December 15: ἔρημος
Words can’t describe Lyme. It seems no matter how hard I try, language cannot pierce the heart with the same pain as experience. Yolanda Hadid says in her book, “Believe Me,” what we all feel: that she wants to turn her mess into a message. I am trying. It’s a beautiful message, it’s an urgent message, it’s a life-saving message. But I always feel like it’s being delivered to a vacant address. I don’t even feel like I’m talking to a wall – walls can be broken, or climbed. Walls can be mounted and used as a platform. No, I rather feel like my message is being screamed in the middle of an infinitely vast and empty desert, with nothing even to echo off of. It just dissolves into thin air on currents to nowhere. It feels just like it says in the Bible: a voice crying out in the wilderness.
Wilderness. Greek érēmos: solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited; of persons: deserted by others; deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially of friends, acquaintances, kindred; bereft.
Oh, if ever there was a word to describe Lyme-MSIDS, it would be érēmos. Lonely. Desolate. Deserted. Bereft. It is what drives the fear, the pain, the depression, and the hopelessness of Lyme. It is written on the face of every person who comes to support groups, searching for someone to tell them they’re not alone. It is the constant ache in my heart and the curse of my household. It is the cut that fells every tear. Loneliness. Desertion. Not a single person willing to leave the vibrant city life and come be with you out in the great wide Nowhere.
A Great Physician
You will only be cured of Lyme if someone listens to you. You can’t heal if no one believes you’re sick, if no one offers you treatment, if no one serves you, or at least writes a book. Our only physical hope is finding a doctor willing to risk medical license, credibility, and reputation to treat us in ways contrary to CDC and FDA guidelines. Most of these doctors exist only because they or someone they loved became sick themselves. They had to experience it to understand how to treat it with compassion and understanding. That's what separates a good physician from a great physician. We have to learn how to fight the illness, how to take care of our bodies, and how to rebuild our immune systems. We have to be taught to heal by someone who has already done it.
It’s been a rather dark and hopeless two weeks of Advent. Our great Invisible Illness, which will result in eternal death in hell, requires the same sacrifice to heal: someone has to show us how. Someone has to do it for us, or we’ll never know what the Cure is. It’s finally time for the good news: our Great Physician took on the disease himself and knows how to cure it! He tells us exactly what we need to do to be healed:
The reason our Invisible Illness – sin – sends us to hell is very simply because disease is not allowed in Heaven. God is pure righteousness. No evil can be in His presence. He created all that is good and pure, and our nasty humanity just can’t be reconciled with that. Pure good and evil cannot coexist. The fire of God’s holy nature will incinerate us. God’s immune system - holiness - will destroy all invaders, and we don’t just have an illness; in our humanity, we are the illness! Humans’ sinful nature is a disease in God’s sight. He didn’t create us this way. God’s creation was an artistic masterpiece created for His own pleasure and glory, and Mankind was the pinnacle – made in God’s own image, an other with which to enjoy fellowship and love. Creation was not complete until Adam also had “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” - woman - an other with which to enjoy that same companionship and love. Our free will, our decision to choose our own way instead of God’s way, to exclude Him from the relationship, is the sin that diseased and separated us. To be reconciled, we needed a new Adam, a new human being to live on earth the right way – God’s way. But in doing this, the new Man would simply earn himself the right to be with God, only his own salvation. The rest of us would still be diseased. God is just. He cannot just erase punishment. The just punishment for sin is death. Someone must die for our sin. In order to fulfill the death sentence, in order to earn all of us this reconciliation, to set us free from death row, the new Adam had to pay the price for all our sin. He took our punishment, and in exchange we can take his perfect disease-free life. Jesus is this new Man. Jesus is the human that will do all the perfect living and God-honoring that we cannot do. Jesus is our clean bill of health into the disease-free Heaven. In order to give that ticket to us, he had to take on our Invisible Illness – our sin – and kill it. He had to die with it. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The loving is not just in the dying - the cutting short of a life. It’s also in the sacrifice of an alternative life. See, no mere human could possibly live this perfect life that we needed. Only God Himself could do this. So God, whom we understand as the Trinity (three entities in One God), took one of those entities – “The Son”, Jesus – and sent him out of Heaven to live as a human on this miserable earth. The Bible says Jesus existed from the very beginning. He was with God and he was God. Jesus created all the universe. Jesus knew all the secrets of physics and mathematics, the mysteries of the far cosmos and the wonders of the ocean depths. He was God. And he had this perfect fellowship in Heaven with the Father and Spirit – the other entities of the Trinity – a beautiful companionship, creating and loving and orchestrating all of history. He never had to feel pain, hunger, loss, death, or powerlessness. He had it all, and he was it all! And this is the beauty of the deep deep love of Jesus. He chose to give that up to come and bring us back into Heaven with them. He chose to live the weak and humbled life of a human, to be born an illegitimate child of an unmarried woman, to live in exile from a murderous king. He chose this awful gaping érēmos. All this heartache and loneliness I feel that I would gladly end in a heartbeat, he chose it. He willingly took on all the worst of Lyme disease: pain, weakness, helplessness, ridicule, no one believing, no one listening, and abandonment by his closest friends. He died a long and torturous death on a cross, in agony, even though he was God and easily could have summoned angels to remove his pain and blow away his accusers with a mighty gust of fire and “I-told-you-so!” He, the righteous God who cannot tolerate the presence of sin, became sin! He chose this cosmic explosion of all order and reason in the universe because he loved us. He wants me, and you, in Heaven just because he loves us. There’s more! He didn’t just die our capital punishment, but he defeated it! He resurrected from the grave and obliterated death! Our death sentence is gone, if we present to the Judge our plea – “Jesus.” We have no guilt, no crime, no disease, because Jesus destroyed it. All we have to do is acknowledge and accept his sacrifice. If we give him our lives, he will give us his. We can give him our death, and he will give us his resurrection.
Jesus is The Cure
Things changed in my relationship with God when I stopped blaming Him for what happened to me and realized that He did not condemn me to this wilderness alone. Rather, He himself came out in this dark and barren érēmos to be with me! He was the only one who loved me enough to set aside the comfort, social life, power, and honor, to give it all up to walk beside me in this thankless desert. Only someone with a chronic illness can tell you just how powerful that kind of love is – no greater love! – because it is so rare. Most of us lose all our friends to Lyme, because no one has love great enough to walk away from their comforts, joys, and careers to help us. And we cannot bring ourselves to ask them to – we don’t dare ask for that kind of sacrifice. When someone does – when someone sacrifices all they have in life in order to be with us – that shouts loud beyond all wilderness. Jesus is the friend we all long for, who will come out to our érēmos and walk beside us. He is the one who gets it because he got it! He is the Great Physician who will sacrifice his life so we can know the cure.
This is why I celebrate Christmas. Not because I get presents, not because the lights are sparkly, the snow is pretty, and the kids are cute with wonder. But because the most important things in my life – a cure, a hope, and a friend – have been given to me! The Cure is here!
Read Hebrews 2:5-18