What Chronic Illness teaches me about Surrender
Oh friends, life is such a journey…. faith is such a journey. And I must admit that I get very weary at times. Like ground down to a fine powder kind of weary.
It is easy to say that God is in control. I know some who revert to that message like it is their refrain between sentences. We continue to push and plan and overcome, and then get angry at Him when WE fail.
When I was diagnosed with chronic pain in 2004, I felt like my adult life was just getting rolling, and I had big dreams. No matter how bad my pain, how bad the swelling or fatigue, I would keep focused on my own plans. My body was deteriorating from pain, I was taking so many medications to keep up, and all of my spare time I spent sleeping. No matter what walking aids I needed, I wouldn’t be diverted from achieving my original goals. I was in control. Though my body lashed back at me, I fought and squirmed and raged to keep going on my path.
Surrendering is a big one. I definitely struggle to relinquish control, so everything about the idea of surrender goes against my nature. Years ago, when I was having ketamine infusions to try to tame my RSD/CRPS pain, I would interfere with the nurses vitals setup. In my mind I was helping, but to them I was getting in the way, of course. “Do you want to do this yourself?” one of the nurses once snapped at me. Oops, I thought. But then, I knew my answer would have been “yes”.
Why? Why do I think I can do the best job for myself, even when others have my best interest in mind? Surely, my creator and giver of salvation has my very best for me, yet fully trusting that can be so tough.
Then 4 years ago, I suddenly developed a condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome which has changed my life dramatically. In combination with Intracranial Hypertension, my autonomic nervous system has stopped cooperating. I have not been able to lift my head without passing out. My bladder, gastrointestinal system, metabolism are out of my control. The pain in my body was never so debilitating as it is with this never-ending migraine, facial nerve pain, vision changes, and other damage caused by the abnormal csf pressure the last 4 years.
They say, don’t let chronic illness take over your life. But when your life becomes about: Breathing. Eating. Drinking. There is no “let” only “become”.
You don’t fight POTS, you don’t fight through it. You endure it. It changes your body, and you adapt. It isn’t like pain. You can push through pain- at least to an extent.
Surrender is the choice my body made for me. It tells me I don’t have a choice but to bow to its wishes. I lay here still and unspeaking, careful not to sway the already offset balance of illness. But the moment I move or eat or make a sound, my flesh laughs at me. My already swirling, screaming, breath-begging body will burst into flames and melt into nothingness. The world tells me to push, to fight, to Just. Keep. Going.
But I learn quickly that there is no push in this game. Only tricks, and cheats, and strategy. Illness owns my body. There is no free will flesh. There is no- push for one more minute. There is no- if I just take this pill. This body and brain have been exchanged, kidnapped, swapped for a rag doll.
Once, asking for help seemed an impossible exception. Now, all of my physical and earthly necessities most selflessly come from the hands of those I most admire. My body gives me no choice but to surrender to their hands, but my heart is ever humble and grateful to receive the gifts of their bottomless compassion. What better picture of mercy than this?
Control freak (of nature). My natural systems are out of control. And nothing can be done, but wait. But pray. To give into the illness and seek inner peace.
Miss plan for tomorrow. Plan for your dreams. Dream big. Don’t give up. Your body gives up.
My body forces surrender on its own schedule. Though my creator waits patiently. While my body may act as a prison, forcing the white flag of my systems, my spirit goes of its own fruition. The more I relinquish control, the more grace is endowed.
God is in control, they say. They say it like an empty cliche. Like a jack in the box toy that popped out and saw the light- once. Control is something I have owned. And something that has owned me. And God doesn’t control my will. I surrender it to Him. Child to Father. Tired, weak soul to loving Savior. In this broken body, I see freedom.