Editor’s Note: This is a guest submission from Sheila Lloyd. Sheila’s husband had a stroke in 2014, and this is part of their story of recovery. Thanks so much, Sheila!
WHAT DID I LEARN THROUGH THE STROKE? How I am more like Jesus because of this experience?
I WILL ADMIT, WHEN ONE OF MY EDITORS POSED THESE QUESTIONS TO me, I was at a loss.
So…as I am flying in a plane at 20,000+ feet, I will endeavor to dive into that question and see what happens. Couldn’t pay me to strap on a parachute and jump, but then again, this kind of feels just as precarious.
Do I wish the stroke had never happened? Yes! And No! What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And in the timeless words of Winnie the Pooh to his best little pink friend Piglet, “You are stronger than you think.” Now, please understand that I am not trying to glorify myself or my own strength! Sheila, in the flesh, had no bucket from which to draw water from the deep well of the life-altering trauma the stroke had brought into our lives.
However, as 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me…when I am weak THEN I am strong. God’s power is made perfect in weakness.”
At this writing, we are 3 years, 2 months since the stroke. We have traveled many miles–physically, emotionally and spiritually to the moon and back. I have railed screaming, fists raised, at the heavens with the gut-wrenching wail, “WHY?!” I have soaked my old carpet with tears wrought from an internal void I didn’t think would ever be filled. I have looked out at the desert climate with eyes glazed over wanting desperately to go back to LBS (an acronym a friend lovingly tagged for “Life Before Stroke.”) I have often wondered how we could continue living in this new reality. Why did things have to change so drastically?
And then, one day I realized that I was no longer just surviving. We were no longer just recovering, or even the next phase, recuperating. We were starting to live again, to dream, to laugh truly without the empty horror lurking behind the edges. There is Life After Stroke.
There are still times when I wish Brian could be physically the big, bold, strong as an ox, football-player build of a man as he was before the stroke. He still experiences deficiencies and weaknesses due to that blasted brain bleed. The Lord has not YET fully restored his ability to play guitar or have the lightning quick reflexes normally contained in a functioning human hand. Does that mean that I didn’t hear God about “full, complete restoration, better than new” in those first hours and days? No! One thing I have learned loudly and clearly: God’s timing is not my timing. His ways are not my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:10) I believe now, as I have from the beginning, that the Lord could completely restore Brian in the fraction of a blink. And He is.
But it is a process to which Brian surrendered. Numerous times I have had to surrender to the process as well. I have learned that the vows one says at a wedding ceremony can truly be put to the test through a traumatic health event. Marriage is more than passion, financial agreement, success or even friendship. It is a commitment. And I’ve learned that when those stormy seas are navigated (only by the grace of God) the ensuing relationship is sweeter, deeper and stronger for having survived the battle.
I’ve learned some things about myself, about God, and about others.
About God: He truly will never leave me or forsake me. He is utterly and completely faithful and dependable.
About others: We don’t really comprehend how people watch our lives, I think particularly those who claim to follow Jesus draw attention and inspection especially during crisis. People in this world are desperate for hope. Desperate for truth. Our stories can be used to encourage others in ways we will never know.
About myself: oftentimes in my life I think I’ve been characterized as a princess (and not the flattering meaning of the word.). Too often I have escaped hard work and have perhaps appeared as though I had more than my share of blessings. But through this process I learned that when the rubber hits the road, true character comes out. What my parents and God poured into me over the years came out. I’m stronger than I think.
For many years, my worst fear in life was losing Brian to death. Now I know that regardless of what happens in this lifetime, my Jesus truly does hold me firm. He will never let go. Therefore, despite the moments when I don’t think I can continue to draw breath, I will breathe. Because He is the very breath of life. He, not Brian, is my life, my sustainer, my Provider, my Hope.
HOW AM I MORE LIKE JESUS FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?
Wow. I’d have to say the main character trait I see He’s developed in me is in the area of being a servant. Not a doormat. Not a slave. But in considering others’ needs above my own. Servanthood was not a badge I was desiring. Except that Jesus desires it for me. Commands it actually.
I fail miserably. Often. Repeatedly. I serve at times looking gracious on the outside but seething on the inside. Or I serve seething on the outside and whining on the inside. Or at times I actually find that I am serving in joy. Must be His joy. Wow. Ok. Thank you Jesus.
How could I actually even consider saying that I don’t regret the stroke? Because my husband has become an even more amazing man. And who he is spiritually today would not have existed without that sub arachnoid hematoma which occurred July 10, 2014. The journey we have walked has shaped us and allowed us to minister to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) There are SO many experiences, people, insights, impressions, miracles, blessings, friendships, revelations we would have missed if this pathway had not been presented to us.
There have been hours of emotional pain, free-falling somersaults during which I felt like my heart was on fire ready to explode…or implode. However, because I was able to face the grief, feel the pain and navigate the pain with the Lord, I’ve been able to enter into others’ grieving to offer an ear, a hug, or a prayer. This I see as an amazing gift gained. Life isn’t fair, and it’s not easy. Even as Christians, we are not promised a life without pain. (John 16:33). But we are promised an abundant life because Jesus overcame the world. That means he overcame weakness. And death. And pain. And grief. And strokes.