"... and exchange it someday for a crown."
This wasn't supposed to be the first post. It wasn't going to be any post. I had far more profound things to say by the time I launched my website.
But if there's one thing you learn from Lyme, it's to let go of everything that's "supposed to be." The career you were supposed to have, the social life you were supposed to enjoy, the world you were supposed to be seeing, the marriage you were supposed to be nurturing, the family you were supposed to be growing, the impact you were supposed to be making. Those pages just got ripped out of your biography and you don't know if and when they'll ever be written back in.
So just let it be.
I spent (and still spend) a lot of time getting frustrated with setbacks. Lyme recovery is a rollercoaster, and you have these amazing highs that feel like the light at the end of the tunnel, and you're sure that this time you've beaten it... only to find that it was just a train coming around the corner and it's about to hit you head-on. Erase all those plans. Tear out those pages. Again.
It always strikes me how David was told, as a young shepherd, that he would be the king of Israel. He had his foot in the door of the palace, playing the harp. He defeated the giant. He became like a second son to the king. How obvious his path to the kingdom looks. Then it all goes horribly wrong. He runs for his life and lives in caves. He leaves the country. Where is this crown he was promised? And yet he knows God's timing and has patience for it. Anyone who tries to put him on the throne before God's appointed moment is put to death.
Patience and faith go hand-in-hand. Paul outlines faith in the history of the Hebrews. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." It takes a lot of patience to continue waiting and hoping for things not seen. By faith, and I say a heck of a lot of patience, Noah built a boat in a desert and stayed in it for a year with the same 7 people and a bunch of smelly animals. By faith, and patience, Abraham set out, "not knowing where he was going."
Look at the patience of the martyrs:
"Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:36-40)
They suffered patiently and horrendously... and never even got what they waited for.
Paul lives out his own words. Using 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, John Piper points out that Paul's life didn't go the way it was supposed to either:
"Paul suffered until the sword severed his head from his body. There was no year or two of fishing or golf. If Paul was going to have a retirement it would be post-beheading. So if he didn’t have this, he had nothing. He said: If there is no resurrection from the dead, I am an idiot. That’s what he said in 1 Corinthians 15:19. He called his lifelong beatings and shipwreck and sleepless nights and agony for the church, he called it momentary (verse 17)? He called it light and he called it momentary. That is crazy. Sixty years. Fifty. I am not sure how old he was when he died — a long time. Twenty, thirty years of relentless imprisonments and persecution, and he calls it momentary and he calls it light."
"One more thing that is so relevant for so many suffering people and so precious to me. This word in verse 17, “preparing.” Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful."
So I wait, with as much patience as grace grants to me, while this affliction works out its meaning. Those days when I make plans but my muscles give out and I can barely lift my head off the pillow... are something. Those days when the mouse poop builds up in the corner and I've failed yet again to maintain sanitary conditions... are part of the book. My story isn't complete without them. Those days when I flake out of my promises again and help absolutely no one... are working.
Not only do these scriptures give me endurance for my journey, but my journey gives me endurance for other people, with whom I'd naturally have lost patience long ago. Lyme is called an "invisible illness" because so much suffering goes on behind a normal-looking facade. Unless you purposely distort your face and complain 24/7, people don't realize how much pain you're hiding. Holding this "secret" makes me aware that others have their own. I can go out with the assumption that every single human I meet has some "invisible illness" tearing them up inside, that they need me to extend the grace I've been given, and they need me to have as much patience with them as everyone has had to have with me.
Light and momentary. It's been a long moment (literally, this has been the longest winter in the history of stupid weather). My neck and/or lymph nodes have been very sore and stiff this past week. Instead of doing my usual fretting over why and how to fix it, I'm going to rest in the belief that my neck is undergoing intense fitness training to hold up that whopper of crown.