There are many facets of illness I find difficult. The loneliness. The uncertainty. My food sensitivities are always changing and growing in number. What will I eat tomorrow? A year from now? What if a wasp stings me while I'm alone with the kids? Would I survive the flu? Winter is coming, so freedom will be going. How bad will the depression be this time?
But nothing presses me quite like the question...
Where do I belong?
Before I was sick, I was a mom who did stuff with her kids. Brandon and I taught first graders at church. I sang for area congregations when asked. I gave music lessons to children. I traveled to Ruston once a week for one-on-one discipleship, and was part of a community group. I met one friend for playdates and another for prayer. I led a couple of choir things for our church. I had a place.
When I became ill, it all burned to the ground. Nothing survived, and nothing has revived. But my soul-razing has proven to be a very good thing.
My activity was aimless.
Just because I did a lot of stuff, doesn't mean I was functioning as part of an organic whole. There's much more to life than just being busy.
"A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other...It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ..and God has put each part just where he wants it."-1 Corinthians 12:7,11,12,18
I have friends who strongly disagree with me about this, but I believe God brought illness into my life. (Maybe that's not the best way to say it. Maybe I should say that when Satan asked to bring this illness to me, God agreed because He knew best.) I see it as mercy. Severe mercy, I grant you, but mercy nonetheless.
I'm where God wants me. Most days, I'm okay with that.
Based upon what I understand of my spiritual gifts now, I can say with 99.9% certainty I wasn't using them much prior to 2012. I may have had a place, but I had no function.
But how does one cut off from the body function as PART of the body?
This has been a question with which I've wrestled throughout. I still wrestle. Here are three ways God has answered it:
- A church outside of church. We live 45 minutes away from where we attend church. For a while, a few people helped us, but there was no way to sustain it. We were too needy and lived too far away. Besides that, we were absent. So my family became my church. Brandon, Mom, Dad, sister, brother-in-law, grandparents, and in-laws rallied around me. Not only did they offer Christian support, but it was within this tiny church that I discovered and began to exercise my true gifting.
- Christian friendships. I have several friends who live out of state. Others an hour away or a few miles down the road. By God's grace, we haven't lost touch. The encouragement these ladies have offered over the years has been essential to my spiritual health. They're champions to hang with me through all this craziness. I hope I've been half as good a friend to them.
- The invisible ministry of prayer. When I couldn't attend church myself, I prayed for the churches my people attended. For a while, Brandon and the kids went to church with my parents. So I prayed for Cedar Crest Baptist Church. My in-laws still attend the church Brandon and I married in. So I prayed for FBC Marion. My son attends Wednesday night services at my grandparents' church. I so I prayed for Faith Baptist Church. And God never released me from claiming The Bridge Community Church as my home. Through prayer, I went from feeling church-homeless to feeling like I had four churches.
A word about invisible ministry...I think we're all a little afraid of being invisible. But let me assure you, as someone who has been invisible for four years, it ain't so bad when you understand: The only Eyes that matter see you.
When Hagar was alone in the desert, the Angel of the Lord found her. He spoke to her. And then she called His name--You-Are-The-God-Who-Sees. That understanding was her lifeline.
And just because you aren't seen, doesn't mean you don't matter.
"In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad."--1 Corinthians 12:22-26Paul says here that though I seem weak and unimportant, I'm actually pretty necessary. I may be hidden, but I'm vital. I require special care, but I'm part of what makes the body tick. I may have less dignity than others, but I'm not all that interested in dignity and frankly, I don't think God is either. If my ministry nosedives, people who will never meet me will feel it. And if God heals me or prospers me in any way, the entire body benefits.
Widows, young moms need your wisdom and helping hands. Come be a part of our families.
Young moms, your job is the most important in the world. God sees your sacrifice when no one else does.
Invalids, the way you worship God in suffering inspires us all. You are living proof of God's sustaining grace. We need that.
Shut-ins, maybe God sequestered you to be an intercessor, or a writer, or a messenger. Ask for grace to get past the self-pity and embrace your calling. It's necessary.