This week has been one of those weeks…
a week where the new roll of toilet paper sits on top of the empty roll until the new roll runs out.
It’s unlike me not to change it, but I have been distracted. I have had to preach to myself in order not to give in to a theology of fear that threatens to rob me of my steadiness in a Sovereign God who reminds me that “all the days He ordained for me were written in His book...when as yet there was not one of them (Psalm 139:16).
And that “He performs what is appointed for me…and will accomplish what concerns me.” (Job 23:14, Psalm 138:8).
Some things are hidden and stay hiding in dark places reeking of must or damp cardboard. These things got put away with a heart that couldn’t let them go, wanting them to be remembered, relived, re-read, framed or even put on display. But they didn’t mean as much to the ones who came later,
passing through marked decades...
these items laden with layers of our existence…
remind us of where we came from and to where we shall return. They speak a language of fragility, that displays our human weakness. Pictures fade, ink seems to disappear into the yellowing of aging paper of letters written by hands that ached to touch the one they were sending words to. Silver and brass tarnish…and the fingers that marked them and souls that took pleasure in them have since absconded,
while bones lie down in dirt.
But if we studied them long enough,
we would learn that there are invaluable treasures in the dark places.
Boxes that house years, that keep a steady moving in sync with seasons, that turn into centuries of unknown value. Lives that beared an Image. Hidden treasure meant to be discovered.
So one day we climb stairs, or descend them, searching and rearranging and find ourselves disappearing into hours and afternoons remembering with sighs and tears and hope and spark and new discovery.
Eyes scanning, souls sinking deep into a life that was here…
and glistened in reflection of the Author of it all.
Invisible prints of feet in wet dirt walked here and then blew away.
But in the blowing,
the wind obeyed it’s Master’s course.
Not one life escaped His notice. Nothing they left could stay hidden for long, even if that’s what they wanted.
They lived, they breathed, they ate, they drank, they touched what we now touch, remnants of their story, portions that leave us aching for more. They got sick, body rejecting, healed…returning.
And we are better for the remembering… savoring…
So how does a chronic illness remind us of treasures in dark places?
I was 30 when a routine blood test exposed hiding cells that tried to flee back into angry veins with every sharp stick of that shiny point. But the plunge of the needle into skin and stubborn blue pathways found them,
the ones that work for our bodies when we get cut deep and bleed long. They work to clot our blood, rushing in and swiftly adhering to each other,
But I had too many…way too many,
and the risk of a sudden clot lodging in my heart, lung or brain was too high. My bone marrow had kicked into overdrive and couldn’t shut itself down without help.
The bigger needle used to suck up marrow extracted from my hip, strong and hard from my year of running miles alongside mornings, would prove a challenge to the one who extracted its gelatinous substance.
And then we waited two weeks to hear words like,
benign, leukemia, stroke, heart attack, small doses of chemotherapy every day the rest of your life, small chances of cancer forming, and oh yeah, we don’t know the long term side-effects since we typically don’t use this medication for someone as young as you. Twenty years long might not be desirable, but when your 60 and start it, its ok. Most of our patients are over 60.
I was 30.
My blood disease kept hiding though…symptoms remained nameless and kept to themselves. If they wanted to see this rare condition they had to keep sticking that same scarred over piece of peachy flesh covering one ungratefully stubborn vein, so they did,
every eight weeks.
“And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me…”.
In His weaving of me, in a dark place inside my mother’s safe and tiny womb-house, He knew the day would come when this chronic illness could no longer hide, and that He would bring it into light,
shining through aging cracks of an earthen vessel.
That day would come drowned in tears and a fear chasing it back to yesterday where it didn’t exist, yet it would tenderly lead my trembling soul through a doorway of tomorrow that would unveil my greatest Treasure.
That door would open into a world of sight, taste, touch and sound my senses had not been aroused to. Like the God who calls us into a living breathing relationship with Holy and discovers that even mutated blood flows intermixed with the divine energy of the One who breathed new life into me.
The Creator of time and light, and me and the worker bee, and the human-like emotion of the dolphin, and lines drawn for seas, would continue to reveal Himself to me through the lens of chronic illness.
I learned that though I suffered loss in three miscarriages, that were probably all a result of my run-away marrow, He still appointed me two more babies to smell, and to press warm skin against mine. To show them Jesus and see how He marked them and set them apart, and to show them how to live believing,
every day of their lives were ordained and written in His book.
When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, everything you thought you controlled rolls away from you like mad thunder and strikes lightning in your soul that awakens a helpless dependency. This dependency fights hard against natural desire and it bends you under its fierce wind. This is an intentional bending…fashioned by Holy, formed by Love, shaped by gentle power,
clothed with gospel intention.
Chronic illness forces us to slow down…to slow down enough to hear that Voice without sound interrupt plans and schedules and dreams and work and play. It can force us to invest into people and places, like the sanctuary of home, and hostile relationships that once seemed to run second or third or fourth in our all-in mad sprint toward being the winner, because we matter more.
If we are willing, chronic illness presses us to give up first place, come in last, and serve others who keep trying to win.
Chronic illnesses force us to not only be dependant on a Sovereign God, but to be humble enough to say, “no,” or to admit we need more rest, or listen to professionals that God uses to help write our stories for His glory, or to take medication we think we don’t need.
To not to listen could be to sin as we try and prove our invincibility that shapes itself into a destructive idol.
You hem me in…and have laid your hand upon me (Psalm 139:5).
Fifteen years of a powerful drug counting platelets, teaches me tomorrow does not belong to us and to not –live-tomorrow-today/ .
Chronic illness taught me to breathe,
and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them,
and live it without fear of the last chapter, the last page, the last sentence. the Author is my Father, and He gives to me what is good.
My life verse has become, “Whom have I in heaven but You, and besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).
There is a treasure in this cracked jar of clay that houses this chronic benign blood disorder, and it is the reminder that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to me.
The theology of fear and the sovereignty of God simultaneously whisper, tomorrow does not belong to you…one steals joy, the other settles the future steadying you today.
So which voice will become your Treasure?
held, consumed, crazy in love with Jesus,
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