Friday, November 6, 2009

The blessings of less than perfect health

"My patriarchal blessing promises me the health and strength I need to live to fill my life's mission. It does not promise me the strength to win the Olympics or run marathons or even work at the cannery — but to fill MY life's mission. The Lord knew perfectly the genetic weaknesses and super sensitive nervous system of the body he was sending my spirit to live in. He also had foreknowledge of the accidents, illnesses, and emotional traumas that would affect that body. What if all those things were not obstacles to me filling my mission, but part of it? What if each illness, limitation, and emotional challenge has given me the exact experiences I needed to learn what I need to learn in order to do what the Lord wants me to do?

In response to Joseph Smith's prayer of pleading from the Liberty Jail. the Lord said, “All things shall give you experience and will be for your good.” Can I think that my experiences are exempt from that promise?

D&C 122 profoundly describes a time when Joseph Smith was imprisoned and kept from carrying out his work by the bars and walls erected by his captors. It is a passage of scripture that I have always found highly and personally meaningful. But I had always looked at these verses in terms of some current event that presented me a challenge. Things like relationships, money, job woes. I’d truly never thought of health in this way even though it has (and sometimes still does) present very real challenges. Instead I’ve always thought of it as, at best, an inconvenience, or worse, an unfair punishment. And I have resisted it and, at times, railed against it fiercely.

What if, instead of obstacles, limitations are part of the tutoring process, part of the humbling process, part of the refining process that make us more fit to do the work He has assigned us? Joseph was a different man when he emerged from Liberty Jail. Deeper, stronger, more humble, more aware of the Lord's constant care in spite of circumstances. I am a different person when, after all I can do, I accept life on the Lord's terms and trust the Lord's plan for me.” (both quotes by Darla Isackson, Serenity Prayer for the Chronically Ill, Meridian Magazine 11/6/09)

Maybe there is something I need to learn instead. I’m not sure I’m ready to embrace a chronic illness as a blessing, but maybe I will calm down and look for something good to take away from it. After all, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So what could I possibly learn from sickness and pain that will be for my good?

Perhaps there’s a lesson on humility and not only professing to rely on the Lord, but trusting Him enough to rely completely and unreservedly on His mercy, might and wisdom. To stop trying to control my environment and force it to be what I want and instead learn to enjoy what God created it to be. To seek understanding of my life’s mission and step forward confident that I will have whatever I need to fulfill it… not necessarily all that I want, but what I need.

That punishing and hating my body and thinking of it as defective are not only harsh, but counterproductive and wrong. Darla makes the point, if I “lack compassion and love for myself, I disrespect the Savior.” I need to forgive my body for its perceived wrongs and learn to love myself in a way that I feel convinced that it’s real and deserved before I try to reflect that love toward anyone else. Otherwise, it feels fake because it is insincere. And in that I disrespect myself, my Lord and everyone else with whom I come in contact.

That, perhaps, a better way to look at the times when I feel kind of cruddy is to see them as an opportunity to slow down and have meaningful prayers coupled with enough quiet time to really listen for answers.

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