Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking in anything. James 1:4
These days chronic pain is my companion. It is the first sensation I wake to in the morning and usually the last sensation I fall asleep to at night. I didn't ask for my life to be this way, it's just something that has happened to me.
On better days - when the waves of pain part just long enough for me to come up for air - I'd call on the better angels of my nature to make a glowing spiritual conclusion about it all. Yet today isn't a better day. To tell the truth, I haven't had a better day in over a month.
To give you perspective, I can't remember a day in the last 4 years I didn't have pain. According to my doctor I have fibromyalgia, or something like it, no one knows for sure. It's not autoimmune, like rheumatoid arthritis. It's not degenerative, like, say Lupus or MS. For this I am thankful, especially since both autoimmune and degenerative conditions run in my family. God has protected me in ways I don't fully comprehend; this makes my heart swell with love for Him.
Still, I am in pain. I have never let you into this part of my life because I am afraid. First, out of pride, I don't want to be seen as "sick" instead of Stacy. Regardless of how I feel on a certain day I am still me and don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. Secondly, owning up to an Achilles Heel forces me to acknowledge the situation, which hurts, but in a different way.
Usually I deal and move on. Unfortunately, this month I've been land blasted. While my pain is usually isolated to headaches, upper back pain and arm pain, the location of the pain has shifted to my hips, legs, feet, and hands. This month there have been days when I can't stand for more than 5 minutes at a time. As a mom this is bad news, but manageable because I can sit and still accomplish many things - cooking while sitting on the counter, playing board games, driving, shoveling ice cream into my mouth, etc. Then that gave out, too. For the past 7-10 days I have been exhausted and overwhelmed by searing pain. Laying down has been my only option. That's not so easy to hide.
Pain meds? Yes, there are some I can take but most don't work. My doctor suggested trying a narcotic last week. I refused. To be frank, when we know I have a pain issue that will be life-long I can't start a regimen of narcotics at 34. I've never been addicted to drugs but I'm not going to say I'm above anything. Someone told me, "When you get desperate enough you'll give up." Maybe, but that's not today. Others use them with great success and I'm happy for them. For me, I can't go there now... Maybe it's pride. Or determination to overcome. Probably both.
Dealing with pain has brought depression into my life. And guilt - there's always the mommy guilt. That sounds like, "Why can't I be like other moms? I want to run with my kids, too. I don't want to give in to pain and be grouchy, short fused, tired, etc." And of course there's the idea that my kids will remember me as Mommy Malady.
Anything that is not critically important has fallen by the wayside. When I want to be a person of my word there have been promises I haven't been able to maintain because I just can't. Then, I worry about being seen as inconsistent or unreliable. I know, I know. I shouldn't worry about what others think, but I do. Not long ago I had a Bible study leader say to me, "I've noticed Dan and the kids at church without you. That's wrong. I know you say you have pain but it can't be that bad, can it?" Slap! Though I think that's judgemental and shortsighted, it hurts to know I'm not the only one questioning myself.
Many of my disappointments with the circumstance would cease if I'd give up the idea that perfect is attainable. What I'm coming to understand is that perfect is best defined as "something I don't have right now". What I mean is, on any given day, pain or not, I've given in to the idolatry called covetousness. I want what someone else has. It's like there's this buffet of all things bright and shiny and good just waiting to be had but I've been denied access. One person noshes on "no depression" not realizing I'd love just a bite of what's on her plate. So I shut her out to protect myself. (Then wonder why I feel isolated...) Another person ladles "pain free" into a bowl and heartily eats. But somehow my ladle is just a slotted spoon. So I get mad about what I don't have, begrudge others for being blessed, and sob over all things unattained. And somehow, it never makes me feel any better.
There is only one way out: daily perseverance. The discipline of perseverance (or patience) can be hard work to maintain. It's not glossing over the circumstance, it's remaining faithful regardless of it. In other words, it's remembering that while the slotted spoon may not hold all things, it still catches meat when given a chance.
This is my struggle. It may show up as pain but it translates to whether or not I embrace "my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness". (II Corinthians 2:9)
Do you struggle? Think you'd share with me, and others here, what your struggle is? If you can't share your struggle, how do you embrace Christ in spite of it? Your answers would be so encouraging. Maybe they'd be a resource to all of us.
P.S. Amazingly, I have not lost my sense of humor. Though my posts have not been as meaty you guys still show up and that has kept me going. Here and on facebook (Stacy A. Small) our community has blessed me over and over. Thank you so much! You all are amazing. I hope you are blessed too.)
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