A Portrait of the Gospel

My spirits tend to sink when weighted by a chain of hard days. I wish I was past this weakling business. I'm not. Here's the lovely thing--the bad days were proceeded by several good ones.

Brandon and I attended Brian and Jenny's wedding in Houston. I will try to give an adequate description of the day, but I am afraid words will fail. The highlights are as follows:

The way was prepared for me. I had prayed long and hard concerning the event. I held it loosely so the sting wouldn't be too great if plans fell through. A thousand things could have gone badly, any of which would have prevented me from attending. Not one came to pass. We were nervous. We remembered too well our last trip to Houston, specifically the drive back home through the rain as I struggled for breath and clung to my Epi pen. We were driving west and almost at the Texas state line when the Lord gave me a word--"redemption." I spoke it aloud. I told Brandon that this trip would be the opposite of our last. God was going to redeem the trauma of the year before.

 The hotel room made me sick, but my reactions were controlled with TBM and BioSet (energy/acupressure work). Jenny had asked my groomsman escort not to wear cologne. The bridesmaids--strangers almost--elected not to wear any fragrance on my behalf without being asked by anyone. There are only a handful of people in my life who make this kind of accommodation for me. I was stunned by their thoughtfulness. My mask was still needed, and it provided sufficient protection until I passed a particularly fragrant wedding guest in the reception area. My reaction was not life threatening, but I was made unwell enough to require treatment.

God smiled on the day. The air was cool and crisp. Sun rays glowed golden, slipping through morning shadows to dry the dew and warm our shoulders. God's seal of approval was apparent in every detail. His Spirit hung quietly about us all, manifesting in joy, calm, intentional moments and physical strength for Jenny. And she looked absolutely beautiful.

I generally don't cry at weddings, but I cried at this one. It was simple and impossibly sweet. Every expression, word, musical choice and ceremonial symbol bore significance. The congregation was called to sing, "Ode to Joy"--a fitting song for the event. When the chorus began, voices like angels rang from the loft above. The church had granted Brian and Jenny an unexpected gift of a women's choir to bless them. They blessed us all.

Unfortunately, I kind of derailed after the trip. Now ask me if I regret going. (Hint: See facial expressions in photos above.)

Pain, brain fog and heightened sensitivity set in the evening we returned home, growing worse each day. These symptoms are often accompanied by depression. Depression is a nasty foe, particularly so because it consumes a person with self. Self is never a good focus. Self fails in every way. It blinds you to what is real and vital. It takes from you without ever giving anything back.

It is a shame that after freshly experiencing something so beautiful and divine, I returned home to wallow. Like a pig in filth.

I allowed unholy thoughts to pour in and puddle--This is too hard. I've been sick so long. I may never be well. I am forgotten. No one understands what my life is like.

At Jenny's wedding, I was asked, "What is your illness?" This question is always hard for me. It reminds me there is no name for what I have. People understand names like "cancer" and "diabetes," but they cannot understand the craziness I've got going on. If I say I have allergies, people think I'm being extremely dramatic about a runny nose. If I talk about immunity or methylation, their eyes glaze over with information overload. My disease is a mystery to me. How do I answer the question? I try. It always comes out in too many confused words.

When there is no name for the disease, there is no established protocol. My doctor and I really have no idea what we are doing. Muscle testing keeps us from making major, life-threatening mistakes, but really all we have to go on is trial and error. Two prospective treatments have recently come to my attention. I did not realize how desperately I was hoping to be a candidate for either or both until Dr. Yakaboski tested that I was a candidate for neither. I wasn't prepared for the disappointment.

More unholy thoughts--You are a freak. No one knows what is wrong with you. You are too sick to tolerate the treatments that can make you better.

There are people who need me--my time, my "spoons," my prayers, and all I have been thinking about is myself. Last night, I had enough. I'm sure God had enough before it began. I wielded my secret weapon--the self sermon.

I preach a mini sermon almost every day either for me or the kids. I have gotten pretty good at it. I began preaching to myself out loud over my stove as I cooked. Micah and Sara were unphased. Eight kinds of crazy are accepted here. I began by quoting scripture to myself:

"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." --Psalm 42:5

"If I say, 'My foot slips,' Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul."--Psalm 94:18-19

"'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'"--2 Corinthians 12:9

"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him [US] endured the cross...." Hebrews 12:1-2

"When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I."--Psalm 61:2

I did not realize how bad I was feeling physically until this inexplicable weight on my body and haze in my brain lifted. Last night Scripture literally brought a manner of healing to my body. Not just to my soul. To my body.

Enjoying the new clarity, I began pouring my heart out to Jesus. My feelings were utterly selfish, but He listened. And He not only listened--He responded.

Me: I feel so misunderstood.

GOD: Is not my understanding enough for you?

Me: Ouch. Yes, it is. I feel forgotten.

GOD: The eyes of God of the Universe are upon you. You cannot comprehend what this means.

Me: Wow. Yeah, I guess I don't. Well, how am I going to get better if I cannot tolerate treatment?

GOD: You will continue to patiently walk in my wisdom until my purposes are accomplished and you are healed. The treatments of man are irrelevant to you.

Me: And there ya go. I feel unimportant.

GOD: When Jesus was born into the world, He was God made into flesh yet only his parents and a few animals were present. During His world changing ministry, He only had a handful of friends. Jesus made Himself unimportant. This is your model. Do not forget the cross. Your importance to Me was made clear there.

Me: I am ridiculous.

Later, Brandon ministered to me as well. He listened. He validated my feelings. And he preached to me from Scripture, the gist of which was Paul had it way worse than you and was joyful in all things so suck it up! Perfect! I was taken aback by this sweet manifestation of the Spirit in my husband. Generally, men like to play Mr. Fix It. You offer a problem; they offer a solution. Brandon knew he couldn't offer me a real solution, so he offered me something better. He gave me an ear and a godly kick in the pants.

Even the sum of these things fell a mite short of what I really needed. I needed a flag to follow--something greater than myself as a rally point. The Billy Graham special reminded me of what that is tonight.

Billy Graham is gifted. He preaches a simple message simply. The gospel of Christ is incredibly elementary. A preschooler can grasp it. It is also devastating, earth rending, life changing. Tonight I recalled my purpose. I have been bought with a price. I am owned. My purpose is to enjoy Jesus regardless of my circumstances, to make Him look beautiful to the world, and to spread His fame. I cannot do this if I am looking at myself. I am entitled to my feelings. God gave us the capacity to feel. But I must not allow my feelings to consume me. I must be consumed by the truth and permanence of the cross.

Looking at the cross requires looking away from ourselves to gaze at something glorious--something worth living, worth suffering and worth dying for. The cross demands everything we are; the resurrection supplies the power to give what is demanded. We are not victims, brothers and sisters. We are warriors, overcomers, victors!

I thought about Jenny's wedding again after the special. It was a true to life portrait of the gospel. We are a broken bride. We are sick with physical, spiritual and emotional maladies of all kinds, the names of which do not matter, for it is all disease in need of healing. We are frail and imperfect. We need to be saved, restored and healed. Though we have done nothing to deserve it, God has clothed us in a lovely, white gown. He has made us radiant with His love. This is our reality right now, and we are still only our shadow selves. We are not yet who we really are. We still carry our brokenness with us. But if we will just keep looking to the Groom and bask in the love shining from His eyes, we will make it down the aisle just fine.

 "God has been too good to me to play the victim anymore."--Jenny