More than once, I’ve heard of people to whom doctors have delivered a dire prognosis – “You have 6 months to live.” “You have, maybe, a year.” “You have, at most, three years – the last of which will be terrible.”
And, know what? I’ve also heard of people who have lived far beyond these guesstimates, defying the best of medical opinions!
Not everyone will overshoot the timeline set forth by oncologists, surgeons, and others. But there are enough examples to encourage us to think in a different way about the time we have left. Do we sit back and count the days carefully, calculating our lives into mathematical equations?
Or, do we approach each day as a gift and unwrap it eagerly, like we did as children, arising ready for whatever wonder and awesome-ness God will reveal to us in that day, that now?
And we don’t have to have a terminal illness to do this. For anyone planning a grand life event (wedding, vacation, graduation, new job), often we get caught up in counting the days between then and now there, too, forgetting that there’s a whole lot of life to be lived in between. Or, perhaps we count the days relating to someone else’s life – a child’s reaching the age of 18, a toddler finally able to get dressed on his or her own – and we gloss over the “in between” when true wonder, even miracles, can happen so quickly that we’ll miss them if we’re not tuned into the now instead of the then.
As long as we are alive, we are living – not in a cliched sense, but in a very physical, emotional, and spiritual way.
If we spend that life counting our days until something, we’ll really miss out on so much in the meantime! But if we slow down, refocus, and seek what God is offering us now, well, talk about a pile of presents just waiting to be opened!
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens…
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NAB)
With that simple sentence begins one of the most-quoted set of verses from the Bible. We know many of them by heart…”A time to be born…a time to die,” “A time to weep…a time to laugh,” etc. But as balanced as these verses are, so often when you live with a serious illness or awful pain, our focus lands squarely on the more negative part of each of the verses. Yes, as we try to make sense of our lives peppered with health challenges, we try to understand the times when we “rend,” “tear down,” “feel pain,” “lose [health].”
And we forget the other end of the seesaw – that which is positive!
Just because we hurt or have a chronic illness does not mean that the pleasant, lovely, delightful, joy-filled parts of life are off-limits for us. And just because we are deeply scarred from our disappointments and frustrations does not mean that God withholds that which is positive from us. Often, we do not feel delight, joy, or pleasure because we do not allow ourselves to do so. And often we do not allow balance to ease our suffering so that along with our pain, we do feel love and find comfort.
As I’ve become more aware of the possibility of Ecclesiastes-like balance in my life, I’ve found more of it. And what a relief that is! Truly, my perspective on the ordeal of living day-to-day with illness is greatly enhanced by knowing that God also allows great blessings of a joy-filled kind, yes, even if there are dark clouds hovering overhead.
Truly, the more we are attuned to balance – emotional, physical, spiritual – the greater our lives grow, mature, and blossom!
Joy and peace,
Large or small, humble or palatial, our space says a lot about us, and it also does a lot for us. At its best, our own space provides us with a haven, a place to rest and somewhere where we can express ourselves visually.
If we get busy, or our health is poor, sometimes our wonderful haven-of-our-own can become cluttered or otherwise uninviting. If you find this to be the case, think about using some of your precious energy today to de-clutter and freshen up the “space of your own,” which can give you such pleasant enjoyment. Think of this, not as a household chore that you must do, but rather a way of taking care of yourself, preparing your proverbial nest so that you can once again settle in, relax, and have comfort all to yourself.
Truly, one of the best things we can do for ourselves in the midst of pain and illness is provide for ourselves an environment where we can best thrive. By freshening up our very own space, we are doing just that!
“I don’t even recognize myself!”
If you have ever said this during your journey with chronic illness or pain, you’re in good company! I think, at one point or another, each of us will take a look in the proverbial mirror and say, “Who is that?” or “What have I become?”
Physical changes can make us gasp. Losing hair, gaining weight – all those visible signs that something is wrong can truly be horrifying.
Personality changes can also be confounding. Whether because of medication or the long-chafing ordeal of living with poor health, we can become moody, angry, depressed, and lash out in what are unusual ways for us.
If we have to give up working and other activities, we also lose the identity we have from those endeavors. No longer can we say, “I’m a manager,” or “I play soccer.”
And through all these and other revelations, we might find ourselves asking, “Who in the world am I, now?”
Faith holds a very good answer for us, for the God who made us knows exactly who we are. Never wavering in His love for us, His children, Our Lord not only knows us through and through, but He is constantly holding our hands through the process we embark upon as we move more fully into a different kind of life – life with illness and pain. That process is one of recognition and discovery – Through faith and prayer, God helps us recognize that we are not utterly changed, nor are we complete strangers to who we used to be. We are still, fundamentally, ourselves. But we have new challenges, and through God, again, we discover how to meet these challenges and find ways to let the best of ourselves, the talents and other assets, shine through. Differently, perhaps. But shine nevertheless.
Strangers to ourselves? Perhaps briefly. But after the shock wears off, we can be heartened that the next part is better and more promising
The next part is where we move ahead – and get to know ourselves and God even better than before!