Discovering Who I Am, Healing, Loss, Pain, Trust, Words of Endurance

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
… a time to mourn …

When I look back on my life – discovering who I am has been an ever-evolving journey for me. I believe that I am not alone – in fact, I know that while we may be on different paths and experience different life changing events – many of us find ourselves on the same quest.

It is my desire over the next several weeks for me to share this journey of mine. I have evolved from a son and a brother to a husband and father. And I have been a student and an athlete – first an amateur and then a professional. I have loved, accepted and transitioned with every new identity. (Well maybe not the student identity so much!) But my first major identity crisis – asking God who am I now – came when I lost my arm to cancer.

Battling cancer is hard enough but for many survivors – and I am one – cancer leaves us with an even tougher battle to fight. That battle has to do with our identity. When the storm of cancer sweeps into our lives the landscape can change dramatically. Everything familiar may be wiped away or changed beyond recognition. We may have lost the relationships, skills, and resources that have been an essential part of who we are and have given us a sense of joy and purpose in living. So some of us journey out of cancer as very different people.

When I lost my arm – I lost my career, my position and my sense of identity. All I had ever done career wise was play baseball. Who was I if I was not a pro baseball player? It was a long, painful and difficult journey to identify the real Dave Dravecky.

But for me the journey did not begin right away. Part of the reason was because I did not take the time to mourn the loss of my arm – that would have been the emotionally healthy step to take. But oh no – not me! Instead, I had a cavalier attitude about it. Before the amputation, I jokingly waved my left arm in the air – pretending that it was saying goodbye. After the amputation, I thrust myself into travel and speaking to prove that I could overcome this loss.

The truth was I did not want to face the pain and the reality of the loss and the fact that I was a changed person. The questions of who I was and where do I go from here – could not be held at bay any longer. Jan continued to say to me …

The only way to heal from the pain of losses suffered
is to go through the pain.
There is no way around it.
You can stuff it – you can dodge it.
But eventually, you will have to face it.

When I started to take the first step by asking those questions instead of ignoring them, I was surprised to discover that so much of my identity was wrapped up in that arm and what it was capable of doing. My arm had brought me joy, worth, status and had provided a wonderful lifestyle. I had lost all of these when I lost my arm. Until I came face to face with the personal losses that came with the physical loss of my arm – I was awash in a storm of denial and depression.

If I have learned anything through the loss of my arm it is that ignoring the loss and not taking the time to mourn that loss was a huge boulder on my path to discovering who I truly was. So step one for me was to remove that boulder by honestly facing my pain and loss and then moving on with God.

Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest …

“Beware of harking back to what you once were when God wants you to be something you’ve never been.”

If we allow God to work through our losses He will always teach us something that will bring us closer to Him and make us more like Him. And that is anything but loss. It is incredible how much we gain through our losses.

On the journey with you,
Dave Dravecky