Home: the place where a person lives
Years ago I received a phone call from a seasonal friend. This was the days before caller ID and as soon as I heard her voice I knew what kind of conversation I was in for. She had a habit of calling me only when she was the most depressed. I don’t think I ever heard from her when there was any good thing going on in her life. What we had in common was that we both have fibromyalgia, but what we didn’t have in common was that her illness had become her identity. All she could talk about was her pain, her unsympathetic husband, and her depression.
From my own experience, I know that fibromyalgia produces lots of valleys, but this is where my friend came to permanently reside in: the valleys. People didn’t know her by her smile, her caring attitude, her outpouring of love; they just knew her as “the victim”. There were no conversations that did not include mention of her illness. It was a pretty bare bones way to live and she had unconsciously chosen to live a life doomed by her illness. She couldn’t understand it when I asked her who she was reaching out to, who she was loving, and how was God using her. She thought I just had a less severe form of the illness since I was reacting differently.
For those of you not familiar with fibromyalgia, according to Webster’s Dictionary, it is considered “part of a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, tenderness, and stiffness of muscles and associated connective tissue structures that is typically accompanied by fatigue, headache, and sleep disturbances”. In other words it is no walk in the park and when there is a flare up, there is no merrily skipping through the park. I was diagnosed in 1992 and when it is at its worst, it hurts when someone even shakes my hand. The condition is often worsened when one is under stress or has had a medical procedure.
This past winter I had a complete knee replacement and the recovery was brutal because of the fibro. The fibro patient’s brain response to the chemistry of pain is greatly magnified. What registers as a level 4 pain to a normal person can register as a 9 or 10 in the brain of a fibromyalgia patient. I’ve already had doctors barely touch me because they were so afraid of hurting me. Hence, my recovery sessions with the physical therapist post-op were accentuated with lots of screams. My husband remembers sitting in the waiting room while I was undergoing a therapy session and the guy next to him wondered out loud if the screams they heard were coming from his own wife. My dear husband said, “Oh no, that’s definitely my wife.”
That’s exactly how I don’t want to be identified as – the person screaming in pain and the person who is so consumed by their illness that they have lost their purpose. The Westminster Catechism asks: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. That sounds like a terrific purpose to me, to glorify God and to enjoy Him.
For me, that means living a life with the goal every day of reflecting Christ and to consciously make an effort to enjoy the journey because God is in the middle of it. It doesn’t mean a Pollyanna existence in which I see the world through tinted glasses and I deny all problems, but it is an existence in which I recognize that God is working His ends through everything in a glorious way. Because of the pain I have gone through, I am more quick to notice people who are physically struggling with pain. I make a point of being there to open doors, hold bags, and ask how they are doing. Because of the depression I have gone through, I notice when a person’s smile doesn’t reach their eyes and their strength is registering as empty.
I’m a firm believer in the truth of 2 Corinthians 2: 3-5 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 6-7 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it. (The Message)
That is one of the purposes of suffering, so that after God has walked us through it, then we can position ourselves to then accompany someone else who is encountering what we previously encountered. No cry and no tear is without purpose. Some days it is easier than others to make this choice, but I choose to make joy my home. I think that is the way God would have it, no matter the misfortune which is defined by Webster as: calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, disaster; affliction, hardship, trial, tribulation, woe; distress, misery, suffering, unhappiness; defeat, failure, fizzle, nonsuccess; curse, evil, sorrow, trouble; accident, casualty; blow, body blow, disappointment, letdown, setback; circumstance, destiny, doom, fate, lot, portion. I have chosen as my home God Himself, rather than my illness. Cool beans!!!