I’ve been afraid to tell you my name. Scared, or perhaps too proud, to voice the story that’s being written for me. To release my name attached to this story into the sphere of the unknown audience—whoever you are.
It was an internal collision in midair on an airplane flight: a life-long dream of going to Europe and a life-long U-turn. Four years ago, at the age of 27, a spontaneous accident occurred in my body that left doctors mystified but my body slowly slipping into a pain, an almost coma-like state. I went on to suffer from misdiagnoses and no diagnoses.
Nearly two years into my decline, after a lumbar puncture and MRI of my brain, I was diagnosed with Spontaneous Cerebrospinal Spinal Fluid Leaks. My brain stem was sagging into the base of my skull, and my central nervous system along with the nerves throughout my body was in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
The name and the story: Megan—living in pain.
During the first couple of years, I lay on the couch and my husband sat at my feet. I was a shell—the pain crawled through my body ridding my presence. It rid me.
The name and the story: Thomas and suspended belief—faith by sight.
The Apostle Thomas has been labeled “Doubting Thomas” because of one response: His need to identify with the fleshly scars of a suffering Savior.
The name and the story: Jesus Christ overcomes sin and defeated the grave—for you and for me.
When Jesus first appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, there was new hope. He had defeated the grave!
But as for Thomas, he wanted to see Jesus’ scars: “‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’” (John 20:25b).
And what was Jesus’ gracious response? “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side” (John 20:27).
Consider the power of Jesus’ scars to the fingertips of a doubter’s heart: Church tradition holds that Thomas carried the Gospel, the Good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection over the power of our sins, to India. And Thomas’ ministry was costly; he died a martyr for his faith in Christ with a spear to his flesh similar to that of his Savior.
The scars continue…for me and for you.
I remember my primary care physician had scribed in my medical records that as a 27 year old I had the mobility of an 80 year old. I hunched to the left, held my arms close, shuffled, and teetered from side to side. I went from walking a block, to walking half of a block, to a quarter of a block, to a handicap placard, to a wheelchair.
I remember doctors would examine me, do blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, and then shrug their shoulders and say, “By looking at you, something is clearly wrong but I do not know what. I can’t help you.”
I remember my students passing by me as I was silently praying, “Lord, just one more step,” as I tried to walk to class. I would lift my teaching notes to hide my tears.
I visited a new doctor every week. I became accustomed to waiting, spending most of my time in waiting rooms—a staging for the downtrodden who are placing all their hope in this next appointment. I remember feeling the weighty burdens and hopes.
I was a shell, yet my husband still pursued knowing me.
“How was your day?” my husband would ask me. He was being loving, but I grew to resent how hard such a question was, because you see, I could not remember my day of teaching college students, planning lessons on bed rest, and grading papers on bed rest.
Valentine’s Day, 2013: my husband took me to my favorite store to pick out my gift. It was one of the few times we left the house for a date that first year. Nearly an hour into wandering around the store, I could not remember what I liked. After crying out of frustration, he picked two antiqued mirrors that he knew I probably liked the most and surprised me.
My breathing was strained now, but a few nights my strained breathing stopped, and my husband thought I had died in my sleep. Some have asked him what he did when he thought I died. “I tried to wake her,” he says. “Then I prayed.”
As I lay on the couch, I did not know my husband was grappling with the Lord about being a possible widower: When he talked and I could only stare distantly beyond him, or when my body curled down like a conch shell and he had to carry me to bed, or when he had to pull out photographs of our previous vacations to remind me what we had done together, or when in my desperation I would ask him to remind me who I was because I did not know, or when getting into bed was so painful it left me gasping in tears, he would lay his head next to mine to calm me down. “I know it’s hard,” he’d say. “I’m so sorry.”
Four years later I still feel the confines of my pain and scars, like a prisoner in her cell. I still feel muscles spasm and nerves fire and flicker on high throughout my body. My head may feel like it will burst, or it may feel like my eyes will suck into their sockets; my mind ranges from cloudy to cloudier to a thick fog—to nothing.
This is a groaning with no words: This pain takes.
It would take without mercy if it were not for an Author, a Savior: a suffering Savior.
When Jesus first returned after His resurrection, He was known by that which humbled him most: His scars. His identity was revealed through His scars, for people identified with his scars.
Until Christ’s final return, scars and suffering are still part of our narrative, but the question is: Do I want to be known for that which humbles me most, just like Thomas was known for having a faith that required the touch of his Savior’s scars to believe?
Or like my Savior, do I want to be known for that which is most humbling—hanging bare and nailed as a spectacle before family, friends, and traitors?
I’m slow to speak because I know the answer, but relinquishing the grip of all that my illness takes, or rather, that the Lord graciously removes is still a daily act of surrender for me and my husband.
But my eyes must be fixed on the cross—my Savior—whose scars bear my story and my name:
Megan D. Huwa.