My husband’s surgeon is thrilled with the surgery. According to all the medical care providers, everything has gone just as planned and expected.
It doesn’t always feel that way to Gene.
As we approached the decision to have a partial pancreatectomy, Gene and I learned loads of details about what could happen, what was expected, how the body would respond. I am incredibly grateful for the patient expertise of the many (and many different kinds of) doctors who were specific and thorough with us before surgery.
We thought we knew what to expect.
After surgery, the surgeon dropped a surprise. In the post-surgery conversation -you know, the one when the patient isn’t present – he mentioned that the stomach is “flipped out of the way” to get to the pancreas. “The stomach gets pretty rough treatment and doesn’t like it,” he said with a wince.
No, the stomach does not like being pushed around. Gene finds that thirteen days post-surgery his greatest problem is not the removal of his pancreas, not his incisions, and not any changes to his blood sugar. What he does have, he didn’t expect: a lot of pain in his stomach. The surgeon belatedly predicted this. “The stomach resents how we treat it, so it just shuts down. We call it lazy stomach.”
A metaphor won’t make Gene feel any better, but we all know that changing one thing can lead to unexpected problems. Systems – bodies, organizations, families, personalities, religions – tend to resent being flipped around. It can lead to pain. It can lead to resistance. It can lead to a shutdown.
In Acts 15, we get a glimpse of the early Christian Church at a pivotal point in its life. Many receive the saving grace of Jesus Christ hand share the good news with others. Some of those others are not Jews – as Jesus and his disciples were. They are Gentiles – another ethnicity, culture, and tradition. The Church welcomes the Gentiles, acknowledging their faith in Jesus Christ and their salvation through the Spirit.
This is a seismic shift in the Judaic system. Jews and Gentiles didn’t mix it up that much before they all came to the faith of Jesus Christ. Things are getting flipped around if Jews and Gentiles are worshipping, eating, and serving together. Some part of the system rebels against all this rough change. In resistance, there is a call that all Gentile Christians must become Jews to be part of the Church. Now, to become a Jew requires a surgeon to remove the foreskin.
That’s an unanticipated pain! And so is the conflict.
The leadership of the Church takes its time sorting out the situation. They listen to both sides – to the pro-become-Jewish-by-circumcision-first crowd and to the we-are-saved-by-grace-not-ritual crowd. It’s clear that the spirit of God is moving whether men are circumcised according to Jewish custom, or circumcised when they are full grown, and even when they keep their foreskins intact.
Eventually, the system settles down. The pain diminishes. Resistance fades. Various parts begin to work in concert together again.
For the Church, the upset – even with its unexpected pains and problems – leads to greater health and wholeness.
According to the doctors, that will eventually be true for Gene.