I am sick right now.
That isn’t something that I care to admit all that often. Maybe because it sounds “weak” to me and my carnal masculine bent is to never allow my vulnerability to be that exposed. Or maybe I’m just stubborn. I suppose “both” is a viable answer as well.
As I child I remember visiting my dear grandparents in Arizona when I was about 13 years old. I woke up one morning feeling quite ill and I told my grandmother of my condition.
“I don’t believe in being sick” my grandmother (or affectionately “Fram Fram”, as I called them both) said. A bit confused because, quite frankly, I was at the peak of my belief in sickness at that instant – a conversion moment, if you will. Seeing the obvious confusion on my face, she expounded:
“I don’t believe in being sick – only feeling puny. You’re just feeling puny right now, dear.”
I obviously disagreed wholeheartedly but I knew better than to engage in an argument with a Simkins. Hopefully you’re taking notes as well.
But this week I have been feeling rather puny. It always starts with that exciting peak into your very near future – a glimpse of things to come. You know what I’m talking about – that small scratch in the back of your throat, that subtle “Beatlemania” cloudiness in your head, a mild jousting session with your digestive tract – it’s the slow incline at the start of a roller coaster and you’re strapped in, merely awaiting that first drop.
And that drop came today.
It’s humbling to feel utterly powerless against the war that rages within my own body. It’s almost surreal to me. When I wake up feeling ill, I often give my body a disgusted look and say something like “Why are you doing this? Did you ask my permission? I don’t believe I authorized this anarchy. As your owner, I insist that you cease and desist this moment and allow me to return to my life as I have planned it out today.”
A bit ridiculous, I know. I just really hope no one ever overhears one of these conversations in person.
Now every time I show even a hint of illness, the many nurses and doctors in my life come out of the proverbial woodwork. Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. The advice usually sounds something like:
“Ian, you have to take care of yourself. Be sure to rest. Drink lots of fluids. Gargle some salt water. Don’t do heroine.”
To be fair, I usually ignore that advice. Most of it, at least. But I have found that I don’t “rest” particularly well. I don’t like to “lay low” as I’m often advised to do. Stillness is really only something I’m interested in when I determine the conditions and orchestrate its execution. I don’t do well when it’s forced upon me. Sneak attacks and ambushes don’t bode well in my world. But I think I’m getting better.
It’s funny how when I am feeling ill, my first inclination is to go run or workout. At even the slightest sign of cabin fever, I begin planning my “marathon to health” campaign. I’ve been told this isn’t the best method to a speedy recovery. I’m not sure. Perhaps you can ask my brother Zach and he’ll explain it to you. He’s a genius. The bottom line is, even when my body – this shell of flesh and blood – makes an executive decision to slow me down, I still have a seemingly unquenchable desire to implement my own methods, often with little or no research to back these particular techniques up.
And it may be an audacious goal in my current state, but this train of thought got me thinking about the notion of grace.
I don’t receive grace well either. I don’t know if anyone does, really. But that’s no excuse.
When my soul says to simply rest in God, to abide in who He is and who He made me to be, my heart often overrides, convinced that it can’t possibly be that easy. My mind buys into the propaganda of a “works-based” existence – even though I know better than to ever verbalize such a thing publicly. My orthodoxy rarely matches my orthopraxy.
When I am dwelling in the presence of God my cabin fever often creeps in and shouts that I should be doing more, seeing more, equipping more, and experiencing more. Rather than allow the sweet linctus of Scripture to mend my soul, I often look to some method of physicality to “earn” my health and vigor. How can one expect anything without first investing an endless supply of blood, sweat, and tears? It’s blue-collar spirituality at its worst.
And I must admit, I don’t know that I’ve really thought of grace as something restorative to truly rest in other than in a sort of metaphoric, emblematic kind of way. I’m realizing that my methods of anti-stillness are not only counter-grace but counter-me. Every moment I fail to both recognize and live in the redemptive power of grace is not a wash or a neutral act – it’s a step (or many) backwards. Grace is not simply a golden ticket to Heaven once we die; it is a potent remedy for egocentrism and pride in this life – right now. I speculate the healing powers of grace are actually far beyond what any of us have ever truly dared to imagine.
Another thing that I’ve been learning to do better when in these bilious states is to take the advice of the numerous wise folks in my life and become an avid tea drinker. Pretty groundbreaking, right?
You may be wondering why it’s taken me so long to jump on the tea-drinking bandwagon, but I assure you, there is a valid reason.
Growing up the oldest of seven children it was merely a part of life to see Mom pregnant. There was a strange rhythm where we just expected to hear the news of a new tiny addition to our family every two years or so. That’s simply how it was in our family. In fact, it was strange to not see Mom pregnant. And you can bet that whenever my mom was pregnant, the house was filled to the brim with all sorts of herbal teas.
Now, I don’t know if there was any medical benefit to my Mom’s tea habit or if it was merely because she was a child of the 70’s (which would explain the two births in that blow-up pool in our living room), but that use of tea certainly sent a confusing message to this young and impressionable mind. For years I was convinced that drinking tea actually made you pregnant, so you can understand my persistent evasion. Imagine my surprise when I found out how it really happened. What a moment of terror and enlightenment. Although, it is better than tea, I’ve heard. Both are good, as long as it’s with your honey! Bam!
During those seasons of rampant tea consumption, I noticed that there were two main categories of tea drinkers: dippers and abiders. I’m sure you’ve noticed them in your own observations as well.
Dippers looked exhausting to me. They would pour the boiling water into a mug, unwrap a tea bag and drop it into the water. They didn’t stop there, though. They would dip that tea bag in and out of the piping hot water over an over, sometimes for minutes. Once they had reached their dipping quota, they would then wrap the tea bag tightly around a spoon, squeeze out the extra juice, stir it around a couple more times, put on a feathered headdress, march around the room for half an hour, bring it to the courthouse for verification, blog about the experience, and then finally they would consider drinking it.
Do you know what abiders do? Plop. Done.
They let the relationship between the tea bag and the water do their thing.
In the Christian faith I think that we have dippers and abiders as well. The Apostle John uses this word “abide” to describe one who simply dwelt, rested, resided, and settled in God’s presence. To abide in Christ is to recognize the fleeting and transitory nature of literally everything else in life. Many of these things are important, but for John, he understood that they don’t hold a flame to God’s glory.
I believe that God has prepared an unfathomable feast and yet many of us are settling for the crumbs that fall to the floor. These crumbs are still a part of the feast, but merely a fraction. So often the good things become the enemy of the best things.
I believe that when you truly abide in Christ and who God made you to be, you will get more done with less effort because you’ll be operating out of the condition you were created for.
May we learn the sacred rhythms of a life aligned with our Creator. May we rest in His unending grace.
May we deeply abide.