Words can be a messy way of communicating reality.
It’s an idea that’s been wandering through my thoughts for weeks – a few words in particular. The first is fragile, a word recently used to describe me. Am I really fragile? As a recovering type A, adrenaline junkie, ultra-independent personality, this word hurts my ego, maybe my only attribute that was ever fragile.
The dictionary defines fragile as not strong or sturdy; delicate and vulnerable. While I am challenged by the shift from who I was before chronic illness to who I am becoming, there is something attractive about becoming delicate and vulnerable, especially when for a large part of my life I wore protective armor.
I see this best in my dad who has just completed a 42-day round of chemo and 30 days of radiation. His tough veneer has been stripped away. He is now a tenderhearted, teary-eyed man who is simply OK with being OK for today. His sprint from tough to vulnerable gives me a glimpse of what may be happening to me in longer the marathon version. I really like who he is without the teasing and the toughness. Perhaps I will like the new fragile me too.
The second word is progressive, a word used by my doctor to describe what’s happening with my many chronic illnesses. For some reason this too struck a chord. I’m not surprised by her observation, just surprised that I don’t like her giving voice to something I’ve avoided for some time. Progressive means happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step. While I don’t like the idea that my body may be declining, I do like the idea that my character may be improving. Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand.
The third word is purpose. As a noun, it’s the reason something is done or created. As a verb, it means to have as one’s intention or objective. As I try to reconcile being fragile and that my illnesses are progressive, how do I understand purpose?
“Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word.” Psalm 119:67
I came across this verse many weeks ago and it seemed like I’d never read it before. It’s challenged my thinking to the core. Perhaps it answers the question I really never asked.
Before all the illness, I thought, for the most part, I was in control, but that also meant carrying the enormous weight of life. Trying to keep all of life in order is exhausting and impossible, yet that didn’t keep me from trying.
While chronic illness and pain are something I wouldn’t have chosen, I also wouldn’t trade the relief and peace I feel now that I am clearly not in control.
Could it be that glorifying God is a bit easier if some of life’s barriers are removed? Could my purpose or my life’s intention be more God-focused and less me-focused now – because of chronic illness?
Could affliction be a gift?
Pamela Piquette is the mom of three adult children, grandma of a sweet baby granddaughter, and wife of almost 30 years. She has Ehlers-Danlos, chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, and dysautonomia.