I’ve been thinking of this post for quite a few days now but I haven’t been able to start it. I was hoping I’d be farther into the “lesson learned” stage, rather than “learning the lesson”. However, I’m starting to realize if I wait until then, I will never write what I am now.
I’ve said so many times that things of this world should not, and do not matter when we look through the eyes of eternity. But when everything I had known, everything I thought I was, started coming apart at the seams and falling out of my hands, I grieved for what I had said did not matter.
I started feeling pretty ill in December but I was able to muster up just enough strength to continue on in my work in ministry. I even traveled home to visit supporters for two weeks, and attended a large conference for college students at the start of the new year. But come January, everything changed.
In just one weekend, while traveling for work again in Atlanta, GA, I went from holding a conversation with an eager new missionary to collapsing in a fetal position behind our display booth unable to move or even communicate well. From that weekend on, life looked a lot different than it ever had before.
First, my driving privileges were revoked due to uncontrollable fatigue and loss of consciousness. Then my legs became too weak to walk long distances and a wheelchair was added to my car’s trunk for outings or doctor visits. Next came the pain, insomnia, hair loss, confusion, neurological malfunctions, shaking, and increased weakness. And this month, I lost my hair.
Some might say the pain would be the hardest to manage. But honestly, it was my hair. I thought I was strong enough for the cut. I believed it could empower me to feel ok about myself at a time I had zero independence. But when it all came off, I felt like all my dignity, and not to mention beauty, was taken from me.
This is the “lesson learning” part of the story. After 8 days of hair less than one inch and months of continual care, I’m still wrestling with and grieving the loss of my self-declared dignity.
Author Thomas Chalmers said, “Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart, that it must have a something to lay hold of-and which, if wrested away without the substitution of another something in its place, would leave a void and a vacancy as painful to the mind, as hunger is the natural system….The heart must have something to cling to…”
I have heard the phrase, “You were always the girl with gorgeous hair”, more times than I can count. But now, while on this road of treatment and recovery, I am not that girl anymore. And while I know as a child of God my heart should not cling to things so worldly as hair or even independence, I must confess finding a “substitute” has been much harder than I would ever like to admit.
And yet, I know when our identities are stripped when our life is dramatically changed, when our hearts are broken, and our spirits wounded, it is then that Jesus most loudly whispers, “Cling to me! Allow me to be the vacancy.” After all, we can know Jesus best in our suffering because He knows our suffering.
The Lord longs to fill in the old words, “You were always the girl with gorgeous hair”, with “You are the woman with her heart on fire. You are the woman with big purposes now and ahead of you. You are the woman with a spirit of compassion and empathy. You are the woman whom I love now and forever. You are the daughter who carries Good News. You are My child who brings delight to me. You are, and that is more than enough.”
This world brings pain, sorrow, death, and destruction. Jesus brings joy, peace, and everlasting life. It’s our choice what we allow our hearts to cling to. I choose the side of eternity. I bet I’ll get new hair in Heaven anyway…