Surgical Reflections

About one week ago I had a surgery to correct something called GERD. The surgery is called a Laparoscopic Nissen Fundoplication.  Five incisions were made into my lower stomach abdominal region and the surgeon used part of my stomach to tighten a certain valve where my esophagus meets my stomach.  Needless to say, it was not pleasant.  Fortunately I was knocked out with anesthesia and do not even remember the post-surgery conversation I apparently had with the physicians and nurses.  I have been on a strict liquid diet for the past week and have about a 2-3 recovery time-table before I can be back to normalcy.

As intense as this procedure was, it was an optional surgery.  What I mean by that is it was not like I had ruptured something, broken or torn a bone or ligament, or was diagnosed with something terminal that needed immediate attention.

My issues were giving me discomfort, pain, and frustration for a period of time.  I learned to make some minor adjustments of lifestyle (one of which was giving up spicy food and coffee…both of which I love).  But after a while the inevitable happens, and I revert back to my old ways.  Besides, regardless of the changes I was willing to make, the problem simply was not going away.  At best, I could keep it at bay.  Or, it would intensify and get worse with time.

About a year ago, I discovered that what I had could become cancerous.  I was screened for something called Barrett’s esophagus and the tests came back negative.  However, if left unattended and unrepaired, over time the possibility of cancer would increase.  About 3 months ago, my father’s cousin died of cancer as a result of the same condition I have.

Needless to say, that finally brought me to the painful realization that something needed to change.  I needed healing and repair. Surgery was inevitable.

Now, back to surgery for one moment.  I am by no means, intelligent on medical matters, but I do understand there are various forms of surgical procedures.  Some involve the direct removal of something harmful or deadly (cancer, tumors, etc..)  We have a dear friend who will be having that kind of surgery in about two months.

Other types of surgery are corrective and simply use what is already there and just tweak it a bit to restore it back to its original condition. And yet another form consists of bringing in new or additional material (bone marrow, tissue, etc..) in hopes of adding strength and eventual health to that area and overall body.

Since my surgery I have had plenty of time to think and reflect. I have realized there are areas in my own heart and life in need of repair.  Internal/spiritual surgery is needed, and although painful to go through, will bring long-term heath and wellness.

I have also reflected on my ministry and church and was struck by the similarities between many ministries and surgeries.

Is there an area that needs to be repaired and fixed?

Is there something or someone who needs to be removed in order for the overall body to be well?

Sometimes, hard decisions need to be made.

What we as youth leaders often do is overlook certain issues and realities.  Or if we do realize areas of unhealthy aspects, we resort to simply putting on bandages rather than addressing the real issue(s) at hand.  We may change or alter some minor things that get us by for one more school year, but in the end do very little to correct what is going on.

Do you find yourself in any of these situations?

A good friend of mine from CA, finally came to the point of speaking to his elders about certain difficult realities.  Things did not change and so he felt like he had to remove himself.   Knowing the situation, I believe he made the right decision, as hard as it was.

Another colleague came to the realization that she was lacking in certain critical areas of leadership. Because of that, the youth ministry had been suffering for a few years.  Brave enough to admit that, she intentionally reached out to bring in others who would compliment her and make the overall youth ministry leadership team as healthy as possible.

Most youth leaders at some point will find ourselves facing difficult circumstances and at a crossroads.  Are we prepared to do the hard work of self assessment? (of ourselves, our ministries, and our churches)

Do not wait until the problems you face grow too large or became dangerous or potentially deadly (perhaps to your ministry or spirit).

Routine checkups and surgery may be the appropriate actions needed.  If change is what you really need and want to see, don’t expect it to come naturally or easily all the time.

Just some reflections from a stitched up youth pastor….

And yes, that is an actual picture from 7 days after surgery of the healing process after my stomach bloating had gone done…because that would have been just gross!


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