I want to start by saying that so many of you who will read this have been through exponentially worse circumstances than I have ever experienced. Also, I’ve never been left alone for a moment on this journey. My family, wife, and friends have been a phenomenal blessing.
In my own small way I have asked a lot of questions and struggled to hear God through it all. My hope is that a glimpse into my struggle will spark some new thoughts about how God works.
As a 34 year old/young man, I have now dealt with a “thorn in my side” for over half of my years. The pauline pun there is pretty literal. When I was 16 I was a very healthy High School student playing safety on the school football team. Midway through the game I tackled one of the opposing running backs in the middle of the field and began feeling a sharp pain in my side. When we left the felid as our offense came out, I mentioned what had happened to the team trainer. He, understandably, dismissed it as a usual cramp of some type. I don’t hold that against him. If I remember correctly he was a combat medic during the Vietnam War and I’m sure he was pretty desensitized.
Later that night my parents took me to the ER because I began passing a lot of blood in my urine. As expected, there were countless tests run and doctors consulted. I met my first urologist that weekend as he was called in to diagnose and treat my ailment. He described to me and my family that what he found was a blockage or “obstruction” that was inhibiting my kidney in function of draining to the bladder. He thought this issue had probably been present my entire life and by some chance had been enflamed during this football game. It was and is pretty confusing to think through how something that was present from birth would begin to cause pain after 16 years of going unnoticed… but I’m not going to dive into that story.
I missed so much school that we had to work through various appeal processes so that I could acquire the necessary credits to advance. By the end of my High School career I had been through multiple procedures and had seen numerous specialists all over the Houston area. None of the surgical procedures were successful. The pain came in varying intensities over the following years. I would go weeks, and even months, of some occasions without any pain. The seasons of reprieve would be followed by seasons of life altering discomfort.
There are a few pretty entertaining stories along the way… I wish I could share all of them. Okay, just one. I have taken A LOT of pain medication over the years… every kind imaginable. One day my mom and I were heading downtown to visit a new doctor and I had taken a good bit of pain medication. As sometimes happens, I got nauseous and my mom pulled the car over. We were on the Pierce Elevated in Houston which is a long bridge that travels over roads and “stuff.” I opened the car door and vomited off the bridge onto whatever opportune audience was below… I didn’t look… I didn’t want to know.
In 2009 things seemed to intensify without reprieve. Every day I would experience significant pain on my right side. After many tests there was another surgical procedure called a Robotic Pyeloplasty. I spent a few days in the hospital and some additional days at home recovering. It seems as though there were a few months of improvement after that procedure before all of the symptoms returned.
As of today I am approaching my next surgery continuing to pray that it will be the one that ends this journey. The story is still unfolding. My wife has always known me as someone who is battling this and my children have only known their father as one who is marked by it. My ministry career including my journey as Church Planter and Pastor at The Crossings has been marked by this struggle as well.
You can probably quickly imagine the questions I have asked. God, why…. why can’t I be a healthy father and husband? Why can’t I run and play with my kids at every whim? or help my wife bathe them and put them to bed? God, I’m a pastor of a church… I can work harder and be more effective if I’m healthy. Why do you see fit to limit me in my work for you and your church? The common denominator here is the question WHY! It is the same question so many others have asked regarding their individual struggles in life.
In the next post I will share the areas where I believe I have answers and the other areas where I find myself still asking.
Click HERE for PART TWO.
Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.