I need to vent. Bed rest sucks. Sure it sounds nice when you are running around doing errand after errand, cooking, cleaning, organizing, paying bills, disciplining children… You think to yourself, “Ugh, what I wouldn’t give right now for a good virus to wipe me out and give me an excuse to take to my bed for a few days, or even weeks! Nothing too serious — just enough to be legit.” I will admit to a healthier phase of life when that thought would cross my mind. I have a whole other blog post lined up to discuss the pros and cons of spending all day languishing in bed. Stay tuned for: “Top 10 Best and Worst Things about Being on Bed Rest” (and, yes, for those who faithfully follow my blog and are anxiously awaiting more Townsend family poop stories, you will not be disappointed!). But, that is not what today’s post is all about. Today, I attempt to reset my cranky self and dabble in the theological and philosophical lessons attached to forced slumber. (I apologize ahead of time for the stream of consciousness writing…It’s where my head is right now.)
In my oodles of spare time during my current jail sentence to bed, I figured out that in the past 11 years I have lost an entire YEAR to bed rest. This does not include the many shorter stints my illness has forced me to bed for hours to days a time. Now that’s re-gosh-darn-diculous. My 5-year-old son once told me, “Mommy, I HATE your naps.” You’re preaching to the choir kid. Don’t get me wrong – I love my soft bed and the temporary retreat from severe pain, nausea and weariness that I get as I sink into my u-pillow. But I, like my son, hate what it takes me away from and the fact that my time lying down is not optional but intrusive, unpredictable and disruptive to those I love most.
Ironically, a funny thing has happened over that year spent in bed. I found out that my life’s most meaningful classes do not happen in college or graduate school (despite their $100,000+ price tag) but unfold when I am forced to lie in bed and do…nothing. What a topsy-turvy realization for an overachieving, performance-is-everything academic.
Lesson #1: Control. I’m a control freak. Well, a recovering control freak. My 12-Step meetings don’t happen in a church basement with watered down Kool-Aid and cookies but in times of solitary confinement to my bed. Attendees? Just me and God. This is where God and I wrestle for control. Control over my body. Control over my surroundings. Control over the way people perceive me and act towards me. Control over my schedule. Control over my future. Everything. I, like my biblical control-freak brother, Jacob, go a few rounds with God. He seems to take pleasure in pinning me down until I agree to surrender control of my every waking moment. (We seem to do this every period of bed rest. What can I say – I like routine.)
Surrender. The most powerful lesson I think we as humans can learn. It’s why this blog is entitled “Surrender the Day”. Unless we master the art of holy surrender of our every breath to “Thou who is higher than I”, life is an endless unwinnable wrestling match. It’s a frustrating, exhausting, sweaty, stinky, and sticky mess. And, you get yourself in awkward positions and are stuck wearing an outer shell that doesn’t ever fit right and makes those around you uncomfortable (seriously people, who made up those wrestling uniforms?). I’ve discovered the more we surrender our daily plans, emotions, thoughts, relationships and future to the One who designed us the more us we become. Authenticity and peace are rooted in an identity surrendered wholly to God. All I have to do is show up and see what God has in store for me on any given day – and if that includes bed rest, so be it. He can work with that.
Which brings us to Lesson #2: Identity. Unlike all the other stuff we tie to our identity and worth, God is unchanging. For most of my life I have defined myself by what I did, how much I accomplished, how many people liked me, how many accolades I could acquire, and what other people told me I was. The problem with that is that this gave me a shaky, unpredictable foundation. My worth was tied to how I felt that day. My feelings tied to other people’s actions and my ever-flawed performance. While I had some high points, it was a dysfunctional way to live. In the quiet moments in bed I felt the insecurity in living this way. When all the “doing” was pulled away, I didn’t know who I was or how to “be”. All that was left was an empty shell of unmet expectations.
In the beginning of my journey with chronic illness, this emptiness would overwhelm me and I would spiral into depression. As dark as this time was – it was profoundly holy. When everything we think we know to be is ripped away, the grace that waits in that void is life-changing. It’s here we are forced to wrestle the “big questions” we spend our lives being too busy purposely avoiding. Are you there, God? Who am I without all my “doing”? Why did you let this happen? What’s the point of this life? If we are courageous enough to ask, and to look, I have discovered that peace will come. Some answers will appear out of the darkness. Some like a thunder-clap and others slowly ascending up through the fog. Some questions will sit unanswered but we will be able to stand in the tension of the unknown. Hope begins to rise.
Now each time I find myself confined by my illness and the “doing” has stopped and the questions come…I don’t fall into the deep depression as much. More often I fall into grace – a Grace that can handle my questions, my tears, and my disappointment. A Grace that has never failed to show up and remind me I am not in control (and that is good!). My only job is to surrender.
And so, surrender I do. To my bed rest…my pillows…my “uselessness”. To whatever He has for me this day. Because that’s the point, really. To show up. To be ready. To be His.