A glimpse of mortality
In March this year I hit a bump in the road. I had a sneak preview of my mortality. Since then I’ve barely had the energy to survive the day, let alone write a blog.
From being a healthy, optimistic, capable person, I was reduced to a wreck! It started with abdominal pains and severe indigestion, which didn’t respond to any medication. To give you an abridged version of a very long story, over the next few months every system in my body seemed to collapse like a pack of cards, resulting in non stop headaches, muscle pains, nausea, exhaustion, insomnia, a fuzzy mind, racing heart, swollen gums and a plethora of other strange symptoms. Everything I ate made me feel sick until I could only stomach the tiniest portions of the plainest foods. I gave up caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten, dairy, all the usual culprits, but there was no improvement. Worst of all were the emotional and psychological effects of my “illness” which neither the army of specialists nor the dozens of blood tests, scans, scopes or x-rays could explain. I was in a perpetually alert state–wired but tired, despite taking no stimulants. Every afternoon I would be enveloped by the darkest cloud of melancholy and weepiness I’ve ever experienced. I would sleep for hours and still wake up feeling like my body was a lump of lead, incapable of doing normal tasks like stocking the fridge and cooking a meal for my family. Even planning a meal or driving my kids to school seemed insurmountable and my daily ‘to do’ list was limited to the bare basics of looking after my husband and children and surviving until dinner, at which point I could go back to bed and a fitful sleep. I felt like my life blood was being sucked out of me by some toxic, invisible force–an anonymous, cowardly enemy. It would have been easier to know its name. When I walked into doctors’ rooms, I felt like a fraud, a hypochondriac, a crazy woman with strange symptoms that didn’t tally with the test results and examinations. I reacted badly to every medication and it was embarrassing to tell people there was no positive diagnosis although I could hardly function. Without the tenderness, patience and encouragement of my husband, Pete, and the understanding of our four precious children and extended family, I may have easily teetered over the precipice of mental stability.
I was close enough to the edge to realise how easy it is to become unhinged, hopeless and desperate.
It was a profoundly humbling experience to feel so helpless, weak and out of control. But during all this time, I was able to continue to teach the Bible to women with whom I have fellowshipped for many years. They supported and prayed with me constantly. Even though I could do little else, God Himself empowered my ministry. I taught through the whole of Luke’s Gospel and 1 and 2 Peter during my weakest time and each day that I wrestled through the written word of God, Jesus the Living Word, gave me exactly what I needed to grasp onto for my own sustenance and pass on to the women I love. I finally understood first hand what Paul meant when he spoke of us as “jars of clay”– containers that hold a precious treasure –“to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” When we are most fragile and broken, His power is most powerfully displayed through us. Every believer is a clay jar made to display God’s glory. That is our purpose. Whatever trials we face, in sickness and in health, in wealth or poverty, we were made to shine the light of Christ in the darkness. This text is often read to comfort people who are grieving, but let each verse wash over you afresh:
Treasure in Clay jars
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It doesn’t take much to get a glimpse of our mortality. Read part 2 of “Treasures in Jars of Clay” to see how this vision can be a gift.