If there’s anything on this side of illness to be grateful for, it is the purifying effects it has on the soul.
Posted in , Nov 2, 2015
As many of you know, I spent two weeks in the hospital in late September with a serious lung infection. I could barely breathe, my vitals plummeted, and my temperature skyrocketed. And yet I got better, was released, spent a couple of weeks at home recovering and am now back at work–praise God. But I find myself going back to those harrowing days, mining them for some spiritual understanding. What did I learn?
1) Doctors know a lot–but not everything.
I was a patient at a top-notch, teaching hospital, one of the best in the country. The doctors and nurses were kind and compassionate. Never did I ever feel like they were looking at the monitor above my bed and not the wheezing patient in it. In those two weeks, teams of specialists ran me through countless tests–X-rays, blood tests, CT-scans.
In the end, the cause of my illness could not be diagnosed. “Idiopathic infection” was the phrase used. What I found in the best doctors was an admirable humility. As a college classmate, a physician, wrote in a Facebook message: “I’ll add it to my long list of questions to ask God when I die.”
2) Prayer makes a huge difference.
I found it very hard to pray when I was at my worst. It was difficult to focus and feel some measure of inner peace. But I was constantly reminded that others were praying for me, sometimes there in my hospital room. My son, Timothy, sat in a corner reading aloud from the Psalms; our pastor visited and prayed when I was on the verge of tumbling into despair; the sweet woman who brought my meals everyday prayed. Not to mention the prayers by email and on Facebook.
All those prayers were richly sustaining. Others were doing what I struggled to do for myself; they were carrying my burden for me. The power of prayer is a mystery–that’s part of its power–but to put it on simple emotional terms: All those praying people seemed like cheerleaders, urging me back to health, and my spirit felt their encouragement, love and care. My body responded with its own “Yes.”
3) There is strength in weakness.
I’m not used to being the receiver. My sense of self is as the giver, the doer. When I got home, I found myself overwhelmed by the cards, the casseroles, the flowers, the fresh food deliveries each evening. “How am I ever going to thank all these people?” I asked myself. “How can I ever pay them back?”
The message was in the Bible, in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek… “ I had to learn and practice gratitude and accept that God was the caregiver right now. I could only grow strong by letting go.
I’m still not 100 percent. I would say I’m 95 percent but as my wife reminds me, I overestimate. I breathe well, savoring every breath. I haven’t gotten back to running, but I can walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I eat well and go to bed early, which is a blessing.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” said Jesus, and if there’s anything on this side of illness to be grateful for, it is the purifying effects it has on your soul. You’re reminded again and again that life is a gift, that good health is to be treasured and that in every prayer there is infinite kindness that reaches beyond our understanding.