I never thought I'd mourn the lack of physical pain.
Just over a year ago, my body rebelled. I'm still not entirely sure what triggered it, but in the span of a week, I went from near-perfect health with an active lifestyle to something very different, as unpredictable, searing nerve pain ripped through my left shoulder and arm at any given moment. It was always worse in the evenings. I began to plan my life around it. Most evenings were spent curled up on my couch or some other kind friend's couch. The heat pack and painkillers became very close acquaintances. Friendships, along with most other things in my life, changed. A month's worth of doctor's appointments and tests finally brought relief with a cortisone injection, but, a month later, the pain returned. Eight weeks of physical therapy finally put it to rest in late March. Finally, I could return to my life, life without pain. I'd been derailed by this, but now I was back on track, or so I thought.
It's our week of prayer and fasting at Second Mile, a time dedicated to seeking God's will in the next year: What would you have us do next? So, last night, Chad spoke on the purposed of fasting, why we choose to put our bodies through this. We fast, not because we are empty, but because we are full with the Spirit of God in anticipation of Jesus' return. The first set of questions hit me hard:
Are you full? Are you experiencing the beautiful presence of Jesus? Can you honestly say that this world, culture, and life experience, pales in comparison to eternity?My honest answer at this point had to be "No." In this last year, I could say that my answer was yes sometimes. Maybe it was half and half. But had you asked me a year ago, my answer would have been a resounding "Yes."
In the midst of chronic, everyday pain, I needed Jesus desperately. I cried out every morning. I needed him to get me through the day, I needed my shoulder not to act up during my exam, I needed him to move during Bible study because I could barely focus much less lead. As I began to fear that this pain would be with me every day for the rest of my life, I needed his hope to push back the despair. My longing for eternity grew stronger by the day. I lived in 2 Corinthians 5:
While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.Everything paled in comparison to eternity. Christ was my comfort, my hope, my joy, my light. I clung to him in the days when I felt worn to the bone, spent, at the end of my endurance. I had no strength- I only had him.
Then God answered my prayers and the prayers of so many around me: he brought healing. And I am immensely grateful. There is not a day that I would wish to go back. But I am a forgetful and easily distracted creature, and it did not take long for me to become complacent. When I have my own strength, when my body works as it should, it's easy to place homework and academics and friends and so much else first, before Christ. I have been incredibly blessed in this last year: I have wonderful friends, wonderful academic opportunities, and a wonderful new relationship with one of my best friends. And in the midst of my plenty, it is easy to be comfortable, to look towards eternity and say: I'm sure it's great, but I'm pretty happy now. It's easy to try filling myself with other things. And, that, unfortunately, has happened a lot in the last few months.
Thus, this week of fasting has come just in time for me. Last night, Chad said that fasting allows us to realize how fragile we are, how much we depend on things outside on us. And I need that. I need to be reminded how to rely on his strength, to long for the day when I will be home, to revel in the presence of Christ.
Please don't be mistaken. I am not fasting because I am spiritually strong, because I have this faith thing figured out, because I am righteous and holy in some special way. It's quite the opposite. I am fasting because I am weak, because I need to be reminded how to be full and completely dependent on God's Spirit. Because I need to be shaken out of my complacency and back to a place of fullness. I pray that in my places of desperate need this week, I will finally turn back fully to him and that this will mark the year when I begin to learn to live in longing for Christ's return, not just in times of need, but in times of plenty as well.