I love shaving my head for many reasons; one of them is because every time I shave my head it reveals a large C shaped scar on the side of my head. More than making me look like a true metal head, this scar bears witness to the profound work God has done in my life, to what He has done to turn my life around and give me a direction to walk in. I got the scar 4 years ago from an invasive brain surgery where my doctors removed a benign epileptic tumor along with my amygdala, hippocampus, and possibly parts of my right temporal lobe (been a while, not sure about that one). Every time I see the scar on my head I am reminded of where I was 4 years ago and the work God did to change both my heart and my physical condition and I am forced to give thanks for where I am today.
Before brain surgery, before I even knew I had a tumor, I was a Christian, but only in the vaguest sense. I had made profession of faith as a young child, and I believe that I genuinely had saving faith, but for my teenage years I was too obsessed with myself to really care about God. I loved Him, but my main reason for going to church was people. I knew he was real, but I was too focused on indulging my own sinful desires to really give Him the time of day. In my high school I was too interested in chasing girls, which I did quite awkwardly, and being holier than thou to really present my God and faith in a positive light. My life was probably not headed the best direction when 2009 came along; I wanted to be an engineer at some point, but had no real plan on getting there. It turned out that God had a completely different idea for where He wanted to take me. Before that February I had been experiencing what I would later discover to be seizures almost every day. I had started experiencing them every once in a while during high school, but had no idea what they were; as best as I could describe them they were simply weird headaches. I started going to doctors in grade 10, but they couldn’t really figure out what was wrong with me for 4 years. Looking back I can see God’s hand working even then in keeping me from a whole load of stupid things; the people I hung out with in High School did a whole lot of stupid things, and I wanted to join them, but by God’s grace I was too awkward and wanted to present myself as the perfect little Christian, so I never built up the courage to join in on what they did. When February 2009 came along I really wasn’t going anywhere in my life and would have gone in a really bad direction the moment an opportunity arose, at this time God broke in to my selfishness and got my attention.
One morning in February I had the most terrifying experience I have ever had, but it is something I for which I am desperately grateful—for it proved to be the Catalyst for the work God was doing to right my head (literally and physically) and get me focused back on Him. That morning in February, after a long night in the hospital the night before for a dislocated shoulder, I awoke lying on the floor of the kitchen in the condo where I lived. I was lying in a puddle of my waste and water with my mom crying over my head as paramedics walked through the door at the other end of the kitchen. Waking up I was in utter confusion as my last memory was going to bed the night before, I had no idea why I was in the kitchen or why I had the most vicious headache I had ever experienced. From talking to my mom in the ambulance on the way to the hospital I learned that that morning I had gotten out of bed and went to get a glass of water from the fridge, probably experiencing one of my frequent petite mal seizures during which I always craved water, and while pouring myself a glass I had a grand mal seizure—these are what most people associate with seizures and involve black outs, full body convulsions, and, as I was discovering, the loss of bladder control. Waking up in utter confusion remains to this day to be the most terrifying memory I can remember, but looking back it was a total blessing. Because of this seizure the doctors who I had been seeing at the hospital decided to see if the headaches I was experiencing over the last 4 years where actually seizures. Over the next 3 months, as my seizures escalated (getting more frequent and more severe, though I never had a grand mal again), they discovered that I had epilepsy which was being caused by a tumor in my right temporal lobe. It was completely a work of God’s grace that I was able to get diagnosed so fast and, even more so, I found myself scheduled for brain surgery six months from when I was finally diagnosed in May. If anyone has experienced Calgary hospitals, they tend to get things done really slow, but by God’s grace I was able to get scheduled for surgery within that short time span.
Waking up on November 26 2009 after 8 hours or so of surgery ushered in a profound change that I still look back on today. Between May when I was finally diagnosed and November 26 my seizures were only getting worse and more frequent, despite more and more anti-epileptic drugs, but waking up on the hospital bed that evening ushered in a profound change for me. Since that day I have not had one seizure, but more than that I have seen God work a mighty change in me. Going into the surgery I was aware that I would be recovering for a month or two, most of the time only being able to lie on a couch popping a constant stream of T3s. I was looking forward to a time of just watching movies, not working, and—to be honest—indulging everything sinful that I could in my recovering state. What I actually encountered during my recovery was something quite a bit different. It started with me thinking about the time I had on my hands and realizing that for once I may actually have time to read my Bible on a regular basis; I had been told every year at summer camp that that was a good thing to do, and now, at 19, I may have actually had a chance to do this. What I encountered lying on the couch in my living room and reading my Bible was a constant stream of verses addressing my attitude towards work and how my life as a Christian should look different than the life of those around me who weren’t saved, what I was shocked to discover was that my life didn’t look much different. I put forward a hypocritical face of a holy-than-thou Christian, but in my mind I seethed with all sorts of perverse thoughts about the very things I was condemning in my friends at work. When they were slacking off publicly I was doing the same thing discretely, while they were sleeping around I was checking out and objectifying every girl that walked through the movie theater, while they were drinking and smoking weed I was wishing I was brave enough to join them. What God began to do in those days lying on my living room couch in searing pain was right my view on how I should be living my life; that work was far from complete at that time, and now, four years later, is still far from complete. But the change in my attitude God began during those weeks of recovering has carried forth until today, while sitting in the library at my Bible College in BC finishing the last year of my 4 year bachelor in Pastoral Leadership I can only begin to marvel at how God took a wretched slacker obsessed with himself and turned him into a someone who, while still being a wretched semi-slacker obsessed with himself, actually has a hope and purpose in life following God.
Every time I see what remains of the scar on the side of my head I am reminded of the permanent mark my Savior has left on my life. I am reminded of where I came from and how without His gracious intervention throughout the duration of my life so far I would be neck deep in writhing pit of my depravity without a chance of escape. I am reminded of my high school years of doing nothing in classes and getting by solely by the gifts God had given me and now in college doing better than I ever thought I could, I am reminded of day after day of “headaches” that left me confused and at times thinking I might actually be insane and imagining the whole thing, and I am reminded of how God used something that should be terrifying—having parts of my brain cut out—to make me who I am today, still a wretched mess but much better than I ever was before. Looking at my scar I am reminded daily of how every good mark I get on an assignment or test is a gift from God; I wasn’t getting that great marks in high school and after brain surgery I can only give glory to God for every success I have. For any wisdom, motivation, or strength to finish what He started in me with school is completely and utterly a gift of His sovereign grace. My friends joke that the C on the side of my head is a tribute to Calvinism, but truly it is the mark of my lord Jesus Christ and a daily reminder of all He has done to change my soul and make me His.