Follow Your Nose…

&%$@##&!!!!!

I’ve never been one to use expletives. Normally, I resort to humorous phrases like “holy cow!” or “sacred bovine!” Occasionally, I simply say “Expletive!” to get my point across. But this time, ohhhh, this time was almost an exception. Fortunately, the extreme nature of my pain—and my temporary inability to form coherent words–hindered me from breaking the third commandment. But it hurt like Hades. Who knew nasal surgery could cause so much pain?

Yeah, I’d gotten my wisdom teeth out a couple years before, and that kind of hurt. (Conveniently, my wisdom teeth surgery happened to be right after the release of the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. My doting family tried to make me see it with them in theaters… not because they actually wanted to see it, but because they wanted to see people laugh at my chipmunk face! Thanks, guys; I love you too.) I’d even gotten a dry socket, and that was a bit unpleasant. And way back in fifth grade, I broke my left ankle… doing a cartwheel. Yes, that was a tad painful. But dry sockets and foot fractures had nothing—I repeat, nothing—on this.

Maybe I just have a low tolerance for pain; this could legitimately be the case. But before you write it off as my wimpiness, let me explain to you the surgery, and then you can judge for yourself. I was born with what is known as a “deviated septum,” which basically means that the inside of my nose was crooked. Specifically, my left nostril was completely blocked by a little piece of bone about halfway up. And this little piece of bone or “deviation” meant that I could never fully breathe through the left side of my nose. In addition to frequent nosebleeds and really bad morning breath, this also translated into a permanent sinus infection. Starting at about three years old, I had sinus infections pretty much all the time. By my surgery, I had taken almost every type of antibiotic, used just about every nasal spray, and had gone through hundreds of boxes of Kleenex and Puffs Plus.

Here I should note that my nose also left emotional scars. All during grade school and high school, I was notorious for my vociferous nose-blowing. In sixth grade, my classmates started calling me “the honker” and eventually kids started plugging their ears when they spotted me heading to the tissues. One fateful English class my senior year, the nasal pressure was especially unbearable. I’d reached the point that I couldn’t even concentrate on my Hamlet essay because it was so debilitating. To breathe or not to breathe? That was the question. The answer was obvious, so I reluctantly sidled up to Mrs. Eagleton’s desk, where I grabbed a wad of tissues. Then I had a brilliant idea! The classroom was in a mobile building, so I could step outside—actually outside—to blow my nose! Quietly I tiptoed out the door, making sure it didn’t slam behind me, and then I blew and blew and BLEW as hard as I possibly could. Oh, the liberty! Oh, the joy! Oh the sweet Kansas air filling my nasal passages! I could breathe! I could breathe! But then… I went back into the classroom where everyone burst into a collective fit of laughter. Apparently the walls of the mobile weren’t as thick as I’d thought. Oops. :/

Having said all that, when the time for my surgery finally rolled around, I was more than ready. Finally, I would be able to blow my nose at a non earth-shattering decibel. Finally, I would be done with antibiotics. Finally, I would be able to actually breathe. As they inserted the tranquilizing IV and I drifted off into the medicinally-induced abyss, I could not have been more excited. My time had come.

What I didn’t count on, however, was the pain that would inevitably accompany it. And boy, did the pain keep me company. That first week and a half after the surgery was awful and the pain was borderline unbearable. I felt like my nose was about to implode, and all I wanted to do was blow it, but I couldn’t. I hurt, I looked terrible, and when I wasn’t laboriously sucking in oxygen through my mouth, I was wishing my nose would cease to exist. Needless to say, it was not among my top five favorite life experiences thus far.

However, looking back on it a year and a half later, I have a rather different perspective. Now I only buy two boxes of tissues per semester instead of two dozen. Now my breath smells (and tastes) significantly less atrocious every morning. Now I only need a single digit of Z-Packs per year. And now, most importantly, I can actually breathe through my nose. Whenever I think about it, I inhale and smile, every breath a reminder of my own personal nasal miracle.

So why do I share this story with you? Do I actually think you want to hear the medical history of my olfactory system? No, not at all. But I think that my nasal passages hold a very important lesson (in addition to their trace amounts of mucous. Haha). And what is this lesson? I’m so glad you asked.

Sometimes the greatest gain is born of our hardest pain.

This lesson holds true in more instances than just my nasal surgery. The most beautiful rainbows come after the heaviest storms; the most fragrant roses bloom on the thorniest stems, and we grow the most during times of difficulty and pain. Just like my doctor planned the surgery for the perfect time when my body was ready, God’s timing is also perfect.  And He doesn’t abandon us, but rather stays right by our side, making sure everything works out as He intended. Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion; so great is His unfailing love. He doesn’t abandon us; rather, with skillful, loving hands, He removes our spiritual “deviations,” strips away everything that hinders us, and removes all that holds us back from Him. Then He carefully, lovingly, tenderly binds up our wounds and waits patiently for us to wake up. Even then when we feel like hurling expletives at Him, even when we angrily ask Him, “Why me?!” He never lets us go; He never forsakes us. And some day, eventually, our pain fades away, and we can finally see what He was doing all along.

Because He always, always “nose” best. 😉

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