Tumbling in the Sand
For months now, I have been struggling with being tired. Really tired. The kind of tiredness that seems to have seeped into my bones.
Of course, I’m incredibly stubborn, so I have mostly just pushed through it. I’m pretty good at not letting how I feel stop me from doing what I feel I need to get done. However, recently (as in November), I added a cough, sinus drainage, and more exhaustion to the mix and found myself doing less and less. Finally, in mid January I called to make an appointment with a doctor.
I hate doctors. Really. The first question out of the receptionist’s mouth when she found out I was a new patient was “Do you have insurance?” Yes, right, because whether they get paid or not is clearly more important than my health. At least this is a time in my life I can answer yes. That hasn’t always been the case. Why isn’t health a right? Why is it that only those who are wealthy or fully employed get the privilege of better than emergency medical care? Anyway, this is clearly a very frustrating trigger for me … and it takes more energy than I had to keep from getting exceedingly grouchy with the lady at the other end of the phone. And then, as a new patient the soonest I could get to see the doctor (probably because this is flu season and everyone is sick) was three weeks later … Ash Wednesday.
I waited and went to see the doctor. Got a script for a bunch of blood work (had 7 vials of blood taken—it’s apparently not that much, but it looks frightening). Got the results back yesterday. Nothing’s wrong with me. Except for a slight vitamin D deficiency, my blood work looks fine. My cough is imaginary (nothing on my lungs at all). My blood pressure is enviable. My heart rate is impressive. I’m a perfect picture of health.
This should be good news—it is good news—but yesterday it made me cry. And then, as I wondered about my reaction to seemingly good news, it made me think about the difficulty of treating something like exhaustion. I really wanted the solution to be a pill. An easy fix. But, it looks like I’m going to have to change other things—and the problem is, it involves energy to change. Energy that I’m not sure that I have. Besides that, each thing that I change is an experiment, with no guarantees that this will make the difference.
So, what does this have to do with Lent and faith?
Maybe, like my exhaustion, when it comes to figuring out our faith, we are all about quick fixes, where as Lent calls us to genuine change, change that is not easy, change that doesn’t have guaranteed results. Change that we cannot do entirely on our own.
Maybe, like my health, sometimes the obvious tests and numbers don’t tell the whole story. We might seem healthy—as individuals of faith, as communities of faith—as in we have the right numbers, good attendance, regular commitment to activities … but something still isn’t quite right. Our tendency to focus on the numbers and activity hides the deeper exhaustion that so many in the church are feeling and wondering about. Health is not always numerical and quantifiable; and illness is not always easily diagnosed.
Maybe, this is just(?) about grace. The grace to be honest about where we are or aren’t. The grace to be frustrated. The grace to be a human body with limits. The grace to know that our whole lives are wrapped into our faith and our faith is wrapped into our whole lives.