The Awkward Christian

Many of us have experienced moments in life when we were praying for a miracle either for ourselves or someone we loved. Whether it was a physical, mental or emotional healing, addiction, etc we knew God could step in and handle what we couldn’t handle in the natural.

Sometimes the miracle never comes and we’re left to accept that it was God’s will, even though we don’t understand it. However, there are times when we do get the miracle we’ve been praying for and it’s a truly humbling experience. I’ve found that it often brings us even closer to God because to receive a healing means letting go and laying it all at His feet.

In my case, letting go took a long time because I’m admittedly a stubborn, prideful, control freak! I don’t like accepting help from anyone; I prefer being the one helping others. So, imagine my mindset when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease as well as another chronic illness (I guess the devil knew one illness wasn’t enough to break me!) Life as I knew it began to rapidly change. My ability to walk was affected, every joint in my body was in constant pain and just existing had become a painful experience. Monthly infusions of what was basically low dose chemo began to help and a lot of healing came about from it, but eventually, the infusions lost their effectiveness and I was developing some funky side effects when I went in for the infusions. I’d have severe pain shooting through my spine and down my arms to the point I’d be in tears; which is uncommon for me when it comes to illness. I’m usually pretty good about pushing through the pain! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total crier, just not when it comes to expressing my physical pain! 😉

Anyway, I finally had this moment where I was trying to decide if I should end the infusions. I wanted to let go and turn it over to God, but I just couldn’t get there, and a part of me feared telling my doctor that I was going to end treatment and turn my healing over to God. Instead, being the awkward person I am, I basically decided to pray for excruciating pain. You read that…I prayed for pain! My prayer went a little something like this…

“Lord, you know me. You know how stubborn I am. The only way I’m going to know it’s right to end this is to base it on my next infusion. If I’m meant to continue, please allow me to go through it without any side effects. If I’m meant to end it, I want you to make it the most excruciatingly painful experience I have ever had. Break me! It’s what I’ll need to be able to tell the doctor to end it.”

The only person I had told about this prayer was a friend who’s more like an awesome big brother (who also happens to be my boss). He’d helped me on my journey to find God and has been there since the diagnosis. He’d seen me at my worst, for sure. It made sense that he’d be someone I would share this insane prayer with.

So, fast forward to infusion day. I went in and to my surprise, the infusion was going great. No crazy side effects. I thought to myself “Well, God…this is it. I’m meant to continue.” and that’s when my phone rang. It was the friend I’d mentioned above, but he was in boss mode…he had a quick work question. As I was talking to him, out of nowhere, the side effects began, only they were worse than anything I’d ever experienced. I could barely speak and had to quickly end the call. I was gripping the chair so hard trying to hold back a scream from pain (there were other patients in the room I didn’t want to scare) that I left fingernail marks in the chair. I told the nurse to remove the IV and quietly, but firmly said “I’m done. No more infusions.” which resulted in a visit to my Rheumatologist. Before I could even tell her that I was done and trusting it to God she didn’t even let me get there. She stops me and says something along the lines of “We’re going to do whatever you want to do, Awkward Girl. If that means taking a break from treatment and thinking about how to proceed, let’s do it. We’re on this journey together and will be for a long time, so we will do whatever you feel you need to do.” and that was that. Infusions ended.

I felt good for a couple of months after I ended treatment and then the disease began to return at full force; worse than ever. I’d have to wake up for work several hours early because I couldn’t walk in the morning. I’d wake up, try to stand up and fall down. Thankfully, the wall was there to catch me a few times. 😉 Every step I took was excruciating. I needed a couple of hours each morning to mentally and physically prepare for work, and I never told anyone just how bad it had gotten. It was mine to deal with. It caused me to miss Christmas with my favorite people. I ended up spending Christmas alone and ordering some Chinese food from Uber Eats. Praise Jesus for food delivery!

Anyway, this went on until about January 2018. Around that time I went on the Daniel Fast and prayed like never before. I really began to feel a sense of clarity and felt I was moving in the right direction. Towards the end of the fast, I’d finally let go and turned it over to God. I knew healing wasn’t going to be something I could do for myself. This was a God thing and I needed to get out the way and allow Him to handle it.

Shortly after that, I began noticing a change. I was feeling great! I was walking fine, had only a little pain in my hands, but was otherwise really good. My energy levels were up! I took some time to let it sink in and see if it was just a fluke. Eventually, I did something that I normally don’t do because I’m a bit introverted and kind of keep quiet about my church life…I shared a testimony about what God had done in my life. I poured my awkward little heart out in a public Facebook post, told close friends and people I knew. I was vocal about what God had done in my life for the first time since I’d been attending church over the last couple of years. Friends were ecstatic, people were asking if they could share it with their friends who were going through similar struggles and it just became this really amazing experience. I realized my testimony was able to help others who were struggling.

Then the ball dropped. The healing was gone. The pain returned and these days I’m now on a new treatment for that is helping a little, but I’m still limited as to what I can do on a daily basis. My hands are messed up, every step I take is painful, but I push through each day. I rarely attend events or get-togethers now; my weekends are typically spent at home trying to recuperate from the pain I deal with all week, so I can make it through the next work week. Work, eat, sleep, repeat.

I’m not going to lie…this experience has wrecked me something fierce! I don’t blame God or even ask why because I know that’s not for me to know. The problem is that I don’t know what to do with this new hand I’ve been dealt. I’ve just kind of accepted that healing was meant for others, but not for me. I’m one of those people who doesn’t get a healing and that’s that. Depression and fear have set in worse than ever, and no one around me, not even those closest to me have a clue (well, now they will). No one knows that I’ve been at a point again where merely existing has become painful. I don’t want to exist if it meant doing so in my current physical state (and, no, I’m not suicidal, so don’t go Baker Acting me, people!). No one knows that each day I inspect my hands to see how my joints look and compare to the day before to see if my fingers are starting to look crooked (i.e. permanent joint damage). They don’t know the fear I have waking up with blurry vision and being afraid my eyesight is going to go, when in reality…it’s just the typical blurriness you have when you wake up. However, knowing the autoimmune disease I’m dealing with can cause organ damage and vision loss, you tend to worry more. Other issues in life started piling up and things were just getting progressively worse all around; the hits just kept coming. We’ve all been there in life, so my problems are not special by any means, I just wanted to point out that just like everyone else, Christians deal with “stuff” too.

I’ll be very honest…due to all of this I’d started backing away from the church and attending less and less. Instead of drawing closer, I was pulling further away. I would go in and just feel numb; nothing was getting through to me. People would grab me and pray for me and I felt…nothing. I’d cry out of frustration, but there was just a feeling of nothingness with it. I truly appreciated them and what they were trying to do, but it made me feel guilty. I WANTED to be able to give them some sort of amazing reaction or holy ghost moment to indicate they’d helped me, but the truth is they didn’t, and I don’t fake anything in life. Either it’s real or it’s not happening.

Due to everything going on with me health-wise, spiritually and some issues I was having, I stopped attending church completely. People began to take notice and ask about me. I started feeling guilty and went back because I didn’t want my Pastor or anyone else to feel like I left because of them. What I was going through had nothing to do with them; it wasn’t their inability to reach me. No church or Pastor could have reached me! If any Pastor could have, it WOULD have been mine or it would have at least been my boss/friend. This was just something I needed to deal with on my own rather than drag anyone else into my mess/

Today, I’m still attending church, but it’s sporadic. I used to go every Wednesday and Sunday without fail. Now…not so much. I’m working on getting back to who I was before and drawing closer to God again, but it’s a process with me. I’ve always been the annoying one step up, two steps back type. I wish I could say I was this awesomely strong person who just jumped right back in and all is well, but life just doesn’t work that way, not even for believers. However, I’m not skipping church because “I don’t feel like going”, but because it almost feels disrespectful to walk into a house of God and go through the motions. If I’m there, I want to be there to worship (in my own awkwardly quiet way) and thank God for all that He is, all that He has done and all that He will do not just in my life, but in the life of others. And I can assure you my relationship with God isn’t based on whether or not He does something for me. You don’t love someone because of what you can get out of them; you just love them for who they are. Your relationship with God is much the same. However, when you’re just kind of numb and feeling nothing, if you’re anything like me…you avoid those you love the most. No, it’s not healthy, I know! It just makes it easier than pretending to be happy-go-lucky Awkward Girl.

Now as much of a downer as this all may seem, I’m confident that good will come of it. My story is basically a “What not to do” when the miracle you were counting on suddenly gets reversed or never comes at all. It’s also my way of telling you it’s okay to go through times like this; it doesn’t make you any less of a Christian. It’s just your humanity showing through. God doesn’t love us any less when we struggle.

The upside to this long, drawn-out story is that I believe I’m headed in a direction that will help me better understand why all of this is happening. I’m realizing that this all took place as soon as I spoke up about what God had done in my life. I didn’t see it at the time, but I truly feel like there was an immediate attack by the enemy to shut me up and prove me wrong. I was left feeling embarrassed by the fact that my healing didn’t stick and now I don’t talk about my health to most people; I haven’t told most people I’m not well again.

When something like this happens, I think a person is less inclined to speak up about anything God has done in their life. You feel foolish for talking about being healed only to have the disease return. You feel terrible for others who used your story to strengthen themselves and you don’t want them to lose faith because of your experience. I think in some ways, you lose trust in God’s ability to completely heal…your faith is put to the test.

I suspect this is the lesson I’m supposed to learn from all of this. When the enemy attacked me when I was on top of the mountain, I allowed him to get the best of me and drag me down into the pits of hell. Instead of drawing closer to God, I pulled away. Instead of getting even more prayed up than ever before, I stopped praying for healing. I did everything I thought a strong Christian should never do (in hindsight, I was just being human), which proves that I need to fight harder, work harder and pray harder to grow in my faith. I don’t think your walk with God is ever truly finished until you finally reach that day He takes you home, so the growth is a continuous process.

Right now, I’m focused on getting right with God again. Pulling closer, praying more and working my way out of this depression. My goal is to use this experience as a way to grow in my faith and eventually become the person God wants me to be, in all of my awkward glory.

My apologies if this wasn’t the positive story you were hoping for, but being a Christian isn’t always going to include a happy, inspiring story. We struggle. We fight some ferocious battles. We get weak. We jack things up! It’s the ability to admit this and be honest about it that will help others going through their own battles.

How do you think someone is going to feel if they are going through a battle like this, but their church sweeps messes under the rug? Their church pretends nothing bad ever happens to Christians and believes a true Christian is a perfect being who never makes mistakes. That person is going to internalize everything they’re feeling. They won’t speak up. They won’t seek help. Chances are, they may end up pulling away from God and never returning. They may decide that ending their life is an option. Do we, as Christians, really want to be responsible for that? Wouldn’t we be better off being open, honest and welcoming of those who are struggling? Man, I thank God every day that I walked into a church that is the very epitome of what I just spoke of…they are open about life experiences. It’s because of them that I feel more comfortable being honest about my personal experience. Yes, I realize this is anonymous, but trust me, my username may be anonymous to some of you, but not to most people I know, so I’m putting it all out there.

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