Recent events have overwhelmed me. In my quiet times, I’ve been dancing up to Jesus, meditating on his Word, and yet shying away from intimate contact. When he touches my heart I run away.
Today I recognized this, and I didn’t run. Instead I conversed.
In the last few weeks my nest became empty, my mother scheduled a major surgery and requested my help, my manuscript arrived from my content editor for the final edit, and I discovered I have widespread osteoarthritis alongside my fibromyalgia and mystery autoimmune disorder.
The changes to my life suggested by my occupational therapist require adjustments to routine, therapy, and diet. I already have a strict regimen for manageable health. These new ones bring even more rigidity.
Spontaneity is necessary for creativity and joy. How can I maintain this new routine?
Prepping the manuscript followed by caring for my parents will require more strength than I have. How can I manage all of that?
Overwhelmed, I hit the wall.
I was an athlete, strong, a runner. Each time I’ve heard the word “osteoarthritis” casually dropped into the conversation by health practitioners, I’ve felt so puzzled.
What! Me? Are you talking about my condition?
They must see my puzzled look, because they then define arthritis. I know what arthritis is. But, this is it? This is what it feels like? I have it?
It may sound funny to you, but if you’ve been strong and healthy, when your body begins to betray you, which it will one day, it’s a shock. How can this be?
Today as I sorted this out with Jesus, I realized that I am afraid. I don’t trust where he’s taking this.
I’ve always had my eye on the horizon, knowing that the trials and testing at the end of life are the ones that most often shipwreck the life. Look at the kings of the Old Testament if you doubt that. See how many remained faithful. Dante even surmised that the failures at the graying end of life make the mistakes of youth seem minor. That’s downright terrifying, particularly if you had a mistake-laden youth!
I thought the battle would be complacency and desire for comfort, the temptation to recline on a stretch of beach, avoiding the call to evangelize the world. But for me the battle is unrelenting pain, failing body parts, and the pressing need to keep turning to Christ in the midst of it.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
Jesus has been hemming me in for decades. That is the best place for me, because I have a traitorous heart. Very quickly I enthrone myself – All hail the conquering heroine! Isn’t she grand!
But, for a believer, Jesus is the hero.
Apart from him, I cannot overcome sin. Apart from him, I stand condemned before God. He is my everything, and I need him. Therefore, I need to be hemmed in, lest I run to myself. My fallback is to rely on my wits, my abilities, and my own strength. Challenges are met with a “can do” spirit. I power through it.
But now that I’m failing physically, I need these lessons. I forget him when it is imperative that I trust him. He is to be my fallback, not myself. My work, my relationships, my ministries, and my health are only going to get more difficult. I’m only fifty-six.
Our culture worships youth. We act as if these changes are never going to happen to us. We treat the elderly as if there’s something oddly wrong with them. But the final exam of unrelenting pain and a treacherous body faces us all.
In the midst of these, he is teaching me to trust him.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?