There is a question that I’ve come to dread. It’s a perfectly innocent question and I’m sure the asker doesn’t realise the whole host of emotions it evokes within me. The question is simple, mundane, something you ask when you don’t know someone but are taking an interest in their lives. The question is ‘What is it you do?’ I can see you all thinking that I’m a little bit weird for dreading that question, except for me the answer isn’t that I have a great job, or I’m studying the course at university that I’ve always wanted to
do like most people my age are. For me the answer is ‘nothing’. You see because of my health condition I’m currently too ill to study, or work, or sometimes wash my own hair or get out of bed. The fact that I'm on disability benefits and currently unable to be a fully participating member of society fills me with shame and sometimes fear and hurt, I dread having to explain myself. I hate having to explain that all I’m currently doing is ‘getting better’ or at least praying that I will.
As a Christian I know that God has a plan for my life. I also know that this is part of His plan. Not that He inflicted it upon me, because despite some people’s opinions I don’t believe that God inflicts suffering, but that He is using it to shape me and mould me into the woman He has designed me to be. I know that I shouldn’t feel ashamed or fearful about something that is out of my control, if people want to judge me then that’s their choice, but I still haven’t quite learnt not to let it hurt me when they do.
There are days when I just want to yell at my 18 year old self to rest (and rest isn’t the only thing I’d yell given the choice!).
I got glandular fever when I was 18, just three months after I started my nursing training and I was very sick. I’d always been really good at picking up whatever was going, (I think I should win an award for the number of chest infections I had whilst I was in India!) but a 10 day mad rush trip to India to visit my family at Christmas after a busy first term at uni and a chest infection that I got when I was out there, meant I was unable to fight off the glandular fever when it started its attack. I contracted a secondary bacterial infection and ended up in hospital on IV antibiotics. When I got discharged back to my grandparent’s care I was ordered to rest for several weeks but this didn’t sit well with me. I was worried about all the absences I was clocking up at uni and the placement that I would have to make up. I was worried about being kicked off the course and it was my worry that led to me going back as soon as I could physically cope with walking around. Had I sat tight and rested for as long as it took to get well again, I probably would be graduating with my class in a few weeks. However I can’t let myself think like that very often because it’s no use regretting actions in the past, all it does is hold us there and not give us a chance to move forward.
It says in Matthew 6 “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (From the MSG, approximately vs 33-34)
I’ve read and quoted that passage time and time again, in many different versions but I don’t think I’ve ever read it in this version before and today it speaks to me more poignantly than it has done in the past. It’s something I wish I’d learnt at 18, it’s something I still need to learn today. I’m still inclined to worry about missing out, not just on going out with friends which happens frequently, but on getting a degree and a good job, on finding a husband and having a family. I watch people getting on with their lives; graduating uni, getting jobs, getting married and I sometimes feel like my life is on hold. What I forget is that my life hasn’t stopped. I forget that having a degree, or a job or a family doesn’t define who you are and not having those things doesn’t define who I am. Sometimes I’m so focused on what isn’t happening in my life that I miss what is. Verse 34 says “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (emphasis mine)
By wallowing in self-pity, or wishing the situation was different, I am missing what God is doing in my life and I am limiting what He can do through the situation I’m in. In the past two and a half years I may not have been able to finish my nursing degree or get a job, but I’ve seen God’s faithfulness countless times. I’ve watched God provide for me when I had nothing and never once have I had to dip into my overdraft. I’ve seen Him pour out His grace and mercy and love into my life over and over. I know that He is healing me. I know that He’s carried me through the hardest parts and never once have I felt like He’s left me to handle it on my own. I know that I will come through the other side of this illness and that my faith will be stronger for it and I will, I hope, be a little more like the woman God has designed me to be because I focused on what He is doing in my life right now. So you know what, even if I could tell my 18 year old self to rest, I don’t think I would because I would have missed the amazing stuff God has done since then and all that He has taught me through it.
Note: Sorry it's been such a long time since my last post, with everything that has been going on I haven't been able to manage one :) Hopefully this will be the first of many again!