Tumbling in the Sand
Sorry I’ve been MIA. It turns out that I got pneumonia. And that sinus infection that wouldn’t go away? … apparently, not so much. Migraines, maybe? Or so the ENT thinks … I’m off to the neurologist next. #meetingmydeductibleinthefirstquarter #insurancereallyisridiculous #gratefulforitanyway #gladforthoughtfuldoctors
Last Saturday I finally drug myself off to the walk-in clinic after I presided at a funeral. I was praying hard that whatever I had wasn’t contagious and I hadn’t just infected over one hundred grieving people with it. I had a sense it wasn’t (my husband is still well and he lives with me) but you know, sometimes (read: often when it comes to my own health) my intuition is off.
I didn’t have the flu … *whew* … thank you 60% effective flu vaccine! The Nurse Practitioner was suspicious, even though my lungs seemed perfectly clear, and decided a chest x-ray was in order. Lo and behold, there is was, clear enough for anyone with eyes to see, “right upper lobe alveolar infiltrate.” In other words, pneumonia, in my upper right lung. Bacterial, which is not generally contagious at all. So that was good news.
I’ve been on some pretty powerful antibiotics, a prednisone taper, and an inhaler and I’m feeling better. Tired. And I’m still coughing, but better. Having done this before, I know that this will be my state of being for awhile.
On Sunday morning, right after the diagnosis, I went and lead services. I did get a supply to preside at 10:30 because even though pneumonia is not contagious, there was a baptism and I’m not thinking that babies and pneumonia mix. I’m grateful for good colleagues who don’t hang up on you at 6:30pm on a Saturday. I’m also grateful for babies and beautiful services, because Sunday was beautiful even though I couldn’t fully participate.
I know it was probably a dumb idea to lead services and preach. I felt as high as a kite on the prednisone, (seriously, hadn’t felt that good in months) but that doesn’t mean I was well. As I was leading services, John Calvin popped into my head. That’s a bit unusual, because I don’t normally think about John Calvin. But what little I know about him (and it is very little) came to mind. I imagine it was God poking at me…
When I was visiting Geneva, I had visited the pulpit that Calvin had preached from and the tour guide had mentioned that Calvin had preached his last sermon there and then collapsed (after climbing out of the pulpit—there was quite the set of stairs) and died.
It’s not quite as dramatic as the tour guide would have had us believe … but it wasn’t good. Apparently, Calvin was quite sick and was afraid that he was not going to finish his Institutes before he died, so he pushed himself to work throughout. During his final sermon, sick and worn down, he strained his voice, which lead to a severe coughing fit, which caused a ruptured blood vessel in his lungs. He collapsed and never recovered. Several months later, he died.
(In case you wondered, apparently pastors die in the pulpit more often than you’d think. I did a google search. It’s a bit disconcerting.)
It certainly gave me pause. And I found myself asking on Sunday, “Well, Calvin, was it worth it?” Was whatever it was that was driving him worth the health cost involved? The reduction of quality of life? Is whatever it is that seems to be driving me to forsake my health to get pneumonia (for the second time in half-a-dozen years) really worth it?
I don’t ask this question: “Is God worth it?” or “Is the gospel worth it?” because the answer to that question is without a doubt a yes … at least for me, it’s a yes … but I don’t think that the gospel or God drives us this way. I really don’t. I think that the Spirit working in our lives works the same way that the glory of God revealed itself in the burning bush to Moses: on fire, but not consumed. I think that the Spirit poured out on the disciples gave them life, not sucked it away. I think that Jesus is honest when he proclaims, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” I think serving the gospel is life giving, even as life, circumstances, illness, and even persecution have a way of knocking us out.
I also notice that Jesus pulled his disciples away to rest awhile when ministry wore at them. And, as I just noticed while re-reading Luke’s passion narrative, the Sabbath even features prominently at the foot of the cross. It is the practice of rest that transitions from the tomb to the resurrection dawn. And Luke’s mention of the Sabbath there makes it seem like a prophetic sign-action as if to show who is really in control. Rest as prophetic witness.
So, I’m pretty convinced that whatever drives me to work so self-deleterious-ly is not God. And I’m also convinced that there is a way to work that is passionate, life-giving, healthy, and productive. So, I guess the answer to the question is, “No. It’s not worth it. It’s mostly just destructive. And I need to find a new way.”
I know that early in Lent, I had expressed the desire to “find space,” whatever that meant. As pneumonia is forcing me to rest and forcing me to find space during the busiest season of the church year … I guess I’m working on a new way. I have a feeling this will not be easy, but I really do believe it will be better.