Have you seen on facebook that people often include a ‘past event’, “this day five years ago I was….” ? As you know, being an IT dinosaur, I only got fb fairly recently, so I don’t have any such gems to offer. It did make me start thinking though, about where I was a year ago.
A year ago, life was really rather difficult. I was a couple of months post op and everything was hard work. Did I ever tell you the details of my op? (Look away now if you’re squeamish!) They shaved my hair, cut a window into my skull, cut through my brain to the centre and took out the rather annoying cyst (which would have killed me if left alone.) They then patched me up with some titanium and stitches and sent me on my way. Pretty amazing really. Also amazing that I now look normal, have hair again and don’t sit in the corner dribbling (no more than I used to, anyway.)
The thing is, I look normal, but inside I am different. When I saw my first post op MRI, I asked what the black line was that went through my brain. I was told that was the gap, where the knife went. I did a bit of research. Apparently, as I understand it, scar tissue in the brain never heals, it just sits there, blocking the flow of neurons that allow us to think. However, the brain is pretty spectacular. It cannot use the same pathways, so it makes new ones. Gradually it learns to rethink, to redo all the things that it used to do.
When I say gradually, I mean gradually, very very slowly. Enough to pull out your hair (if you have enough left) slowly. The first time I tied shoe laces it was like being three years old again, I just could not make different hands do different things. While I was still in hospital, before they decided whether I was well enough to go home, they took me to a kitchen and asked me to cook a plate of pasta. It is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever cooked. Just filling the pan with enough water, remembering to light the hob, timing the pasta when it was boiling. Oh, the effort, the mental strain. It was exhausting, I slept deeply for an hour afterwards. But I did it, passed the test, was allowed home.
As time went on, everything improved. Now, a year later, most things are (roughly) back to normal. The point is (I do have a point, trust me) unless I used my brain, tried to do things like tying laces, kept going even though it was difficult, the brain would never make those new pathways. I had to attempt it before I could do it, the ability came second. Okay, hold that thought.
Now, quick subject change. I have been reading in the Bible about all the ‘gifts’, the things that Christians are meant to be good at. Things like forgiveness, self-control, patience. I have to admit, I’m pretty rubbish at all of them. Much nicer to have a quick shout at someone when they’re annoying or avoid the people who I think are nasty than do all that christian stuff. Plus, when I do pray, ask God to “help me to forgive Stacey because she’s a nasty piece of work and really I would like to slap her face,” I do not feel especially flooded with forgiveness. I still want to slap her face, so I avoid her.
However, it has been bothering me lately that actually, these behaviours are not optional extras. God does not say that when we are christians, if we feel like it, we should love and forgive the nice people we come across. It’s kinda in the sign-up sheet. If I claim to be a christian I have to be different, a better person than I would be if I weren’t one. So what to do?
Well, I have realised recently, that just like my brain had to start doing things to be able to do them (if you see what I mean) so I have to put these things into practice for them to be real. Sitting on my chair and asking God to ‘help me forgive’ and then waiting for me to feel like I had, just doesn’t work. I never felt like that. No, I had to ask God to help me, then trust that he had and actually start to behave and think like he had. I didn’t know if I could cook pasta until I did it. It was hard and I made some mistakes. Once I started behaving like I could, the skill caught up, now it’s easy. If I ask for the ability to forgive, then I have to start behaving like I have forgiven them, stop thinking about slapping them, start saying things that show I have forgiven them. Then the ability and the feelings, will catch up.
Okay, lecture over. But do you agree? Do you think that might be right?