Tell me the truth again
One cool morning in February, as I was entering the rehab hospital where I work, I received a phone call from an unknown number. The number had a NY area code and I knew I needed to answer it. It was the orthopedic surgeon at West Point who had obviously examined Michael just moments before. I answered the phone and my heart sank as the surgeon stated Michael had suffered a “devastating injury” to his knee and that I needed to get up to New York as quickly as possible. That word, “devastating”, hung in the air and managed to suck the air out of my lungs and the words out of my head. I tried to ask questions, but I couldn’t, so instead I just listened.
You see our youngest son, Michael, was born fast, a month early to be exact, and he’s never stopped racing to get ahead. Michael charges through life at 100 mph and does nothing half-hearted, including getting injured! By the time, he was 18 and decided to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, he had been hit by a car twice, he had broken several bones, knocked out 6 teeth, received stitches on every side of his head and was well known by the local ER staff. So, his choice of schools should not have surprised his dad and me. Michael liked a challenge; to do things the hard way, full speed ahead. For those of you unfamiliar with West Point, it is camped among the rocky cliffs overlooking the Hudson River west of NYC and is steeped in history. This is serious college. Nothing playful or whimsical about this place- strictly business- the quintessential “hard way” to get an education. Michael style.
We took Michael for a West Point college visit in February of his senior year of high school, we traveled through a blizzard, no joke. Our plane was re-routed to Buffalo and we drove a rental car for 350 miles, many of them behind a snow plow so we could see the road; the snow was heavy and we were out of our Alabama flip flop in February comfort zone. Michael’s most memorable comment from the backseat during a particularly treacherous part of the journey, was “not only is it tough to get selected to go to West Point, but just physically getting there- weeds out the weak.” We all laughed, survived the college visit and then were proud of his tough decision to serve our nation’s military and attend such a rigorous place. His Dad, and my wonderful husband, Jody, had also graduated from West Point.
Michael went to West Point. He truly enjoyed it and he flourished. He was a natural born leader and loved the physical and mental challenge of the school. But it was during Michael’s plebe year (or freshman year) that is the subject of my first blog as Word Washed Wife and the explanation for that unusual name.
Michael was representing his company, in a Grappling Tournament. Grappling is like a cross between wrestling and boxing, probably not exactly right, but close enough for a blog being written by a mom 😊. It is a nasty sport; the kind of sport that only a boy wanting to become a man, would enjoy. Michael was grappling up, which meant he was competing in a higher weight class than he should have been. During this match, Michael had his legs swept out from underneath him and he, with the full weight of his sizable opponent, came tumbling down hard to the mat.
Michael was unable to get up after the collision with the other grappler, and was carried off the mat by stretcher to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, Michael called home and told me he thought he had “sprained his knee” but not to worry. Worry is what you do when you are a mother and especially when you raise a boy like Michael. I begin to pray and feel the familiar nagging heart ache every Mom feels when their child is hurt, not to mention, far away.
It turned out that Michael had not sprained his knee as he had told us the night before on the phone, but rather he had torn every ligament in his knee, a total knee dislocation- in my true Michael’s fashion. He had torn his PCL, MCL, ACL, demolished his posterior corner, and had caused serious nerve damage to the nerve that allows him to raise and lower his foot everything possible to damage was damaged. At the time of the phone call, and the start of this story, the physician could not guarantee me if Michael was going to keep his leg. The surgeon further stated that Michael was a great kid, but he restated that I need to hurry to NY, for Michael needed his mother.
I thanked the doctor and asked him to hand the phone to Michael. For the first time, I heard fear in my son’s voice. I assured him everything would be OK; God was in control and I would be up there as soon as I could pack a bag and jump on a plane. I hoped my words were convincing. I knew the words were true, even if they didn’t feel like it and I quietly prayed for peace. I hung up the phone, cried an ocean of tears and quickly made my plans to get to New York. As I was packing I was reminded of a conversation that Michael and I had had a few months earlier. Michael had told me that he knew that God had prepared him for this challenge of becoming an Army officer his whole life, and that he believed his decision to go to West Point and become the leader of men was God’s desire not just his plan. This conversation weighed heavy on my heart.
Michael had surgery a day or two later, after the swelling went down. The surgeon was only able to do half of the repair in the first surgery but good circulation was established and Michael was able to keep his leg! The surgeon was not overly optimistic about Michael’s long term prognosis. He stated on several occasions that a good recovery may include one that Michael remained dependent on a cane with a limp for the rest of his life. He had no guarantee on Michael’s foot every lifting again on its own or the feeling to return to his leg. He made no promises about Michael’s military future and so my son’s dreams hung in the balance.
Michael left the hospital facing a long recovery, on crutches in a snowy, ice covered campus that was not easy to traverse even in the best of conditions. After two weeks of hovering and wringing my hands, there was nothing more I could do, so I reluctantly returned home to Alabama.
During the next few months, Michael had a difficult time, he didn’t like asking for and accepting any help from classmates. He was discouraged by his lack of mobility and things looked bleak. I wanted him to quit the Academy and come home to recuperate, but he refused. He was going to finish what he had started and unless they kicked him out, he wasn’t leaving West Point. He was confident God was going to heal him.
I was discouraged back at home too. I worried about him, my youngest child. The one who’s leaving had emptied my nest. The one who had caused my heart on more than one occasion to petition God for healing. I ached to hold him and help him in some way. I was his mother and his problem was out of my control. I felt helpless. I cried myself to sleep on a number of occasions and worried about what would happen. I didn’t want his precious young faith crushed and I pleaded with God for his healing.
One night, after work, I sunk to a new level of grief and sadness. I sat on the stairs leading to our kitchen and cried inconsolably. Jody wisely sat down beside me and began to comfort me with the truths from God’s word. He instinctively reminded me of God’s love and provision. He quoted verse after verse. He stated that God would never leave or forsake Michael (Hebrews 13:5-6), that God was Michael’s creator and He knew Michael from the beginning of time, He had knit Michael together in my womb, He could handle his knee (Psalms 139:13). Jody spoke to me of God’s amazing power, compassion and love for Michael and for us (Exodus 34:6 & Psalms 86: 15-16). And my heart was truly comforted and my faith encouraged. The word of God, is God and has unlimited power to soothe our hearts if we will read or in my case allow it to wash over us. From then on, over the next 16+ months, when Satan would whisper in my ear, “Michael will never walk again,” or my own doubts would bubble up, I would ask Jody to “tell me the truth again.” He would faithfully speak the truth, as often as my aching Mother’s heart required. Jody was literally bathing me in the word of God. It was the best thing he could do to show me how much he loved me and remind of our Father’s love. The peace of God would wash over me as he would remind me of scripture, and read God’s promises to me each day.
Now, I had accepted Christ as a small child and have never wavered in my faith, but I was hurting. I needed Jody to hold my hand and without judgement, encourage me with the truth of the gospel. And he did daily, initially, then weekly and less and less often as my spirit recovered and was able to hear and feel God’s spirit on my own.
Ephesians 5:25-27 teaches:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Jody had always loved me well and during this troubled time, he aptly bathed me in the Word, the truth, the gospel, the words my troubled heart ached to hear. God knew Jody would stand on feet of iron as we marched through life together and that I would be the weaker one, the more sensitive one, whose heart would feel every sting. I needed my husband to help me weather this storm, so that I would not become resentful or blemished in God’s sight. God had set up a way for me to weather the storm and grow in faith because of it. He had put this plan in place 31 years ago today, as I married my best friend, confidant and the love of my life. This is God’s plan for you as well, my friend. This is one of the fruits of a godly marriage, take advantage of it. I am very thankful for my husband, but am aware that although this is God’s plan, it is not often walked out in the lives of many believers. So be encouraged. Take God at His word, allow your spouse to bathe you in the beautiful words of scripture. Allow your spouse to be instrumental in restoring your faith and consoling your heart in the midst of life's storms.
Relax and enjoy the refreshing cleansing that only the Word of God can bring! I would be honored for you to join me on my pursuit to a fully Word washed life! Keep reading 😊!
To finish the story, Michael underwent two surgeries and about 18 tough months of physical therapy, but he made a full recovery. Michael states that he values the time he spent injured. It gave him a better perspective on servant leadership and how God turned his weakness into strength. He has recently re-injured his knee and is probably leaving the Army on a medical discharge, but he is a stronger man of God because of this knee ordeal. May we rejoice during trials, for truly they bring about growth and the strengthening of our faith! (James 1:2-4)