... and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom)," it says in 2 Corinthians.

"And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit".

It is a lovely thing to be transformed by God "from one degree of glory to another", even though each degree might seem to feel very small and slow as we're going through it. The fact is, we will go through it, and come out on the other side. This evening, that exhortation to sanguinity came to my mind again when my husband gave an exaggerated groan as he straightened up from getting something on the bottom shelf of the fridge (he rarely makes any complaint about his ailments).

I laughed, and jokingly said, "Thanks for vocalising what I'm mentally thinking", referring partly to the way we would habitually voice what the other was thinking, and partly to the bit of backache I'd been dealing with.

I said, "You don't dwell on your backache do you? You don't let it get you down". And, as expected, he laughed and shook his head. "No, of course not," he replied, "I don't waste my time like that". And he added, "Remember Steve Jobs' speech?"

I knew what he was referring to. Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford commencement address. I could guess some of the things my husband was thinking of. One part of Jobs' speech that spoke to me was when he referred to a publication called The Whole Earth Catalog:

"...when [the publication] had run its course," Jobs said, "they put out a final issue... On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish".

And saying my prayers later, I thanked God for pairing me up with a man who, though not precisely sanguine, is a wonderful example to me of good humour, forbearance, positive thinking, and calm pragmatism. A man who does not indulge in self-pity or worry, who does not waste his days being anxious or fretful. A man who has no trouble at all falling asleep.

I asked the Lord to help me, to keep giving me the grace to be sanguine, or, more specifically, to remember what the apostle Paul wrote: "Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!...

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]" (Phil 4:6-8, italics mine).

And really, "who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life?" (Matt 6:27).

Of course, I just need to look at my kids to see what being sanguine really means. And that terrible purple-black scar that got me in such a tizzy? You'd have trouble finding it now -- it faded away to nothing.


Danielle said...

It's crazy how easily we can all get negative and panicked about things. I think it takes great friends and family to keep your feet on the ground and bring you back to reality! :)

I'm glad to hear that you can't see your scar anymore too!


my thrifty closet said...

I enjoy your reading your contemplative posts, it's wonderful that God speaks to us through big and small situations in our lives. God has been speaking to me through "Romans 12:2 too. We do not allow the "bad" situations in our lives to pull us down. Thank you for this post. Have a great week!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...