how are you?

July 4, 2012


It’s the answer people want to hear, the answer I want to tell them. It’s the answer to that question people ask to be polite or to begin a conversation or to fill those big empty spaces.

So, how are you?

Maybe that social expectation, that gentle interrogation is a Southern thing. Or a Texas thing. Like sweet tea and guns. Like not waiting in silence on the elevator but turning to the person next to you and talking their ear off in a conversation fragranced with that gently noticeable drawl that doesn’t so much exist when you’re actually home (you’re from the city, a big city) but seems to sneak out in boots dripping with state pride when you’re away. “How are y’all this morning?” 

You can pick out the people not used to the lone star culture, poor dears, looking like critters caught in car headlights in the middle of hunting season. “What? Me? Oh. Yeah. I’m good.”

Bless their hearts.

Now, what's the option if you don't say that you're doing okay? Tell the truth? Are you kidding me? To admit to another human being that you don't have it all together? To stand in absolute vulnerability before them awaiting their disapproval at the fact that you can't handle everything, to look at them and say, “Actually, I’m struggling".... Wait, do people do that?

To answer that way is to point to the dirt before it’s been swept up. It’s opening up the doors to a room you haven’t cleaned in weeks and you want to jump over a couch and shove your body between the door and the person but they turn the knob and they walk in and they look around and they see the disaster area for what it is and they see who you are and they look back at you... and they know.

Those moments, they're not pretty. You want people to only see you at your most attractive moment, and that one? It's not so great. 

This season I'm in is a little like that. It's more than a little messy. I’m a patient undergoing medical treatment, but I’m mostly not patient, and if I thought about this a little longer, I would probably talk myself into waiting to tell my story until after all the junk has been cleared away and I could come before you and just tell you the parts that make me look really good. Like, really good. 

But it’s here, in the desperation and the weariness and the pain, it’s here that grace finds me. How do you survive the bad days? You cling to what is good.

Growing up, I never thought directly about whether or not I was good. But, mostly, you'd think I was. I learned the Bible in school and won awards at church and danced to Christian boy bands and never cussed and never saw an R-rated movie and gained wisdom from John Avery Whittaker and sang "El Shaddai" like Amy Grant. 

Then I got sick. Starting in 5th grade, I started to miss school more and more frequently. Following my 12th birthday, I was hospitalized for the first time. From that point on, my health began to gradually decrease until I was diagnosed with "multisystem organ dysfunction" at age 16. I began to have severe, frequent cycles of cluster headaches, a rare, excruciatingly painful type of headache for which there is technically no cure. 

For the past 11 years, I’ve traveled from doctor to doctor, seeing some of the best doctors in the nation, each one taking hours to talk over my case only to either refer me on or try something that would prove ineffective. I withdrew from my high school, and my family moved to a new city. My identity, wrapped up in my accomplishments at school, was shattered; my friends seemed far, my future uncertain.

But it was then - when it seemed like I had nothing - that Jesus became everything. Through the grace of God alone, my eyes slowly began to open to the beauty of a faithful Father who sent His son to be "stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted." In the darkness of my circumstances, I found light in a perfect God, whose glory illuminated my self-centered heart and showed that I wasn’t the good girl I thought I was. Or anywhere close.

And yet, this perfect God allowed His Son to suffer greater pain than anything I could even imagine. He walked through this horrible affliction, and because He did, I received His goodness. He wrapped me up in His nature and let me fall in love with His character.

This Son, Jesus, He knows suffering intimately. "Acquainted with grief," He's the only one who understands what this journey has been like.  

Christ's wounds have brought me healing. When cluster headaches came back, when I gave up the dream of going away to college, when all seemed hopeless, Christ Himself became my hope. On sleepless nights, He taught me how to rest in the stability of who He is. He revealed Himself as faithful, loving, gentle, wonderful. Jesus became my peace, my joy. I could trust that He was sovereign over everything, even this physical hurt that didn't make sense. He was in control, and He could be trusted. 

A year ago, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, and the prayer is that God will use the treatment I'm currently undergoing to keep my cluster headaches from coming back.

If this treatment fails, it doesn't change a thing: God is still good, He is still all-powerful, and He is still worthy of all praise and worship. I will always long for health, but if it is sickness that brings me closer to Jesus, then it is a gift; daily, I must kneel before Him and receive grace to be able to serve Him with this perspective and to thank Him for these circumstances and to praise Him for providing the strength to endure.

Today, in this messy moment, I want to set aside this little space: a corner to sit down and listen to God speak through His Word, a place to record what He’s done and what He’s doing and to wrestle with truth and whisper it back to Him in breathless gratitude. 

My hope is that these simple blog posts can be a picture of God's grace and perfect faithfulness in chronic pain, to show that – even now, even in suffering - "God’s presence is my good."

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, so I can tell about all You do.
~ Psalm 73:28

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