If there’s one thing I’m not good at (which there are many), I am not good at being sick. Mostly, I refuse to give into the fact that I’m sick. I stubbornly go about my daily duties while feeling horrible. I refuse to let people help me. I refuse to change my plans. I refuse to go see a doctor while diagnosing myself with terrible maladies. I refuse to tell people I’m feeling ill. I just plan refuse to give into sickness.
And that’s why it took vomiting at 2am for me to call in sick to work when really I started feeling horrible at midnight and should have called in then.
All day yesterday, it was sleep, bathroom, sleep, bathroom, repeat. I lost liters of fluid out various bodily orifices, could only eat half a sleeve of saltines all day, and barely tolerated Sprite. It was not a fun day.
Then I remembered this quote. It hit me in the gut like this gastrointestinal bug is cramping my abdomen:
“We are at Jesus’ disposal. If He wants you to be sick in bed, if He wants you to proclaim His word in the street, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, “I belong to you. You can do whatever you like. ” And this is our strength, and this is the joy of the Lord.”
– Mother Teresa
If Jesus wants me to be sick in bed, that’s all right!? You mean, I’m supposed to accept my sickness!? Give into it!? Allow myself be weak!?
The thing I’ve noticed about sickness is that it’s one of the few times in life we’ll admit (however begrudgingly) that we need help. That we can’t do it all on our own. That we need something outside of ourselves to help us.
And that’s beautiful. That dependence, that relying on something outside of ourselves is beautiful and ought to be treasured. But I know I don’t treasure the times I’m weak. I know I don’t treasure the times I’m reliant. I know I don’t treasure the times I’m sick.
I think I put too much value on my independence.
Don’t get me wrong. Independence is wonderful. I’m blessed to live in a country that affords me opportunities to reach my potential. I’m grateful I have the opportunity to vote and have a voice (however small) in who runs the political infrastructure of my city, state, and nation. I’m more than happy to be drinking coffee instead of the tea those British were forcing on us (because really, tea isn’t my thing).
I think I twist independence, making it out to be this thing that it isn’t. I know I make independence out to be that I need to be self-sufficient at all times, that to ask for help is a sign of incompetence, that I have to be this impenetrable, strong person at all times.
But that’s ridiculous. Independence does not imply complete self-reliance. Nothing in nature can exist completely on its own, so what makes me think I can exist completely on my own? I need food. I need water. I need a bed to sleep in. I need a roof over my head. I need things outside myself all the time.
It’s our nature to be dependent.
When we ignore our weaknesses, our faults, our failings, the areas in our lives where we are (or ought to be) dependent on God and others, we are ignoring a part of ourselves.
No wonder we as a culture struggle so much with self-esteem, self-worth, and feeling whole! We view dependence as weakness when it’s the most natural thing in the world. A baby never feels guilty crying for food, for comfort, for a diaper change. A toddler never struggles to ask his dad to pick him up. A pre-schooler never hesitates to hide behind her mother when she’s scared.
Yet, as we grow up, we are told needing comfort is wrong, needing to rely on others is wrong, needing support is wrong. So dependence is thrown in the weakness category, and we proceed to ignore our weaknesses and try to cover up everything with our strengths.
The blessing of sickness is the ever not-so-subtle reminder that I am by nature dependent, that I can and should ask for help, that I can and should rest, that I can and should let the world run without me. It’s a reminder that I’m whole, perfectly loved by my Heavenly Father, even when I’m weak, dependent, and utterly useless to the world.
It’s day two of being sick in bed, and it’s all right. It’s a beautiful reminder of my weakness. It’s a humbling reminder of my own dependence as a patient (so to speak). It’s a rare opportunity to rest. It’s apparently where the Lord wants me, for whatever His divine reason.
So my prayer today is this: I trust this is where you want me, Lord, even though it’s not where I want to be. I belong to you. You can do whatever You like. Let it be done to me according to Your will.
…and, if it’s not too much to ask, please let this be gone by tomorrow. Otherwise, I need to go see a doctor for a sick note for work, and I know this is not anything I really have to see a doctor about, and I don’t even know where the nearest urgent care is, so I’d really prefer that this is gone by tomorrow. Thanks!
Clearly, I have some room to grow in the whole dependence, reliance, and trust arena with God…but even an openness to dependence, an openness to embracing my weakness is a big step for me.