The Day My Face Fell

Wedding Favor. October, 2011.

Prayer, Prednisone and Immanuel

“It’s Bell’s Palsy,” the doctor said. “It’ll probably get worse over the next few weeks, then improve. Most of the time it goes away after three or four months.” He reached for his prescription pad.
“Um. Our daughter’s wedding is in ten days.” 
The doctor smiled at me. I smiled back with the half of my face that wasn’t paralyzed. “Come back and see me day after tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll see how you’re doing.”
I climbed into my trucked and phoned my boss. She’d encouraged me to leave the office and see my doctor when I mentioned that the odd sensations, half a fat lip, half a swollen, untasting tongue, one tearing eye, one numb cheek, had persisted into a second day. It was as if someone had drawn a line down the center of my face and injected the right side with novacaine. “I’d like to just go home,” I told her, though it was only one o’clock.

“You go ahead,” she said. “I’ll let everyone here know you won’t be back. And I’ll pray.”

“Thanks,” I said. 
Once home, I sat down to talk with my husband. I was worried about Rebecca, so busy with last minute details of the wedding. “Let’s not tell her,” I said. “I don’t want her to have one more thing to worry about.”

“Okay,” he said. 

I imagined myself at Becky’s wedding, wearing the dress she had helped me choose, looking as if I’d had a stroke. She’d planned this day so carefully, attending to every detail with an eye for beauty. Her groom’s mother-in-law had created pew decorations, centerpieces, place cards. 
At an event when all eyes belonged on the bride and groom, I didn’t want people whispering, “What happened to Sheila?” 
I fired off a prayer request to several sisters in Christ. I asked our pastor to pray for me. I cried a little.
Then I took a nap.
I woke up remembering the masks. The wedding would take place at an historic theater. Rebecca and her groom, Jeff, had decided to incorporate that theme into their reception. Jeff’s mother Susan, a crafting genius, had decorated 170 masks as favors for the guests.  
After I looked in the mirror to see if the right side of my face had slid further south as I slept, I went to Rich. “Hey! Remember the masks? If this thing gets worse, I’ll just wear my mask all evening.” He nodded.
Two days later my doctor said, “I don’t quite believe it. I expected you to be much worse by now. It looks like we caught it early. Keep taking the steroids, and see me on Tuesday.” 
I took the pills. I prayed. People prayed for me. I could feel their prayers, asking God to free my face. And every morning, I searched in the mirror, checking for signs of further paralysis. 
The Worst of it. 

I cannot say whether it was speedy medical care or an indulgent miracle that spared me a frozen face on our girl’s big day. 
But I know all the way down to my bones that the feeling of our friends lifting me up, praying me through this little crisis is one I’ll never forget. 
I could feel God’s presence.  And I knew that so long as He was with me, whether my face moved really didn’t matter. 

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”Matthew 18:19-20 (NASB)