I preached my second sermon yesterday. In early February, Jordan approached me hesitantly and shared that he felt that God told him that I was supposed to preach on the first Sunday of Lent. Actually, it went more like this:
Jordan: “You might not like it, but I have something to tell you.”
Jordan: “I was praying, and on the first Sunday of Lent…”
Me: “I’m supposed to preach…?”
So, technically, God told both of us.
I was perplexed by this nudging because I had also recently sensed that God was calling me to a place of rest and surrender of my agenda. I have had a pretty sick winter. This isn’t new. All winters are difficult. I catch every bug that knocks on our door, I pass out pretty regularly, and my pain and fatigue become all-encompassing. I feel like I am slowly emerging from my winter cocoon, but I’m cautiously optimistic. The bad days still hit pretty hard.
I have to confess, I’m a little bit disappointed. For years, trusted prayer warriors in my life have been telling me that God is going to heal me. In November, I thought I heard God whisper to my heart that He was bringing healing. I rejoiced. I celebrated. My hope was restored after a season of despair. And I waited.
I don’t mind waiting. The promise still feels secure, and I am fully confident in my Healer.
Advent, the season of waiting, came. Christmas passed, and we welcomed in the New Year. I made it a point not to seek healing above God. I wanted to focus on waiting well, seeking the Giver rather than the gifts.
My medical team and I have added a few additional medications to my treatment plan. My twice-monthly Xolair injections have taken the edge off of my Mast Cell reactions. I only went into anaphylaxis once since the new year. My Clonidine patch regulates my adrenaline well, so many of my POTS symptoms are better controlled. My cardiologist has worked diligently to find a way, through carefully monitored beta blockers, to balance my heart rate and blood pressure, and I have weeks where I am relatively stable, and other weeks where I am flying off the charts in one direction or another. In the realm of food, the gastroparesis is painful and exhausting, but not eating is simply not an option, given my eating disorder history. As a result, Zofran is my best friend, and much of the time, I live on massive quantities of bland, simple foods. Each diagnosis carries with it a restrictive list of foods to avoid, so I work to balance avoidance of trigger foods while also keeping the eating disorder voice in check. In order to have at least a little freedom with food, I pop dye-free Benadryl like candy, and I am on quite a heavy pain regulating regimen. I don’t always well avoiding trigger foods, but with such a severe history of anorexia, I do better to err on the side of over-indulgence.
My treatment team regularly discusses more tests, more procedures, and possible surgeries, but most doctors and specialists hesitate to recommend anything remotely invasive, given my history with surgeries and my fragile state. I live in the limbo of weighing out the cost-versus-benefit of all of my medications and treatments.
In spite of my barrage of illnesses, I still go to bed each night wondering if tomorrow will be the day when I wake up healed. The hope remains strong.
I dwell in the in-between: The limbo of living in the hope of the promise and in the reality of my many medical limitations.
A week ago, at a worship gathering, an individual prayed over me passionately and with great faith. As she closed the prayer, she opened her eyes and shared a vision of light cascading from all of my organs. And she asked the question that I always dread: “How do you feel now? Do you feel better?”
I struggle to communicate an opinion on the use of this question after a prayer for healing. I don’t necessarily believe that it is wrong to ask if I feel better. But I always answer it hesitantly and a bit apologetically, not sure how to respond.
“Um…I feel….encouraged; Hopeful; joyful. Like the Spirit of God is present. But, no, I’m sorry. At this moment, I’m still sick.”
Last week a group from our church traveled to Florida to the Exponential Conference at First Baptist Orlando. I traveled the way I usually do: Wheelchair, medical mask on the plane, wincing with pain, and reeling in exhaustion. But the experience was well worth the physical cost. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to sit under the preaching of some amazing spiritual giants, to join with over 5,000 worshippers in passionate praise, and to re-calibrate spiritually as we navigate a difficult time for our church.
In the midst of this conference about church planting and evangelism, I struggled under my sense of calling. Quite frankly, the callings that God has placed on my life to be a mother, pastor’s wife, teacher, writer, speaker, and worship leader far exceed my physical capacity.
I have frequently returned to my knees, declaring desperately to God, “Something’s gotta give! Either heal me or remove these overwhelming callings!”
But here’s the thing:
If God heals me entirely spontaneously, and then goes on to use me in the ministries that He has called me into, God is glorified.
If God doesn’t heal me spontaneously, and then He supernaturally physically empowers me to live into my calling one act of obedience at a time, He is also glorified.
God can miraculously heal me all at once. That would definitely be my preference in my “less suffering is better” mentality. The physical pain and suffering would be eradicated, and I could live free from illness.
OR God can empower me to accomplish His calling on my life from within my illness, through many miracles, each time that I step into the calling.
The first option is easier for me. It is simple. I would be healed, and I could physically accomplish all that God has called me into without struggle or pain.
The second option is significantly more difficult. It would involve more ongoing faith and confidence in the character of God and in His ability to carry out His promises. Each time that I say “yes” in obedience to the individual assignments that God places in my path, trusting that He will sustain me physically, God miraculously intervenes and is glorified. Also, I’m pretty sure that Paul’s life was one that involved the second option (See 2 Corinthians 12).
Both options involve miracles. One involves a single big miracle. The other involves continuous “smaller” miracles. The second option is not new. God has been performing these miracles in my life over the past few years. Each time that God calls me to speak, lead in worship, teach a Bible study, or do something that exceeds my physical capacity, He provides me with the strength to accomplish the task. With a doctor that stated that I am the most severe case of hyperadrenergic POTS she has ever seen, one doctor who recommended palliative care, and at least a half-dozen doctors who refuse to even take me on as a patient, the miracle is in the fact that God is still regularly using me in ministry. Only God can accomplish that. And in this state, the glory is constantly fielded straight to the Almighty.
While I desperately long for total and complete healing, I also see that God is accomplishing miracles in my body each time He calls me into a space that “doesn’t match my physical limitations.”
I’m at peace with glorifying God in this way: In being a human showcase for the glory of God as God calls me into positions and ministries that don’t fit with my physical illnesses. While I still pray for total healing, I trust that I don’t see the entire picture and that God knows what He’s doing.
As long as I live, I will glorify God: In song, in testimony, and in every breath that I breathe. I will glorify God is sickness, in healing, in life, and in death. And I believe that however God chooses to manifest His glory in my life, I will delight in His presence.