What It’s Like to Wait for a Liver Transplant, Part 3

Monday night I went to see my therapist. She is surely on the path to sainthood. Or possibly alcoholism depending upon how she handles her stressors because I am a lot, and after last week, I was in rare form. I held it together for the weekend and did the things I was supposed to do, albeit while in a horrible mood, and then I went back to work Monday and it was busy. And I felt like I was walking around with a gaping hole in my chest, and I skipped breakfast and lunch and sipped a Venti almond milk latte over a period of 8 hours. 

I finally left work with 20 minutes to stop for a snack and make it to my therapy appointment. Before I got there, I was almost in tears, but not from anything new. Just from how tiring and overwhelming it can be to carry the old. The good thing is, going to therapy is probably the best thing to do when you feel like that.  The bad news is, you’re too tired to filter, and so whatever is there in you brain just comes spilling out. 

“I’m not better, “ I said as I plopped down in my seat. Yes, it’s a couch; no, I don’t lay down. I always take a coffee of some kind but I never remember to drink it while I’m there. I tell her about getting the call, and finding out the answer was no, and riding home with my dad, and how very angry I’ve been. And then I say all the things you’re not supposed to say. 

“In medicine everyone thinks the point is to make people better, but that’s not the first rule. The first rule is do no harm. Like if God isn’t going to make It better, I feel like the LEAST He could do is not make it worse.” 

“You’re angry with God,” she says. 

“Yes! And it makes no sense. I’m not sovereign. I don’t know what might have happened if my dad got that liver. Maybe there would’ve been complications. Maybe he would’ve died in surgery, Maybe a denial was God’s protection, but yes, I’m angry.”

“That means you still think He’s sovereign,” she says. 

“Yes, but just because He’s sovereign doesn’t mean anything is better,” I say, “Look what happened to Jesus. He was literally the Son of God, and look what happened to him.”

“That was a joint plan,” she says. “Jesus agreed to that plan. He was God in the flesh.”

“But he prayed,” I say. “He asked if this cup could pass from him. He asked if there was any other way.”

“Then there must not have been any other way,” she says. 

“What if I don’t want to live in a world where there is no other way?” I practically whisper. And then the tears start. 

“You don’t doubt the sovereignty of God,” she says. “You doubt his goodness. And no amount of anyone saying God is faithful or good helps you because you’re not convinced that His decisions come from a place of goodness. You know He can do things, but you’re upset because you feel like he’s choosing not to do them.” And I know she’s right. It’s back to that C.S. Lewis quote I’ve read so many times before, about how saying something is in God’s hands brings no comfort because look what has happened to the people who were there so far. 

We talk some more, and she asks more impossible questions, and at the end she tells me that something keeps me holding on. She has asked me before what I thought it was that kept me holding on. The first time I told her that it was my kids, because they have suffered so much, and I so badly wanted to prevent them from suffering anymore. This time she says, “Either you’re holding onto the Lord or He’s holding on to you. Maybe a little of both.” 

I felt a little better after that, but not a ton. Tuesday morning I got up and went to work like normal, and around 10 AM, my dad called and said his transplant coordinator notified him there was another liver available, and could I come and pick him up. I picked him up, and we were admitted to the floor we’ve been admitted to so many times before, and we waited. And waited. Again with the blood tests and EKG and chest x-ray and COVID swab and MRSA swab and Nystatin swishes and IV starts. And again with the holding your breath all day to see if this will really happen or not. So many people called or sent text messages or Facebook messages.

In the middle of all that, I got a message from a friend, a post from 2016 by Pastor Samuel Rodriguez. She says I sent it to her 5 years ago on this same day, although I don’t remember it at all, and she thought I could use it today. The message said, “There were days you should’ve given up, but you didn’t. There were days your mind said no, your flesh said no, your circumstances said no, your health said no, your finances said no, but in spite of all the NOs, you got up and moved forward, Why? Because of Romans 8:11. The same spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead lives inside of you.” 

“That’s it,” I thought. “That’s why I can’t just give up. It’s not me. It’s His Spirit in me. It just won’t give up.” So often I focus my attention on the death and the loss and the pain, but none of that has ever been the point. The point is resurrection.

That’s what waiting for a liver transplant is like. Waiting for resurrection. Waiting for death to become life. 

The clock inched forward, moment by moment, and somewhere between 7 and 8 we were taking down to pre-op holding. The organ was removed from the donor, and I watched as a man in surgical garb carried an ice chest down the hall. 15 minutes later, the surgeon came in and sat down to talk to us. 

“We’re not going to use this liver,” he said. “Let me tell you why.” 

And he explained to my dad and I, through our haze of disappointment, the problems that could come from this particular organ. The reasons why we needed to be sure we were getting the best possible liver so that we didn’t have issues later that might make life just as miserable post-transplant as it has been lately, pre-transplant. “We’re not going to cry about it,” he said. “You’re going to eat, and exercise your muscles, and work, and breathe, and love your family, and we are going to find you another organ. I am one hundred percent certain of this decision.” 

Instead of anger about it this time, I felt peace. 

Just because He can do something doesn’t mean He will do something. Not because He’s cruel, but because the something I’m asking for might cause harm. 

That ten minute chat with the transplant surgeon and a Facebook message from 5 years ago gave me a glimpse of what I’ve been trying to desperately to find. 

Sovereignty, and goodness. He is both. I just have to remind myself. And so we wait, but maybe I’m learning to wait a little better.

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