Diagnosis Sin: What Festers When You’re Not Looking?
It was such a relief to be wheeled into a private room (one of the benefits of an expected flu diagnosis) after a week of high fevers, chills, night sweats, vomiting, and massive body pain. God even delighted me with a feisty, redheaded nurse who got what little humor I had left in the humility of fluids coming out of me in all the wrong ways.
Earlier that day I sought refuge at the clinic in town, only to find out I had been taking too much Extra Strength Tylenol for a few days. In my mind, you manage the flu by taking Tylenol around the clock as needed. I didn’t stop to realize Extra Strength Tylenol had different rules. Oops.
The visit there was an epic failure. The doctor spent more time berating me for my accidental overdose (later determined to not have damaged my liver after all) and treating me as if I had a pain med addiction than she did listening to my symptoms. Because none of my symptoms followed the logical order of the flu, she said everything was inconclusive and sent me home with strong orders not to take any pain meds for many days. Um, okay. Thanks for nothing. No chest x-rays ordered—just some blood work to make sure I shouldn’t be entered into a Tylenol recovery program STAT.
You see, she had tunnel vision. She was maybe six months out of med school with the script on her diploma just now drying. I am fairly patient with the learning curve, but she didn’t do her job completely that day.
As my husband can attest, I took my little plastic stomach acid depository in the car with me and contributed quite a bit to it all the way home uphill, in his very jerky stick shift car. I was in so much pain, it was all I could do. I threw fluids down my throat regularly and laid down again in agony, so defeated after a week of suffering and no answers, only to discover that without my friend Tylenol, my fever went to high levels; I was no longer able to manage my body temperature. I frantically called my husband back from dance and basketball drop-offs to collect the kids and get me to the emergency room. Operation Stop the Tylenol was not successful.
So when I ended up with the triage nurse that Thursday night, I had to tell my sad Tylenol tale many times. Nobody batted an eye. Imagine this: They believed me that it was unintentional! As soon as I managed to be wheeled into that room, they heard every concern, never questioned my order of symptoms, ordered labs, started fluids, and took me for a chest x-ray.
Low and behold, although I had treated what I thought was the flu all week, I tested negative for it. All this time, while I focused on the wrong causation, an ugly infection was growing in my left lung: Pneumonia.
Once my body tank was refilled with fluids and IV antibiotics pulsed through me like an unwanted but very necessary friend, I relaxed.
I thought about how it all happened, behind my back, when I wasn’t looking, slowly destroying my functionality.
And I got ripping angry. I was angry at pneumonia. Angry at myself. And absolutely crazy-angry at the clinic doctor I had met with earlier that day, completely unassociated with the hospital where I eventually ended up.
But you know what?
Sin in my life is exactly like that. It starts with a little harboring of a wounded heart. Then I pet it, talk it up, overexamine it, and soon it’s a full-blown struggle not to hate someone.
I have to admit, hearing almost any political commentary these days in the wake of a new president makes my blood boil like that. I’ve had to pray through what I now know about people that I didn’t know before the election, and the seething inside me isn’t godly. I have seen a side of folks I can’t erase, and now I feel all the weight of toxic sludge bearing down on my heart.
I imagine no matter which side of the coin you’re on with recent political discussions, you likely feel the same weariness and disgust.
The problem is, I forget the only one I need to account to before God is me. I don’t have to participate or own the nasty conversations going on about politics. I can be a voice of peace, kindness, grace, and love.
But in recent weeks, I’ve wanted to un-friend the world. The hate out there overwhelmed me. I wanted to sit in the rows in church away from people who wanted to engage me or share unsolicited thoughts about latest events. Please. Church is my sanctuary. I wanted to hold up a flag and say: “Moratorium on all political conversations here.”
You see, a physical infection grew inside my body, all while a spiritual one spread throughout my heart. I let myself spin in the high-wired emotions around me in the media, social media, and even in my community. It was a constant struggle to love. To love when comments against my political preferences stung me to the core. How did it all become so personal?
I had allowed the negativity to invade my own heart. I forgot to put it on God’s altar. I carried it around and cuddled it like a poison dart frog.
And then I was humbled. I was humbled by a few folks who sit on the other side of the political fence coming to my aid when I couldn’t make a meal, drive myself, get groceries, etc. Some of them shared my beliefs, and others didn’t, but it didn’t matter. God loved me with arms big enough to use each person as His vessel of care.
Bowed low from my vulnerability, I heard that still, small voice, the one that approaches me so gently, so kind. Within it were words urging me to receive the grace being offered.
It stilled my heart. It softened my angst. It broke down walls.
Suddenly, I saw the altar clear of all fog. I was able to go toward it and say:
“Jesus, I’m broken in so many ways, and I’ve taken on emotions that are not mine to carry. Please don’t let me take this off your altar. Please take it and help me live free.”
I don’t know what your heart condition is right now. That’s between you and your Savior, assuming you trust in Him. All I know is the impulse to sin is very high with emotions in our nation exploding all over and being ever-present in our faces on every screen. Hating is hard. It bends you over until you are like the hunchback: gnarled, stiff, and unable to see ahead of you.
God wants to carry you through these volatile times and for you to trust Him with the mess. Like the only antibiotic on the market for a penicillin-allergic person like me, God is the only remedy to the lack of stillness and peace in a difficult time.
Isaiah 26:3, ESV
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Grab Him, trust Him, and don’t let go. He is your anchor, your refuge, and your burden carrier. If you let Him, He is your peace.
Ephesians 2:14-18, ESV
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.