The Thorn in My Side

I used to think I could do it all and be it all. Maybe not quite Super Mom but I sure thought I could come close. I could be a fantastic wife and mother, serve at church, attend bible studies and mom’s groups, home school all 3 of my kids, work part time from home, do full time day care from home, hang out with friends, keep in touch with family, and somehow also maintain a clean home.  

And for a while I did. 

Now, you should know that I had been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition shortly before my youngest son turned 2. That should have served as a warning for me, but I disregarded it mostly. I figured I could just add managing a chronic illness onto my pile of things to do and it would all work out fine.  

And for a while it did. 

I would walk for miles pushing my kids in the stroller while chatting with friends and then come home and crash. But then I would get up and push myself to get the house clean, take care of the kids, and cart them around to activities. I rarely said no when anyone asked me for anything as I hated to let anyone down. Looking back on those days I realized that I was on a mission to prove that I was enough. I loved the attention and praise that I received when I told people all that I was involved in.  

They would ask what I do and I would say, “Oh, I just stay at home and take care of the house, homeschool my kids, work part time, and provide day care to a few kids.”  

Their eyes would widen and they would say something along the lines of, “Wow, I don’t know how you do it all.” 

And I would allow my heart to soak up their affirmation and compliments. I was desperately trying to prove to everyone around me, but most of all trying to prove to myself:

-that I was not a failure

-I was accomplishing plenty of things in life

-And that I was finally enough. 

And for a while it worked. 

As the years passed by, we purchased a house and I started adding landscaping and house projects to my long to-do list. I also started noticing that I was getting dizzier and more fatigued. But I figured it was just due to my diet and decided to try and eat healthier.  

And for a while I managed. 

I tried to deny what was slowly happening to me but eventually I could no longer ignore it. I was experiencing more and more symptoms. Simple tasks like walking up the stairs left me winded, with heart palpitations, and vertigo. I finally had to admit that my health was declining and after an appointment with my neurologist realized that I had to start to let go.  

I let go of providing day care. I let go of homeschooling my kids and enrolled them in the local public school. And I worked on learning how to say no to others. I cut back and simplified my life as best I could. I made sure to rest every afternoon so that I could recover and tried to keep my schedule as light as I could.  

Over the years I have prayed countless times for healing from my condition. I have also asked dozens of other people to pray for my healing. I have done everything my doctors have told me to do. I have researched online until my head hurts and have tried every suggestion I found that I thought was feasible.  

And to this day I have not been healed. 

I took my kids to the beach the other day, and spent the rest of the afternoon and the next day battling heart palpitations, vertigo, nausea, headaches, light headedness, and fatigue. After days like that I can get down hearted about it all. I have so many things I want to do and yet my body can’t seem to handle much.  

And yet, graciously, over time God has been allowing me to see another side to this.  

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks of a thorn that was given to him to keep him from becoming proud and though he begs the Lord to take it away from him three times, God tells him that His grace is all Paul needs and that His power works best in weakness. In the message version it states, “At first, I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.” 

It may seem weird to think of a physical health condition that is anything but pleasant, as a gift, but I am realizing that it can be. This gift keeps me from taking on too much as I literally am not capable of it. When I do attempt to do a little more than I can handle (which happens more than I would like to admit) then I suffer for it and am reminded of my limitations so that I don’t do it again. (Or at least for a couple months anyways-I seem to have a terrible memory.) 

This gift has forced me to see how I was doing so much before in a desperate attempt to prove myself and give myself worth. And I now see how futile those attempts are. Over time I have learned to value myself simply for who I am: a daughter of the King who is doing the best she can, and that is enough! 

This gift has forced me to slow down, to smell the roses, to see the people around me, and to learn how to rest! It has helped me to empathize with other people and their struggles. It has helped me to swallow my pride and accept help from other people. I have learned not to worry about what people think in church when I remain sitting while the rest of the congregation stands to worship. It has helped me to be humble when people stare at a young gal like me being pushed around in a wheelchair (I use it when we go to events that would require me to walk or stand for awhile as that aggravates my symptoms). It has helped me not to judge others when I feel their eyes glued on me when I get up out of the wheelchair to use the rest room or move around a little (sitting still for too long also causes blood pooling and my conditions to flare so I can’t sit for too long either.) 

Most of all, though, this gift has helped me realize that God really is enough. He is the one who gives me value, tells me I am enough, and gives me the strength to get through the day. And while I don’t think I will ever be grateful for this condition; I can see how this thorn in my side has been a gift to me. I don’t believe that God caused this thorn, but I do believe He has used it for my good. And I believe with every fiber of my being that He will continue to use this thorn for my good.

I have also realized that I can either view this as a thorn in my side that causes me pain or I can view it as a gift that has helped me. It is my choice. And I have decided that I would much rather view it as a gift than a thorn. That doesn’t mean I won’t have bad days where I complain, but it does mean that in general, I will try to see the good that can come from this instead of focusing on the bad. Like Paul I can learn to stop focusing on my handicaps, and appreciate the gift, because no matter what, God has been good to me.  

If God chooses to heal me someday, I will praise him for He is good. 

And if I am chronically ill for the rest of my life, I will praise him for He is good.  

-Cici 

“When I am too light headed to stand or raise up my weary hands 

When I find that I am just too weak to open my mouth and sing 

It is then that my heart learns to worship  

and lifts up its silent voice to praise it’s King.” 

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