The Limbo of Illness

I have stumped every medical professional that I have seen over the past 9 months.  They have been so kind, so validating, so cautious, so attentive, and so void of answers.

“You sure don’t fit neatly into a diagnostic box.” 

“I’m afraid to touch you with a ten foot pole, you’re so fragile.”

“With you, I have to approach your medical care like I would an elderly patient.”

“You will never be able to be up and active for longer than 15 minutes.”

“I don’t want to wave the white flag in surrender, but I have no idea what to do.”

“It’s cases like yours where the medical field has to admit its limitations and insufficiency.”

Helpless. They all seem stumped. No one in their right mind can look at me, my symptoms, and my stats, and think that it’s all in my head; not even me!  But we hang in a balance, putting out fires, or rather, keeping the flames from spreading.  I try to live delicately, intentionally, caring as best as I can for this unstable and unpredictable temple. The light breaks through, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes with great rapture. 

I gave up driving. That’s an illusion. It wasn’t an option.  My license would have been revoked had I not willingly released the wheel. Everyone in this town is much safer that way. It is just so painful, at 33, to relinquish bit after bit of control. Wasn’t letting go of control of the eating disorder enough?  My heart whispers that this surrender is soul-training. I’ve never really been in control. Better to be humbled now in order to learn what really matters. 

I shift among three different settings. The first is rebellion: there is nothing wrong with me. I will just force myself to be normal. I can do it. I am a machine. I will overpower my body. This never ends well. Like, really, not one single time. 

The second setting is resignation: I give up. I am disabled and will always be. I will collapse into my heap of pain, disorientation, and self-pity and cry into oblivion. 

The third setting is the one that I am aiming for: acceptance with hope. I am disabled today, and I must live within those restrictions. I have great opportunities for joy, love, and service in this limited, thorny body. It may not look like what I expected, and I can grieve that loss. I do not, however, have the ability to foretell the future, and there is hope for healing. God can heal through the miraculous, new medical discoveries, or in more mysterious ways that are far beyond human understanding. However He chooses to heal or not, I know that the night always closes into the opening of the dawn. Hope is a constant. 

The ground feels shaky, like the tremors that accompany my wacky norepinephrine spikes. It feels shaky, but there is solid rock underneath my feet.  I will not be snuffed out by the darkness, because the Spirit of life is alive and well in my feeble, confounding, unstable body of flesh. As long as there is breath in my struggling lungs, there is a redemptive and beautiful purpose for my life. And I suspect that when the breath is no more, the breath of the Spirit will awaken my soul to the unbridled beauty that was but an inkling in even the most alert human mind.

It is sometimes in the limbo of illness that we come against a thin place: one where the natural and supernatural seem to hold hands. As I walk this road, I realize the truth of the beatitudes, and in this thin place, I see Jesus more clearly. I am in limbo, and I am abundantly blessed.

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Pastor Al Gilbert

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