Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walking Through The Valley of The Shadow...

Fear will blind you from the light. Faith will reveal it.

"When the Lord knows that good health is necessary for our soul's welfare, He sends it to us; and when we need sickness, He sends that too. Sickness makes us discover who we are." St. Teresa of Avila

I was on the phone with my old friend Kandi yesterday, discussing the latest turn in my health problems. I had yet another MRI scheduled for the evening, pre-Admission testing for tomorrow, leading up to a nerve biopsy that will take place on Monday the 5th. She admitted while she had never experienced anything like what's going on with me health wise, she had gone through much emotional and personal pain over the past year. I said, "You know it seems every 5 years or so, something crazy comes and hits me... five years ago I had the botched knee surgery and the car accident, and was working part time making no real money. Five years before that, I was a freshman in college with no money trying to figure how'd I earn enough for bus fare, let alone books. With each instance, before the storm hit, I felt like I had everything set. Things were all good. Then boom, a crisis that really tests me. Really builds my faith."

If I were to rewind to October 2008, my life was totally different. I had just married my Knight, and although I felt some back pain and leg pain, was outgoing... we shared long walks in the park, I did a 5 mile Breast Cancer Walk, slid on heels to look pretty for work. A year and a half later, I sit in the park, struggle up ONE flight of stairs and am confined to flats (luckily, they are in again this season, lol). I have seen so many doctors at this point if it weren't for my Outlook calendar (Oddly, I keep the doctor's visits labeled in the purple category I titled "Sicky", despite, or maybe because its my favorite color... at this point, my 2009 Year view looks like Barney), I would have long ago lost count. What a difference a year can make.

Last Fall, when one of the many doctors carelessly threw around illnesses like "MS" and "ALS", I had my first real melt down. So like any mature, married woman... I drove immediately to my Mommy's house. She told me she'd pray, that the doctor's didn't know yet, to calm down. Unhappy with her surprisingly rational advice, again, like any grown, professional lady... I went right to my Daddy's arms. I cried, like a baby. And my father began to say "We'll believe by faith in your healing"... and trailed off. With watery eyes, he said, "Read Job, Baby." And hugged me and prayed. My fear quelled, I decided to calm down (like my Mother said to begin with, but, eh...).

I wouldn't actually crack open the woeful tale of Job until January, though, when fear had once again crept back in, and even took out a lease on a nice little section of my brain. Concerned that this most evil little emotion would buy prime real estate in my heart, I flipped through the Old Testament and reread the book I had skimmed through a number of times in childhood. This time, I found myself reading aloud Job's laments, talking to God the way he had. I became a one-woman play, asking why, refusing to curse God but wishing I hadn't been born. Tearfully I became angry at Job's well-meaning friends- didn't they understand this wasn't his fault? Why would they claim it was because of some secret sin? Didn't they believe me... uh er, him?

While I acted out Biblical monologues, I was also acting out at home. Lashing out at work. The world had become so very small. Fear, that ugly thing, seeing how I was travelling in the shadow of death, magnified the darkness, blocking out the light of my faith. I became disoriented, and instead of holding fast to the knowledge I was walking in the valley, I began to reside in an abyss. The shadows of death, became the grave itself. Fear had migrated to my heart, which is lethal, since "it is the well-spring of life."

The professional, adult, mature woman was slipping away. I questioned the honesty of writing this blog with it's title since I felt far from being a Proverbs 31 woman. Like the protagonist Esther in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, I was trapped in my head, viewing life through distortion and uncertainty. My Knight, armed with love, cracked through. Unlike Esther Greenwood, he reminded me that I was no mental patient, but a queen like that Esther from the Bible who stood on faith when it all mattered. "You read through the end of Job, right? You know what happens. Job's health, possessions, life, they were all restored. Why are you focused ONLY on the trials?" He pointed to a plaque I have hanging up in our little galley kitchen, the first picture I hung in the apartment when I moved there alone in 2007. It reads, "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4". Ah, touche. That little picture I brought on sale at Target- funnily hung over the sink, as if doing dishes could be equated with the "sufferings" that St. Paul was referring to- had hit home. And cracked through the fear-built menagerie in which I was encased. "The world, " K said, "is far too large for you to live in your head."

With Lent approaching, my self-pitying cries of "Why" turned to prayers of "God, I feel useless, but I know I'm not. Use me. I humbly ask that You help me to help others." I repeated the prayer constantly, and to my surprise, friends and acquaintances came to me, sharing their hardships. I prayed for them. We prayed together. I shared Scripture. And on some days when I felt low, they surprised me by being strong for me. I mentioned in a previous post how a pastor on TV spoke on Jesus performing the miracle of multiplying the fish and loaves to feed 5000. The pastor mentioned how Jesus first broke the bread, and how in our lives, we go through seasons of brokenness. Then Jesus, thanked God. We should do so, thanking God, rejoicing through our suffering. Then the miracle occurred- the multitude was fed, having their needs met. One boy's small offering to Jesus, broken and thanked for, became a blessing through the power of God to thousands.

As hard as being sick has been, I honestly believe that like St. Teresa's quote, it was needed. Needed to reveal that despite my job, clothes, friends, family and amazing husband, I need God. I need Him above all else. So I thank Him now, not in spite of the pain, but because going through this trial, I have grown closer to Him. Fear no longer resides in my heart, although the sneaky devil does make annoying reappearances in my mind. But I think about my husband's admonition to not linger in the dark shadows. I continue with the Psalm, knowing that even though I walk in the valley, I will fear no evil. For He is with me. His rod and staff give me comfort. He prepares for me a table in the presence of this illness to nourish me through this, anointing me for His purposes, to the point I am blessed with more than I need. I know with no uncertainty that goodness and His mercy shall remain with me every day of my life, and I will remain with Him securely forever.

A special thank you to everyone who has sent little messages, prayed for and supported me through all this. A big thank you to K, Gi Gi, Clarissa, Mommy, Tony aka Shaun, Danielle, Kathy B., Kathy S, Kandi, Robyn, Lori, Don. And to Dawn Eden, thank you for your kind words and encouraging emails. God will bless you all.


V Becton said...

Oh precious one,noone can relate to you unless they have been through a similar trial.There is no need to look to Old Testament scriptures for comfort.The reason why I say this is because our God is always revelant to the times we are living in,now. Since you were a small girl,your love for life and family radiated from you! Your beauty was from the inside out,and it showed.As you grew and matured your love for Christ carried you through very difficult times.Shattered expectations,parents that have ongoing health concerns,among things we dare not mention on a blog.What was it that got you through? Your faith. I was sick since Chanell was small.I went for so many tests and bloodwork,I can't count.I had boils on me that appeared in my most sensitive areas constantly(look up Hidradentis)for more info.The boils connected under my skin,making tracks that drained pus and infection constantly.With childbirth it got worse,and on more than one occasion,my blood was infected,they almost lost me more than once.Meanwhile,my joints ached,I lost function of my hands,legs,and was almost confined to bed, I had to crawl to the bathroom,and still had boils draining,the pain was unbearable!I had preachers anointing me with oil,telling me to pray "take a shower" and believe God,all types of religious that was suppose to work but didn't.I had Mike, kids and the stress of everyday issues as well.Li,I know what it's like not to get a answer from the physician or the preacher,even God himself is Silent.You get tired of people focusing on how good you look on the outside,when your dying on the inside and NOBODY knows it! Baby girl,YOU WILL MAKE IT! I have endured 2 major operations and a couple of little ones and the Rheumatoid is under control,no medicine. I lost 95 pounds so far,and I feel great.Tell Death your not coming,NO time soon.Read the healing scriptures over yourself,I was Job(except for the riches)I was the woman with the infirmity,God HEALED ME AFTER 11 years.Forgiveness is important.Search your heart,any issue that still generates tears,talk to God and the person,get it off you!You were not made to carry everyone's sorrows,and when we do,that burden sometimes causes physical sickness.I see Healing...I speak it,I know you can make it,my Jesus is the "God of the Encore" if he did it for me,He'll do it for you!

Alisha De Freitas said...

Hey Cuz,

Thanks for commenting. I DID NOT know anything about you being sick, or that you have rheumatoid arthritis (and here i was telling the doc that wasn't something that doesn't run in the fam... methinks I need to have a sit down with everyone and make a list, lol). I'm sorry for the pain you experienced and glad that you have been healed. Not to mention you've lost the equivalent of 13 year old me in weight!)

My purpose of writing this, though, was not to say I'm allowing sickness to overcome me. Nor is it to promote the notion that I relish in being weak. But I wanted to one, share the story my story of suffering WHILE it is ongoing. I find often that people jump up to testify while everything is all good. The trial has past. See God is awesome! What I'm doing is say, throughout this trial, God is awesome. That I have a testimony NOW. Life is not the destination but the journey.

The second thing I wanted to do is open the door for others who may be going through things to share. We all get caught in own little "bell jars", allowing depression to fester. Just like I used this blog as a platform to discuss hair issues and sex and relationships, I'm using it now to say we all struggle. I struggle. And that's okay. We can help each other as brothers and sisters.

Finally, I re-read Job, not as an OT character who lacked faith. I believe that's a misconception. On the contrary, my Dad was wise to advise I read it. Throughout the chapters, just like in MANY of the Psalms, and a number of Paul's NT writings, we see struggle. Adversity. Job, you'll notice NEVER curses God. His wife tells him, too, but he does not. His friends blame him for his suffering accusing him of hidden sin. Yet we read that no, God allows Job's sufferings as a test. Mean? I always read it that way, but this time I looked again, in light of other passages that tell us to "carry our cross" that gold is purified "through fire".

There is a strain of Christianity today that believes only good things should come to us in this world. But that's not promised. Quite the opposite. Paul talked of knowing what is was like to have a little and a lot, but remaining content through it all. My desire is to be of use to God, thank Him for this time of humility, realizing how blessed I am, not because of what I've done, but because of what He's given me.

Love you, Cuz.

V said...

It's wonderful that you shared your story and I see that your mindset is to help others.In the end of Job we find that Job prayed for his friends to restore them.My purpose in sharing my story was to encourage you in the fight ahead.There are different stages you experience when you are chronically ill.It was never my intention to insinuate that Job lacked faith.I had the blessed assurance of seeing God heal in the "now" with my children.I used the Word for a foundation to build faith. God's speed on your journey,keep us posted.
Love you too...

Alisha De Freitas said...

I definitely will keep u updated. Again, im proud of all the growth you've made, and you are an inspiration to me. Keep me in prayer on Monday 4 the surgery. Xoxo

Christine A Mayo said...

Thank you so much for sharing your testimony of deliverance and showing that no matter what we go through , we can be like Job and trust God no matter what.

My prayers are with you, I , we serve a right now God! and Right now I am believing God for your total restoration and healing, my dear Sister God is not through with you , you have a divine appointment , mandated from heaven .... to preach , teach and deliver the message of God' saving grace to the masses....

satan may try to hold you up and even try to hinder you with health issues, but what God has for you it is for you!

Put your trust in God, He loves you so much He sent His Son to be beaten ( by His stripes you are healed ) and crucifyed on a cuel cross for our sins and total deliverance! I love you and thank the Lord for you! We have never met in person, but I love you as a Sister in Christ ! Be blessed!

Alisha De Freitas said...

Hi Christine,

WOW, thank you. You're an Evangelist, just like my cousin V is, and I always feel like... I can't so that! I'm so not a leader. I can be shy, awkward and scared (which is why I like writing better than talking about the hard stuff). But thank you so much. I really, really really appreciate the kind words. And yes, even though we haven't met, in my mind you're like a sister from church I just haven't seen in a while.

And you better believe, if I make way down to your part of Virginia, I'll be coming for a visit! Love you, too! God bless.

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