Sickness . . . there are blessings in this too.
I’m learning to like tea. Green tea. Much more.
More seriously though, when I’m healthy I often fill my days too full with work, activities, driving from city to city, etc. The days fly by like flocks of geese and autumn leaves; weeks or months later I wonder where they disappeared to. What did I do with the time? When I’m sick I consciously live each day for the 24 hours its made with. Sometimes those hours are just a suffering though, but sometimes they are simply hours my body has forced me to take a break, slow down, and enjoy life even when it’s quiet.
I’ve been sick with some varying degree of one cold or another for over eight weeks now (and had a stubbornly recurring cough since sometime mid-winter), and while I feel like too much of that time has been wasted sleeping, even the sleeping has been a blessing. Sleep is important, and I have the tendency to regard it too little, so at least sickness causes me to respect rest a bit more (and so now I say the time was worth it, not wasted). In the past week I’ve laid in bed for a 10-hour, and two 12-hour “nights” before crawling out of bed to drag myself through the day. Yes, I wish I had more energy, I wish I were stronger, but in this weakness I’m learning strength. I hope so anyway. Will I remember these lessons of living in the moment, of being content, when I’m well again?
I want to be one to have joy in simple things. Like the first daffodil on the farm this year that I found during my walk yesterday. Or in a kind text message from my boyfriend today that he sent while I’m sick, after we had to cancel our delightful plans of spending 70-degree, sunny Saturday in a park by a lake together and having a picnic. His note read “Good afternoon My Darling. I wanted to take the time today to make you smile and tell you that you are beautiful, you are worth pursuing, and I care about you.” Oh, what ever so sweet words!
I wonder how much of my life here on earth will be spent sick or dangerously weak? From my first few moments after birth, many years have been spent this way so far. What will sickness limit me from in the future? How many events with friends, or how many holidays with family will I be obliged to skip out on? Will it mean I am only cable of caring for one or two children of my own instead of several? (This may be my biggest fear of all.) I hope to learn early how to live fully in its debilitating grasp, so I do not waste my life “living” as if I’m incapable simply because I’m weak. I want to question more often, “What will God allow me to do through this?”
Today I felt too sick to work, so I took the day off. After sleeping until 11am, then having lunch, I curled up on the kitchen window seat and read a chapter or so from That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. There’s a portion wrapping up chapter 14 I want to share with you about the awaking of a young lady, named Jane, from death to life.
“Jane had gone into the garden to think. She accepted what the Director had said, yet it seemed to her nonsensical. His comparison between Mark’s [her husband’s] love and God’s (since apparently there was a God) struck her nascent spirituality as indecent and irreverent. “Religion” ought to mean a realm in which her haunting female fear of being treated as a thing, an object of barter and desire and possession, would be set permanently at rest and what she called “true self” would soar upwards and expand in some freer and purer world. For still she thought that “Religion” was a kind of exhalation or a cloud of incense, something steaming up from specially gifted souls towards a receptive Heaven. Then, quite sharply, it occurred to her that the Director never talked about Religion; nor did the Dimbles nor Camila. They talked about God. They had no picture in their minds of some mist streaming upward: rather of strong, skilful hands thrust down to make, and mend, perhaps even to destroy. Supposing one were a thing after all–a thing designed and invented by Someone Else and valued for qualities quite different from what one had decided to regard as one’s true self? Supposing all those people who, from the bachelor uncles down to Mark and Mother Dimble, had infuriatingly found her sweet and fresh when she wanted them to find her also interesting and important, had all along been simply right and perceived the sort of thing she was? Supposing Maleldil [God] on this subject agreed with them and not with her? For one moment she had a ridiculous and scorching vision of a world in which God Himself would never understand, never take her full seriousness. Then, at one particular corner of the gooseberry patch, the change came.
What awaited her there was serious to the degree of sorrow and beyond. There was no form nor sound. The mould under the bushes, the moss on the path, and the little brick border, were not visibly changed. But they were changed. A boundary had been crossed. She had come into a world, or into a Person, or into the presence of a Person. Something expectant, patient, inexorable, met her with no veil or protection between. In the looseness of that contact she perceived at once that the Director’s words had been entirely misleading. This demand which now pressed upon her was not, even by analogy, like any other demand. It was the origin of all right demands and contained them. In its light you could understand them; but from them you could know nothing of it. There was nothing, and never had been anything, like this. And now there was nothing, and never had been anything, like this. And now there was nothing except this. Yet also, everything had been like this; only being like this had anything existed. In this height and depth and breadth the little idea of herself which she had hitherto called me dropped down and vanished, unfluttering, into bottomless distance, like a bird in a space without air. The name me was the name of a being whose existence she had never suspected, a being that did not yet fully exist but which was demanded. It was a person (not the person she had thought), yet also a thing, a made thing, made to please Another and in Him to please all others, a thing being made at this very moment, without its choice, in a shape it had never dreamed of. And the making went on amidst a kind of splendour or sorrow or both, wherof she could not tell whether it was in the moulding hands or in the kneaded lump.
Words take too long. To be aware of all this and to know that it had already gone made one single experience. It was revealed on in its departure. The largest thing that had ever happened to her had, apparently, found room for itself in a moment of time too short to be called time at all. Her hands closed on thong but a memory. And as it closed, without an instant’s pause, the voices of those who have not joy rose howling and chattering from every corner of her being.
‘Take care. Draw back. Keep your head. Don’t commit yourself,’ they said. And then more subtly, from another quarter, ‘You have had a religious experience. This is very interesting. Not everyone does. How much better you will now understand the Seventeenth-Century poets!’ Or from a third direction, more sweetly, ‘Go on. Try to get it again. It will please the Director.’
But her defences had been captured and these counter-attacks were unsuccessful.”
What freeing power God has over his children, and what beauty we see in this once a part of his family! To explain, to those who haven’t experienced it, of the life and heart-changing qualities Christ creates in a life, is rather nonsensical–even if explained in a most logical way. But, as G. K. Chesterton said, “You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.”
In finding truth, I have found that the “finding” isn’t mental understanding, it’s a dedicated faith. And to quote C. S. Lewis again, (because he spoke simply, powerfully, and truthfully) “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reasons as once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.”
Because I am sick today, I was reminded of these raw truths of Christ through C. S. Lewis’ artful writing.