Haggai 2:3-5 Does anyone remember this Temple in its former splendor? . . . This new Temple must seem like nothing at all! But now the Lord says: Be strong . . . and now get to work, for I am with you . . . My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised . . . So do not be afraid.
When Karis emerged from sixty days of induced coma in January, 2005 her body, a temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19), had been all but destroyed. She had no intestine; instead, she had two huge drainage tubes emerging from her abdomen that she had to carry around with her for a year. She was so weak she couldn’t even lift a finger to push the nurse call button. She had to rebuild her foundations, not just physically but academically, emotionally, spiritually. It seemed an impossibly long road back to what would never be “normal” again.
In Karis’s own words, once she was able to start writing again:
Mar 14, 2005 I cried a lot today. I cried for the full, beautiful life I once knew.
Mar 27, 2005 If I cried often in those days after my comas it was because I wanted desperately to feel alive again, to be myself again. But my soul had been buried so deep to survive the comas it wouldn’t come back to me quickly. Like Little Bo Peep’s sheep, it would emerge eventually—but on its own time. Meanwhile, I was distant from myself. Various times I attempted the Bible or Catherine of Sienna, Rumi, Hafiz, church bulletins; but my attention span was nil and prayer eluded me.
I write this in the past tense as a gesture of hope.
Mar 28, 2005 For Holy Week they held various celebrations at Ascension. One of them was the stripping of the cross. My own stripping is perhaps over. I’ve lost my foot and my hair and dozens of friendships, my ability to dance and to sing and to eat and to yell. Even my face is a different shape and I no longer read. So have I changed, in essence and purpose?
Mar 30, 2005 1 Corinthians 1:8—A promise I must learn to stand on. [She writes the verse three times.] “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
“He will keep you strong.” The Jews rebuilding the Temple in Haggai’s day faced intense opposition. Karis’s efforts to rebuild her body were also complicated by opposition: intensely painful pancreatitis, and then liver failure. By August, liver was added to the list for a second transplant, now five organs. Had God’s Spirit not been with her, encouraging her not to be afraid, she might have despaired. We both might have despaired.
August 25, 2005 marked one year since Karis’s first transplant. In that year she spent 249 days in the hospital, 92 of those in the ICU. I wrote on her blog:
“But what we like to focus on is God’s incredible grace to us through all the ups and downs of the last year. We have seen God’s love and kindness dramatically revealed through the Body of Christ. . .
What happens next? We don’t know. The ONLY way to walk this journey is one day—sometimes, one hour or one minute—at a time, in absolute dependence on God’s daily-renewed mercies. That hasn’t changed, just because we know better than we did a year ago what scary kinds of things can happen post-transplant.”
Today (thirteen years later!), I am less aware of my need to depend on God’s strength and Presence with me as I was every day of 2005. But it is no less true. Thank you, Lord, that you are still saying, “Do not be afraid.”