When a Brutal Surgery Becomes Sacred

Melissa   -  

God took some of my darkest days to weave together one of my brightest days.

“We had to do a full replacement, instead of a partial.”

Those were the words I woke up to from my surgeon at the end of 2017. I had gone into surgery for a partial knee replacement and I woke up with a full knee replacement. A birth defect had wreaked havoc on my knees my whole life and I had finally reached the point, after many surgeries and injections and therapies that, while extremely young, they had to do a replacement surgery.

While not overly prepared for a partial knee replacement, I had no idea what a full replacement at a young age would mean for me. It was catastrophic. I had many complications and “rare” side effects. Being young was actually detrimental in the case of a joint replacement because my nerves and muscles were actively rejecting the foreign object instead of accepting it. I started physical therapy immediately and very quickly my entire life began to revolve around my crutches, pain management, and physical therapy. I was on crutches for 9 weeks and I was in physical therapy for a year. In fact, I “graduated” out on a Thursday and was back in the next Tuesday with my second knee replacement.

More than one tear was shed as I cried out to God asking him “WHY ME?”. I had pretty severe post-op insomnia and would spend hours awake in the middle of the night frustrated and lonely. God always met me in my tears and reassured me that he was for me. It didn’t make the situation better, but I was thankful for his voice in a dark season.

Always up for a challenge I pushed hard at physical therapy. All of my complications and “uniqueness” meant I needed a lot of specialized care. That care came in the form of a young man in his early 20’s named Kaleb. He was my physical therapy assistant. We spent hours working together and he quickly became like a little brother to me. Never one to whine for too long, I figured I would use the opportunities I had to be light where God had me planted. Kaleb and I formed a friendship. 4 months after my first surgery he was at my wedding and was cheering along with me as I made it up (and down) the three stairs to the altar. When I climbed a rocky castle wall in Spain, my husband and I sent Kaleb a video of my accomplishments. When Kaleb got engaged to Anna in 2019, he asked if I would perform the ceremony. It was an easy “yes” with a “but we’re going to do premarital counseling” together.

When their wedding was delayed a year due to the pandemic our premarital counseling shifted to a Bible study. In September of last year they both started a relationship with Jesus. I officiated their wedding on Saturday. It was a sacred honor. I’m actually still not sure how to put it all into words. Here’s what I do know, God never wastes our pain or our questions. I despised the recovery from my knee replacements; it was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through (if you know my story that’s saying a lot). On Saturday I stood on that stage and I could not help but see that God took some of my darkest days to weave together one of my brightest days. Only he can do that. He took what I hated and turned it into something sacred. Friends, He does that all the time. I’m convinced he’s always doing it and we’re often missing it.

So, if you’re still reading this, take what you need from it. Encouragement? Hope? A reminder? A breath of fresh air? Take it. He offers it. May we, may I, be more aware of the weaver of my story, fight a little less, and trust a little more.