Our Un-Romantic Maladies

You, 17 Pounds Lighter, by Christmas.

The magazine headline at the check-out line made me swoon: 17 pounds gone in just a few weeks – not my idea of a good time. But swooning is not an option with no one to catch you.
Now, if I had a romantic malady, like Julia Roberts in ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’—the kind of illness where women swoon with temporary dizzying blood sugar drops and men are there to scoop them up before they hit the ground, that would be an entirely other story.
But I have Crohn’s Disease; otherwise known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease—or ‘sucks to be you.’
And, after a pretty rough couple of weeks feeling like a live insect skewered to a science fair project, looking trim for Christmas is just not on the top of my wish list this year.
Still, pain has a good way of putting things into proper perspective, and I am not ungrateful for the gift of it, or for the depth of riches it has brought into my life.Even the night is beautiful when you see it through God’s plans and purposes for you.
What I have been thinking about a lot lately, is the nature of this illness. This autoimmune disease is really me fighting against my own body. Some parts of me think other parts of me are the ‘enemy’ and have taken matters into their own hands. Because of their relentless attack I am often rendered literally useless. I can do nothing more than endure bouts of pain and try to recuperate during the reprieves—everything comes to a grinding halt. All my dreams, pursuits, plans and intentions—shelved until I can get back on my feet again and try to pick up where I left off.
And the ripples go on to touch everyone around me. My children’s lives, friends and family have all been affected by my life so often shutting down for long stretches at a time.
And with all the extra time I have to consider these things, I can’t help but see parallels between how this illness is affecting my body and how a similar hideous autoimmune disorder is affecting the body of Christ.
A dear Muslim friend of mine used to come to church with me. The children loved to come, too. One morning, after what I thought was a particularly beautiful service, she told me she’d recently been to visit other Christian friends who told her coming to my church would be sinning because the women wore pants and there were musical instruments in the service.
With genuine sincerity she looked at me and asked, ‘Why Christians all against each other?’ She hasn’t come back to church, nor will she let the children come with me.
Accusations and slander in a body of believers–definitely not romantic maladies. Finger pointing–we’ve all been the brunt of it. I cringe when I see those people coming–knowing correction will soon slip itself into the conversation somehow. Judgmental attitudes. Petty grievances. Complaining.
I wonder if God, Himself, feels ‘shelved’ by us at times. His dreams, pursuits, plans and intentions to reach a desperate world—all grinding to a halt until we can get back on our feet again and figure out where we left off. When we attack each other instead of the powers of darkness. When we point fingers, accuse, slander or gossip–aren’t we just like a disease?
One thing I’ve learned— when your bowels are in agony, ain’t nothing going to be happening with the rest of your body; it’s down for the count, too.
Soon, the medication I’m on will begin to click in, and the inflammation will subside. I’m sure I will have more scar tissue added to what’s already there, but I’ll be able to digest properly again–for however long it will work this time around. All the other parts of me will slowly fall into line as I am even more careful than ever before to rest when I need to, eat properly and take my supplements.
While I do whatever I can, the medication will suppress my immune system so that it stops attacking itself; at least for a while.
But I wonder what will keep us from attacking each other.

19 comments

  1. What a powerful post Heather, truly moving. I don’t think anyone can truly answer your question, perhaps faith (as hard as it is) in humanity, in each other? I have fortunately (or, perhaps unfortunately) seen too much hatred in my life. Being Native American, growing up in a predominantly white city was tuff. Living in Africa with white parents (I was adopted), I would get crap from both the Africans and white folks when my parents were not around, it sucked. The good thing is that it did teach me not to judge people based upon looks but rather what’s inside. It would be great if more people could “see” that way. Sigh…hope you have a great weekend and, hang in there, I will keep you in my thoughts.

    • Thanks so much for dropping in and commenting, David. Your unique situation probably made you more aware than others, of the superficial ways we treat each other sometimes.

      Getting ‘crap’ from your African community when your parents weren’t around–wow! That’s great. Means they were watching out for you, and not being indifferent. 🙂

  2. I’m sorry to hear that you struggle with Crohn’s. The son of a good friend of mine was hospitalized a while back with it.

    The silver lining is, as you said, the perspective which you have gained. It’s a great comparison to the church.

    Unfortunately, people’s opinions of God are formed by how His “people” behave. I’ve spoken with many people over the years who have given up on Christianity because of the back-biting and inability to get along. Why would anyone want Christianity when it doesn’t appear to change us and make us better people? Deep thoughts, Heather!

    How do we stop attacking each other? A quote I see all the time is, Be the change you wish to see. Be a good example. Don’t engage in negative talk. Don’t be afraid to advise people when they are. It isn’t easy. I know I’m not perfect, but I leave myself open and teachable so I can be receptive to God’s Word.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Once again, you’ve given me a lot to think about!

    • Thanks for such an insightful response, Jolene. I love the quote you’ve mentioned–it’s a reminder that we also have a responsibility to walk in love.

      I was thinking of Jesus’ words: ‘Father, make them one, that the world may know that You have sent me,’ as I was writing this, and how, when we’re not living life in harmony as believers, it actually has the opposite effect.

      I guess, because ‘Christianity’ is really all about ‘relationship’–with God, and one another–when our first encounter with it is strife and discord, it would be like buying a car that doesn’t work–who would want to do that?

      But, only the mechanic can fix the car, and, I guess, we have to let The Mechanic get inside and do the work He wants to do in us. 🙂

      So grateful for your feedback.

  3. This post hit me two fold Heather. First it gave me a better understanding of what your going through. I can only appreciate you and love you that much more. The other thing is that I’ve learned over the years that people matter. They need Jesus , but that’s not up to us. Were called to be loving and kind to all. There walk with our Lord is between God and them. We are to be ready with an answer as to why our Joy , our hope, our faith. How can others see this if we continue to be dogmatic legalitarians. When in fact were working out our own faith walk, making blunders as we go along.. The greatest commandment is to love your neighbor. Thanks again Heather, for a very insightful post. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Susan. The best thing that’s happened to me because of ‘online’ connecting, has been getting to know you better through it.

      Thanks for your wisdom and insight–we do make mistakes along the way, but ultimately, it is God’s work.

      Guess we can either make it frustrating for Him, or bring joy to His heart. I’m reminded of when Jesus lamented the disciples–‘How long do I have to put up with you?’

      Good thing the answer to that is ‘forever.’ 🙂

  4. Oh, Heather, Heather, Heather! Girl, we need to talk! I too have an autoimmune disease, but a different one, and that’s something we could chat about later. (Do you Skype? :-D) To the excellent points you make here, I will add a story: (True)

    A very dynamic and growing church offered seminars for both lay and clergy teaching about the wonderful miraculous things that happen when the body of Christ truly allows Christ to be the “head” of the body! A young woman, a quadraplegic (since a skiing accident), wanted very much to attend one of those seminars. As she lived many hundreds of miles away, the logistics of getting her there were a huge hurdle, but through the generosity of a gentleman with a private jet, she was flown there along with some caregivers, and wheeled in on a stretcher each day to attend the sessions. The leader, Terry, was preaching about how the body of Christ functions, saying that if Christ is the head of the body (as so many claim for their congregations), then He will not lead part of the body one way, and another part another way. To get anywhere, both legs have to move in the same direction.

    Near the end of the session the young woman asked if she could speak, so they wheeled her to the front of the room and she said the following, “I am a living parable. I love to snow ski. In my mind I can see and feel myself schushing down the mountainside, and feel the wind against my face, and see the valley spread out below me. But because of a disconnect between my head and the rest of my body, I cannot do those things anywhere except in my dreams. Think how our Lord Christ must feel. He has so many dreams and visions of where his body could go and what it could accomplish! If only we would NOT disconnect ourselves from the only true head of the body of Christ. I am that living parable. Learn from me.”

    Needless to say, the room was silent. She was of course so very right! This is what has happened to so many of us. We try to run things and manage things without ever consulting the head, and thereby comes the disconnect, and our body dwindles away to a formless, immobile, useless, stunted mess. (Which is what so many think of when they think of Christians!)

    Wonderful post, Heather! You are indeed making the most of what has been given you, and by staying connected to the Head, you are continuing to grow and thrive! Blessings on you.

    • Wow, Paula–thanks. 🙂

      That’s really a powerful illustration of how being disconnected from the head brings everything to a dead stop.

      Interesting, too–because the root of the problem is a disconnection from the head; not the visual consequences–which would be the clumsy effect on the body. I think that’s the answer right there–getting rightly connected to the power source, command central. When we’re all ‘rightly’ connected, we all work together the way we should. Thanks so much for this, Paula!

      *Not a ‘skyper,’ sorry. But I sure am enjoying connecting through these blog opportunities. 🙂

      • Me, too, Heather. I think that our thoughts come out so much better and more clearly if we filter it through the time it takes to type them out!:-D

        Another teaching from the wonderful teacher, Terry, is that if we are truly yoked with Christ, we will only go in Christ’s direction. If you picture two oxen yoked together, can you imagine how far they would get if one tried to go left and the other right? Same with churches. It is imperative to give up our own wills and seek the Will of God. Once we submit, we as individuals and as a body can do miraculous things. But it is very hard to give up our own desires (which we often think of as God-given) in favor of another. Have you ever seen a church committee that is divided 10 – 1 on a particular issue? The sole voter holds fast, and they all pray together for God’s will to be done. Lo and behold, when they vote again, they are unanimous in favor of the one. I’ve seen it happen, and all because of the “yoked with Christ” principle. If we are truly yoked, then all our decisions as a body will be unanimous. It really should be no other way. When the vote is seriously divided, it is often a hint from God that we should wait, and ponder more and spend more time in prayer before going forward.

        How I do go on. . .sorry!

  5. Oh, don’t be sorry. And I have seen situations like that, actually. It was the way things were done in my home church of more than twenty years. There really is a Divine love that links us when we’re truly yoked with Him.

  6. Its during though times that you come to realize who truly cares and who doesn’t.

    Psalm 30:5

    For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
    weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Duke. Tough times draw our real friends closer to us, that’s for sure. And there are times I think God just has lessons we can only learn when there is no one who can help; when we are all on our own with Him.

  7. I question that VERY thing among Christians. In fact, took a little break from Church myself, until I worked out that *I* have to be for me, and listen to what God says to me, and not worry about anyone else.

    I think your friends will be back. The devil will be reminded of his defeat, it’s a temporary battle won. God planted LOVE in their heart, it will find the sun again.

    I am so sorry to read about your illness. I had no idea. Jason and I both have autoimmune disorders (he has two). Mine is currently in remission (whatever that means). It really is hard to deal with the betrayal of your own body.

    Praying for your recovery, peace, and for your friends.

    • There sure are a lot of autoimmune diseases these days. I’m glad yours is in remission.

      No friends lost in all of this–just a reflection, I guess, on our tendency to attack one another–and having to admit that I’ve been a big part of the problem, too, at times.

      Last night I was thinking that ‘love’ is like blood in the body–delivering nutrients to every part. There’s no life without it. So I like what you said about love. Thanks so much.

  8. I am so impressed by your writing, Heather. Your insight and symbolism draws me back every time! Your faith is evident in your writing as I’m sure it must be in your everyday life. I’m saddened to hear of your difficult personal health battle right now and will certainly include you in my prayers. When I think of your faith and your strength, it makes me wonder who will be strengthed by your testimony. Believe me, someone is taking note and will be as amazed as I at your trust in God! Thank you for sharing this with your readers. Your blog is very encouraging which is amazing considering your health! As far as Christianity goes – as long as Satan is allowed any power Christians will struggle as they continue to attack each other. But take heart, there are those (like me) who escape the pitfalls of judgementalism! Great job, Heather!

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I like that you call being judgmental a pitfall–guess it is something we can all fall into now and then, at least I have. But also something that can be escaped. Really appreciate your stopping by.

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