Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Waiting Room

Aaah, we are all familiar with the waiting room, that place where you arrive to be seen by your physician, then wait (and wait) until he can finally actually see you. It is a place where many anxious moments pass ever so slowly. I have been on both sides of that room lately. At Personalized Family Medicine we eliminated the waiting room (retaining a small, pleasant reception area) through intelligent scheduling and allowing adequate time for each type of patient visit. But admittedly we did not eliminate all waiting. In God’s economy, I am now learning the value of waiting.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is from Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” While scholars have debated the nuanced meaning of Isaiah’s poetic interlude, this promise from the Lord especially captured me this past week with practical power.

My first hope was that I would perhaps avoid this second series of hospitalizations altogether (“mount up with wings” and fly over this mountain) by receiving an “all clear” report from the imaging studies – that did not happen. Then, determined to make the most of it, I was anxious to race through this course in as short a time as possible, not miss a dose, and put the week behind me (“to run and not be weary”). Well, that did not happen either.

I discovered that this situation required me to learn to “walk and not faint”… to persevere, to plod through the day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute buffeting of my body and psyche in order to achieve the optimal outcome that my doctor (and my God) desire for me. It meant patiently waiting to collect the pre-treatment data (chest X-ray, EKG, lab); then riding inexorably through the many expected and unexpected side effects of treatment: chills, severe rigors, painfully strained muscles, limiting mobility, nausea, repeated vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal distress/distension, generalized swelling, shortness of breath, carpal tunnel syndrome due to the fluid retention, stomatitis, loss of all appetite, extreme fatigue and weakness, and, appropriate for the Fourth of July, a red splotchy itching rash surrounding pale white islands of raised whelts and blue lips!

With each new dose came a new combination of toxic effects, a strategy to ameliorate those effects, and in many instances the next dose postponed to allow time to recover. This particular course required the longest hospital stay yet to complete just 8 doses of IL-2, sometimes getting only one dose in over a 24-hour period. Beyond a doubt this fourth (and hopefully final) session of high dose Interleukin-2 therapy was the most difficult and protracted.

What was I to learn through this? First, He does not provide wings to surmount the circumstances in every situation. I have experienced that kind of rescue in the past, where I could view the problems in the valley from a lofty perspective and my only worry was to avoid plunging inadvertently into the next snow-capped peak! Sometimes He has us run like a troop through the thickets that would otherwise slow us down, renewing us with energy, quickening our pace, and cheering us on over the next hill. And sometimes He places us in a position that running or flying will just not achieve the best outcome – He comes along side to sustain us through the drudgery of the challenge we must endure and our strength is renewed to the very end. He reminds us, "It's the relationship, stupid!" He wants me to learn to know Him more intimately and it is during these times that I slow down enough to hear His heart beat (Isaiah 26:8, Psalm 46:10).

My role is to discern which course of action is most needed and to “wait” on Him to help me through it. It was just a day before being admitted to the hospital for this final round of IL-2 therapy when one of my mentors, Hap Struthers, a fellow elder at Tab church and a Hebrew scholar, pointed out that the verb translated “wait” in the King James version (elsewhere translated as “trust” or “hope”) has its roots in the Hebrew term for “lying in wait”, as in an ambush. Rather than a passive activity, it describes the one who seeks new strength as a person poised for action, every muscle taut in anticipation of God showing up in the midst of a difficult situation.

I like to think of this waiting process as similar to the mental attitude of well-wishers at a surprise birthday party for someone they love, all quiet and crouched behind the furniture. Together they are poised to spring upon their friend to lavish him with praise and affection as soon as he arrives. (Notice that passage does not say “he” that waits upon the LORD, but rather “they…”. This is a group endeavor!) I have sensed that I am joined by my many believing friends and family who were fully expecting God to show up in this situation, anxiously anticipating what He would do. Well, my friends, I am happy to report He did show up, and He is deserving of all our praise.

And of course, He kept His promise: Through this week, I have walked (sometimes crawled) through the most difficult circumstances yet, and I have not fainted. Thanks for being part of the waiting room party! May you, too, experience His renewed strength on your journey today.

Celebrating Him,

PS – Linda had a few more adventures while staying at the camper during the week and has been a tremendous source of strength from the Lord to me. I expect to be discharged today. We will spend one more day in the camper to recuperate and head back home for what we hope will be a full recovery. Next round of tests are slated for early August.


  1. Dan,
    It is great to hear that you are on the other side of this round of treatment. We are continuing to pray for your full recovery.

    Scott & Adina

  2. What a rough road . . . thanks again for sharing your continuing faith in God to bring you through it. I love reading your blogs.


  3. My Dad, Johnnie Sporhase asked me check on you for him. He thinks of you often and he prays for you daily. He is in the ICU at DePaul as I write. Dr Ives removed part of his colon. He is talkative, hungry and ready to get out of bed. But you are in his thoughts and prayers.
    Becky Sporhase Owens

  4. we are encouraged by the vision you are sharing with us of God's grace. we pray that you continue to see Him clearly during this season.

  5. Dan,

    Your praises remind me of the section in the Hagadah where the responsive reading begins with "It would have been enough . . ." Many of the blessings that God gave to Israel are repeated for the benefit of the young so they would never forget God's faithfulness. You might consider writing something similar to that for your children and grand children.

    God bless and we are still praying!

    Tom & Holly