Yancey's book was interesting because it actually talked about pain from a medical standpoint, and then went on to talk about ways of dealing with it, looking at it and helping others through it when you are the one who is well. There weren't really huge revelations in it for me, but there were a lot of head-nodding moments.
Moments where he put into words things I believe.
One of my favorite quotes from him is this:
We are not put on earth merely to satisfy our desires, to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. We are here to be changed, to be made more like God in order to prepare us for a lifetime with him.
Whether we like it or not, sometimes being changed means living through painful circumstances.
It goes against everything we're taught in this society, doesn't it? When we think of the American Dream we aren't sitting around thinking about how we can better ourselves, we're thinking of bettering our circumstances. Our paychecks. Our house. Our car. Our status. Our appearance. And we think those things will bring happiness because we assume that the neighbor down the street who has all of these things, and appears to be happy, really is.
What we can't see is behind their closed doors. And we certainly can't see into their hearts.
No, we need to be looking beyond the surface of our own lives and see how we can be shaped and formed and changed into images of Him.
One surface example that I struggled with for years was the way I looked. I went through treatment for anorexia when I was 16, and while I ebbed and flowed in that recovery over the years, the one thing that never changed was my internal dialog. I was so sure that if I could just control how I looked, and got to a place where I felt I should be, that I would be happy. It was a façade of control that I was sure was the answer to every bad feeling I ever had.
Slowly over the years, as I got sicker and my body failed me, that false control slipped further and further from my grip. I was on and off steroids, the weight I so carefully controlled spiraled in any direction based on medications and hospital stays, and as it all went haywire I still believed in my mind that I would always get control of it again.
Once I got off the steroids my weight would stabilize.
Once they controlled my pain I would work out again.
Once I got control of the circumstances in my life, I could arrange my future the way I envisioned it.
It's amazing how much credit I gave myself.
I believed that somehow, even though it was medically impossible, I would be stronger than this degenerative disease.
Notice the "I" statements in there? It was all going to be in my control and my power to appear on the outside the way I didn't feel on the inside. God played no part in this area of controlling my weight… because I knew once I let Him in, I would be changed.
And even though I had no control, the illusion of it kept me powerful in my own mind.
In reality, it just kept me weak.
Then Cushing's happened. I went from my well-controlled small frame to just shy of 200 pounds in a matter of four months. And I had to find a way to live in a body I didn't recognize. I had to find a way to be joyful in a state that was my worst nightmare. I decided I was just going to have to learn to live in this body that I couldn't stand.
But in the next breath my lungs were infected and my body was getting sicker. In the next breath my Dad suddenly died and the shock mixed with illness sent my body in a spiral that in mere months had me losing all of the weight steroids and Cushing's had put on my frame.
So, now I'm back to where I started. Below the weight I was at when Cushing's hit. And what did all of that craziness do for me?
It changed me.
Through the hardest times in my life, I stayed open enough to learn my greatest lesson: Control is an illusion. Life will do with me what it pleases, my circumstances will change, my pain will fluctuate, my finances will come and go, my health will alter at will and alter my weight right along with it, and the only thing I can do is stay open to letting God change me in those circumstances.
He used the circumstance of my life to help me grow. He used me in the circumstances life put me in to change my heart.
We are here to be changed, to be made more like God in order to prepare us for a lifetime with him.
And more often than not, being changed hurts.
I've come to understand that the only thing I can control is whether or not I open my heart. Open it to embrace my circumstances. Open it to be who He needs me to be in the here and now rather than assume happiness can come from the "if only…" and "when I get…". Open it enough to let Him in and change me here so I can be with Him there.
Do you find yourself getting lost in the "if only" or "when I get" mentality? What do you need to let go of to open yourself to change?