The past few weeks have been bad for my headaches and neck and shoulder pain. I fear this is a new “normal” and I don’t have any new ideas on what might help. I’ve taken every class of medicines and also tried non-medicinal or non-traditional therapies. The one thing that helps the most—dry needling/dry trigger point—I can’t find right anyone to do now. (Though Charles is doing a really good job as a surrogate physical therapist.)
But, I am learning that God’s power is actually made perfect in our weakness. Because I am so aware of my limitations and weaknesses, God shows up in more amazing ways. Looking back over the past few weeks, I am humbled to the point of tears. And though I am afraid to say it—knowing that God does hear and does answer—but if I need to be this dependent on God’s grace each day for God to act in miraculous ways, then Lord, may it be to your servant.
God is blessing me so much as I allow Christ more reign and as I seek more of Christ’s will than my own. A few ways God is working …
A few weeks ago, four of my high school students from last year came and visited us for a few days of their spring break. I only taught these four young women for one semester, but I’m honored to now be their friend and walk along side them as they navigate college, majors, calling and vocation, making their faith their own. Knowing them blesses me as I see their passion for justice and love, for contributing to the world in a meaningful way. Thank you, ladies, for letting me a part of your lives.
A few weeks ago, I was honored to lay preach at my church. I was utterly dependent on the Lord for the strength to preach from my favorite healing story of Jesus—the woman with the issue of blood and the synagogue leader’s daughter. Because I spoke of my chronic pain, a few people came up to me afterwards and said thank you, because they too suffer from chronic pain. A few years ago—well, maybe even more recently than that!—I wouldn’t have been so open to so many about my chronic pain. I feel like it might be beating me if I have to admit to it.
(Which probably is similar to how many people—me included—feel about sin much of the time. If we admit to it to ourselves or others, we think it’s beating us; when in fact, it’s the beginning of the path to renouncing its power over us, seeking God’s forgiveness and “amendment of life,” as the Book of Common Prayer phrases it. I think it’s important to note that in the prayer of absolution, after the prayer of confession, forgiveness comes before true repentance and amendment of life.)
Last Sunday, I taught Sunday school and we had a dozen young people visiting working with Philadelphia Project for a service weekend. I spoke openly about my headaches and the turning point in my relationship with Christ, when I had to admit that I could no longer do it—whatever it was—on my own, and that Christ could direct and guide me, and I wouldn’t be in charge any more. When I spoke about my headaches, a few meaningful glances moved around the room and I figured out one of the high school seniors, a girl, also had some similar illness. As we left Sunday school, I said to her, “You have chronic headaches too?” She replied, “You noticed the glances. Yeah, I do.”
We talked as long as we could after church before she had to leave. I didn’t cure her headaches. I cried a little when we got home. “What good did I do her?” I asked Charles. “You listened. You told her she wasn’t alone,” he said.
Later that day, Charles and I talked to close friends and after our conversations, we rejoiced with progress for one and I cried and yelled and even cursed a little about the other. I know I’m not handling things well when I start cursing—not relying on God very well, I’m ashamed to say. But both conversations left me feeling so utterly helpless.
There was—and is, I should remember—absolutely, utterly, completely nothing I can do to help or change the situation for these two people that I love so much.
And, this is actually a good feeling. Well, rather, a useful feeling, because it drives us back to the One who can and does act in the lives of those we love.
This helplessness in the face of others making questionable decisions, wasting their talents, putting profession before family, wanting approval from those that won’t give it, etc., should prompt us to prayer, to crying out to the Lord,
Have mercy, on me a sinner. Bless them and change me. Lord, help my unbelief.
Recently, a young woman said to me, “I don’t have anybody to look up to or imitate.”
My first thought was: How do you know what to do or who to be if you have no one to look up? How gracious of God to let me be available, to pass on what I’ve learned because of good examples, because of people who made faith real to me, who were friends and mentors to me.
While I strive to have the faith to belief God can and will heal me of my headaches, while I watch and wait to see how friends and family will navigate murky waters, I must affirm I can pray, I can be faithful to God’s calling on my life. I can trust and believe more. I can be available to be used as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Lord, may our weaknesses be for your glory, for your power is made perfect in our weakness.
As we enter into Holy Week, it’s a good time to be so conscious of our inability, our failures, our manifold and terrible sins. As we look to the Lord, who takes our mess and turns it into miracles, may the work of Christ, who took on himself our sin and redeemed us, transform us and others. Praise to the name of the Lord.