Saturday, May 7, 2011

Reconciling the Spiritual with the Temporal

While there is no doubt that our embrace of God’s will is always an embrace of what is best for us, a cooperation with grace for our greatest good, when it leads us to suffering or sacrifice we are left wondering how to reconcile our losses with the demands of living in the world.  For us with Lyme disease, those losses are many.
Coping becomes first a matter of processing on an intimate level the loss of who we once were.  Physically, for example, our strength is greatly diminished.  Some even suffer a loss of the use of limbs.  No matter how much we exercise or try to recover that aspect of our former selves, there seems to be a clear limit beyond which we can no longer progress. 
Lately my circumstances have led me to assess my current status in this area and I realize in truth the great effort expended in simply bathing.  Afterwards, I have to sit and rest awhile before recovering enough strength to dress, and then there is another period of rest to prepare for drying my hair and doing something with it.    
What once was done without a thought of the cost involved, now requires conscious and attentive direction of the will to be accomplished.  Actions must all be measured in light of a rapidly diminishing energy supply.       
Socially, the time we once might have spent with friends and loved ones is now markedly reduced due to loss of stamina and swift onset of fatigue.  Even conversation takes its toll, demanding a period of convalescence thereafter to regain the energy spent and to calm the head from ringing like a bell tower.  
Conversation itself becomes divided.  There is conversation with healthy people and conversation with sick people.  Unlike the aged who complain, “just because we’re old doesn’t mean we all know each other,” people who suffer chronic and debilitating illness, in my experience, do know one another.  There is a dimension of commonality in this suffering that permits us to see each other with the understanding eyes of the heart.
It is in this way, I think, that we may come to grasp on some level the community that dwells within the suffering body of Christ, the mystical Body of Christ that is composed of us.  And when we are able to see one another with the eyes of this understanding, it is this that begins to provide the answer to reconciling the spiritual with the temporal experience of suffering with chronic illness. 
Though conversations with healthy people may lack the unuttered intimacy of deep understanding of the ill person’s condition and altered state of being, knowing on a primordial level that they too are mortal and subject to infirmity, their efforts toward kindness and sympathy can make up for any lack of real comprehension.  It is with them that we are called upon to be gentle in our attitudes and ways, for they look upon us with some dread perhaps, some sadness, some fear and reach out to us in spite of natural human aversion to illness. 
We, on the other hand, are in the privileged position of knowledge.  We know what it is to suffer in this way and yet, we manage to live.  We pass from day to day in God’s grace with His strength, being made perfect in our weakness through the practice of patience.  It is a power beyond human rationale that we persist in joy and in peace, owing to faith and trust in His plan for us. 
Whenever we are feeling overburdened by the cross of illness and downtrodden by loss, we need remember that our loss is truly gain, for what is temporal will pass away, but what is spiritual endures.  We must remember the loving words of St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure…” (4:16-17)

1 comment:

  1. You have a lovely blog. Will pray for you.

    "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
    (Deutronomy 31:6, NIV)