this time this year

October 5, 2018


Today is my 39th birthday. It also happens to be the first day I’ve called in sick for the day after waking up and discovering I just could not do it. I could not manage the pain enough to carry on with work—with life—as usual. Granted, I have been doing just that, so perhaps a more precise way of saying it is that today I lost the will to just pop the pain meds and pretend that something was not seriously wrong with my body. And that something has to give.
So I alternate rooms in the house today, trying to think of the things that I usually am too rushed to do. I supervised my students by way of text, corresponded with coworkers, and took care of some virtual paperwork. But there is something else that I have to do today, and that is to make real, for myself, this current physical state. I am scared. After two weeks of increasing pain, I finally found a hospital to try and went there on Tuesday. It ended up being an all-day affair, though with little of that time being spent in treatment—most of it was in the waiting. I came away with an achey buttock, but relief from the pain thanks to that ache being caused by a pain-relief injection. The blood work showed nothing beyond what was obvious to me, which was a severe infection. I am on an antibiotic but am discouraged by the apparent lack of result thus far, and am wavering between trying to be patient and pushing for more answers.
One of the things I did while convalescing today was listen to the audio of this morning’s staff devotion. As my friend spoke, I sat here in tears, and then thanked her for speaking truth to my heart. Her theme was on the ways that God is working in your life when you do not feel His presence, and one of the quotes she shared was from John Piper: “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them . . . Not only may you see a tiny fraction of what God is doing in your life; the part you do see may make no sense to you . . . You may find yourself with a painful thorn, and God may be making the power of Christ more beautiful in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)”
All I feel right now is the pain and the weakness. I see no beauty. I feel no power.
God grant me the will I have not, and the patience that is beyond me. Let me live this life without needing to control it. Let me ride out the discomfort, trusting that something good will come. Let me live in the question mark.
After I thanked her for the devotion this morning, my friend wrote back to tell me her class prayed for me. This is a class I wanted so badly to teach today. I tried to force my body to get to school and be there for these children, with the lesson I had worked on for them. But I could not do it. Somehow I have to believe that the fact that those children prayed for me in my absence had an impact beyond my own agenda.
I will close this post with a bit of an epilogue to what I wrote last Christmas. After Peter and I left Zambia, unsuccessful in our effort to find my father’s grave, the search was picked up by an old family friend. Last week I received a series of photos from her. I do not know what to think at this point. A part of me feels a loss at the no-longer-lingering life quest. Another part feels relief that the burden of the search is lifted. I do not know if we can, or should, get back there again now . . . but, here again, let me live in the question mark. For now.

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