This blog post originally appeared at: http://www.stateofformation.org/2017/04/turning-the-ground-by-standing-still/. What follows is an expanded version of the first blog.
June has been a rather unpredictable month. Generally speaking, the sun should be shining and we should be out wearing shorts, instead, all we get is a heavy dose of rain, cooling our land, and chilling me to the point of wearing a jacket. When plans are cancelled due to inclement weather, it can be easy to be discouraged, however, sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective. Previously, when I lived in Scotland, I learned to embrace the rain. Over there, it rains nearly every day, and if I chose to stay indoors, I would have lost many sightseeing opportunities. However, since returning home, I have noticed my outlook has shifted. Now when it rains, I feel unmotivated. I pull the covers over my head and will the day away. Yet, if I am honest, I believe the attitudinal shift is the result of something deeper. Some hidden longing, and perhaps some wish that life would return to what it was before.
For the past 10 months, I have been struggling with an unknown health condition. For the past five years, I have given my life to disability ministries. I have written and researched extensively on topics related to physical and mental health, I have advocated for churches to become more aware and inclusive of various needs within their congregation, and I have lobbied to end ableism in our culture. Yet, I have done all of these things as an outsider. I was truly invested in a more accessible world, but I had no personal understanding of what that would look like. My ministry was shaped and informed by the various people with disabilities I frequently came into contact with. Today, it is transformed by a more personal awareness of what it means to live with limitations and health struggles.
In my early twenties, I described myself as a “fun loving, energetic adventure seeker.” To me, life was about the next big adrenaline rush. It was about pushing my body to the limits, embracing life as a treasure box waiting to be opened. Now, in my mid-twenties, if I were honest, it’s more like sluggishly getting through the day, going to doctors’ appointments, and trying to live with what very well could be my new reality.
It all started when I came back from Scotland. I left Edinburgh excited about life. It truly was a life-changing transformative experience, and one that I wished to prolong. I made some rash comments about feeling led to come back more permanently. What many people don’t realize is that I actually was given that opportunity. Twice. However, just when I thought it was going to become a reality and my wish was going to be fulfilled, I turned it down. Not because I wanted to, but because I was sick.
The first symptoms started appearing in early September. I was still in the field with adults who have developmental disabilities and had to do quite a bit of strenuous physical work. One day, I was doing a lift transfer into our wheelchair van when my arm suddenly became limp. Thankfully, there was another worker there who helped remedy the situation. I was shaken, but realized this was not the first time I had felt similar sensations in my arm. Shaking it off, I thought it was just another fluke incident. This ended up not being the case when a few days later I could barely even cut my food with a fork and knife.
I soon realized that many of the things I previously did, might not be able to happen anymore. I resigned from my job, and moved home with my parents. At that time, life seemed like anything but productive. I tried to keep busy during the days. I chose to volunteer with a few organizations and intern at a church. I also decided to work on self-improvement and to meet new friends. At first it was very difficult. My life has been founded on hyper-active preparation and I hate staying still. However, I soon discovered that this was a gift. We often lament having too much work to do, but when we are given a day off, we squander it. There is nothing wrong with watching TV or Netflix, but it often is not the preparation we truly need. Sometimes the reason our bodies give out is simply to teach us to listen to what they are saying. Sometimes the reason we can’t go further is because we need to learn how to rest.
These last four months have been a challenge. I have moved away from home and started a new position as a children’s pastor. Working with kids is wonderfully life giving, but also difficult when you physically don’t have the stamina to constantly run around. I’ve had to learn to adapt many activities so that the kids still have high energy games, but so that I can conserve my own strength.
In many ways, it’s made me more aware of kids with various health needs. I sometimes think about the activities we have planned. There are children I know of in the church who don’t attend these events. Some of them use wheelchairs or other assistive devices, are visually impaired, or have other physical limitations. It is ironic that I am championing for inclusion and that my greatest passion is for disability awareness, and yet, there are some individuals who probably couldn’t partake in everything I plan.
Sometimes I find it difficult to really know what I share with my church or with the kids. Yet I have begun asking myself what children’s ministry really is all about. Is it only about planning fun games and activities, or could the kids benefit from a bit more vulnerability on my part? Could it encourage the kids to know we can pray for anything – even physical healing – even if that healing does not always come right away?
Currently, I am reminded of the story of the woman with the issue of blood. She had an illness for many years with no respite. The Bible tells us she had seen various doctors and specialists, tried many different medications and treatments, and yet each time became more discouraged. This has been an example of a time when the Bible has really come to life for me, because I feel like currently I am that woman. In the last 6 months alone, I have visited 5 different doctors, two specialists, and am on the waiting list for 2 others. I have done various tests and am surprised I have any veins left. But through it all, I remember, that all I really need is a touch from God. Sometimes that touch might come through medical intervention, science, and technology, it would be great if it did. Yet sometimes the real touch does not come through physical healing, but through an inner conscious awakening of the Holy Spirit urging us to know that He is God even when our minds and our bodies rebel against this notion. Sometimes the real touch from God is not in what doctors know, but in being okay with the unknown –placing ourselves into God’s hands, and allowing Him to turn the soil by being still.