Sunday, August 17, 2008

Stick-Gathering Crackpot, That's Me

Fibromyalgia is not my favorite topic. I try not to think about it as often as possible. But it's there every day, and there are good days, and there are bad days.

When I'm having a 'bad' day, we don't call it a 'bad' day. We call it a 'fibro' day or a 'trophy wife' day or a 'tired' day. I've explained before that Jeff calls them 'trophy wife' days because all that's required of me is to sit around and look pretty, and since (he says) I always look pretty, my only task is to sit around.

But I have to confess that I am not always content to sit around. I like to stay active. Also, I hate resting in the midst of a thousand things I need to get done. It's maddening to stare at a clean pile of clothing and not be strong enough to fold it. It's frustrating to watch the kitchen counter pile up with dirty dishes and know they'll have to wait until tomorrow.

But for me, the most heart-wrenching part of fibromyalgia is how it has changed my husband's life. Jeff is a hard worker. He goes to work doing physical labor all day for his little family (he's a general contractor), and then at home, he has to pick up the tasks I'm not strong enough to accomplish. My heart breaks to see him serve his sons and me so tirelessly, without complaint. I watch him serving, and I watch myself sitting and resting AGAIN, and I quietly seethe inside, loathing my own uselessness.

God has faithfully given me tasks to complete which I can capably accomplish, but at times I still battle a gnawing irritation. "This, Abba? You want me to be content with THIS? But I'm useless!"

Of course this is a lie. I'm not remotely useless. I'm just not serving in ways I thought I would, and I'm serving in other ways entirely--ways I didn't even know existed. My first and middle names together actually mean 'a gift set aside for a special purpose'. I just didn't expect fibromyalgia to be the thing that set me aside! :)

Maybe you're feeling useless in your life. Maybe you wish you were doing something else, maybe you wish you were doing more. Maybe you're wondering why in the world God has put you where you are, and you're doing everything you can to bloom where you're planted, definitely feeling quite rooted to your spot. If so, then you may be encouraged, as I have been, by the following two familiar snippets, which came to me at just the right time. Enjoy.

A woman had two large water pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her shoulders to the stream every day for her daily water supply. One of the pots had a large crack in it. The other pot was perfect. At the end of her long walk back from the stream, the woman's perfect pot always arrived full of water. But the cracked pot always returned only half full.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it thought it had been made to do.

After two years of what the cracked pot viewed as bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day on the way back from the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."

The woman smiled softly and replied, "Did you happen to notice the flowers beneath you? I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds along your side of the path. Every day while we walk back from the stream, you water them. For two years, the flowers you faithfully water have graced my table. Your flaw has brought beauty to my home."

~Chinese Proverb

A painful illness had prevented Bible teacher Billy Walker from carrying on his active schedule for several months. He told a group of men that he especially missed being able to preach, but that God was teaching him throughout his recovery.

One day during his illness, as he meditated and prayed, Billy's attention was drawn to the passage about Paul's shipwreck on Malta recorded in Acts 28. There is more to the story than Paul's miraculous immunity to a venomous snakebite (vv.3-6).

This great apostle to the Gentiles, preacher to thousands, worker of miracles, and writer of much of the New Testament, was stuck on an island as a prisoner. Did he lie back and bemoan his condition? Did he think he should be treated better than others because he was an apostle? No! The Scriptures tell us that he chose to contribute to the work and needs of his fellowmen. It was cold and rainy, so Paul "gathered a bundle of sticks" for a much-needed, warming fire (v.3).

Perhaps you've been set aside for a while due to difficult circumstances. Maybe you've reached the time in your life when vigorous activity is no longer possible. Don't despair. Remember Paul's example, and do what you can do--even if it's simply "gathering sticks."

God never puts you in the wrong place to serve Him.

~Dave Egner

So the next time you feel like a crackpot, just look around for some sticks to gather. It could completely change the way you view your life.