It happened like it does every so often…something that is only in God’s power and control. Growth! Growth, in any condition, is one step forward and two steps back, but when God moves in a part of my life He is already inhabiting, miraculous things happen. Shifts in my struggles are pivotal and intentional when God is in control. They are not reckless nor are they haphazard jerks and jumps. I heard a sister in Christ with great challenges recently share a statement from her perspective, and it has now helped my view and given me a breath of hope.
Katherine Wolf suffered a stroke at the age of 26 exactly 10 years ago today. And today I heard her speak for the first time. She talked about some of the things you and I have shared together, but something she said is resonating with me well past the event where she spoke. She said, “I’ve been forced to redefine my life because of my stroke.” With this one statement, my mind went to a place of understanding and peace that it rarely visits…ever. Through this proclamation, I find relief in the truth that yes, she has undergone a major life change, and so have I.
I’ve been desperately trying to feel and react and respond to a changed body, as if nothing was altered. It’s been excruciating for my mind to grasp…to accept…to experience the changes my body has undergone without acknowledging that these changes are alterations which had to happen for me to live. Nevertheless, I punish myself for letting the changes happen. What an unintentional mess! But what a relief to be able to put words to my hurt! People innocently comment on my changed appearance, and I am taken aback. On the inside I cry until I can get alone to let the tears flow out from within. Is it true that what’s on the inside matters the most?
Confession…I’ve changed. Three years ago, I got to the low end of my weight after years of anorexic restricting, and now I’ve often wanted to hide rather than honor my hard work and celebrate that God literally saved my life. I’ve wanted to hide the changes because they are external and although I agreed to this new nutrition, it’s been nothing short of scary. To gain weight and continue to eat in front of those who I am not used to eating with has been embarrassing. To live, I’ve needed to redefine my life! Change has occurred, yet I have so badly wanted to avoid it. I’ve denied the changes for as long as I can. I’ve tried to eat and make the changes, but not the ones which show externally.
I hadn’t embraced this truth until I heard Katherine’s perspective. She had a stroke which greatly affected her body internally and externally, and it has been scary. Not in comparison to, but perhaps in a parallel way, I went away to get help in treatment and four months later came home different – both inside and out. I can’t pretend I’m not, but I’ve been trying to do just that. And while I cannot control what people say in love (often not knowing what to say), I’ve got to change how these words translate in my heart…and my mind… or I’m going to relapse. I’m not planning to get worse again, but without a shift based upon this new realization, I suffer greatly.
My first instinct is to badger myself and call myself ungrateful. But this time, why not do something different? Why not do opposite? I don’t know…It’s a tough shift, quite honestly. But don’t old ways wear you down? They do me at times, when they are hurtful and negative. But I do tolerate them way too long. We serve a God who is “…compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For a high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12). Honestly? I can stop punishing me for not being great at this recovery thing, if I’ll ask for God’s help. I am so scared to trust even God in this, so I’m asking for Divine courage.
Maybe you could join me in giving a challenge you are facing to God. I have found it so helpful to do something which could be quite courageous simultaneously with those you love and are with in community. Please join me in trusting it’s okay to let God “redefine” your life because of all you’ve been through. Our God is long suffering and welcomes the celebration of one step at a time surrender! Growth! It’s miraculous and intentional when God is the gardener. I don’t really know how things are supposed to look for me at this point in my process of getting well, but I know that redefining is God’s specialty. All I am called to do is trust and obey and try not to give up on the process of the Gardener’s transformation.