Chasing the Antidote
In early high school I was a sort-of classic picture of physical health. I swam several times a day, ran and hiked often, played multiple sports competitively, ate healthfully, and was fairly lean. A few years into high school though and I began to discover some strange health issues. The symptoms, as they slowly piled up, were confusing and overwhelming. Suddenly my body stopped working properly—I was tired all the time, would hyperventilate under stress, and wasn’t allowed to swim or run anymore.
To me the symptoms seemed sudden. But thinking back, there had been some small indicators that something was not completely right. And yet, seemingly so healthy, I had convinced myself I was fine. Upon running tests and talking with a doctor though, the condition had indeed been building upon itself for years. This meant that even when I looked like the image of health, I had been ill. Even though I hadn’t revealed symptoms yet, I was sick already… it was just much more difficult to tell and felt much less urgent or necessary to see a doctor.
This week I’ve realized how eerily this story of sickness aligns with the illness of my heart and soul, too. I’m sick, friends. And I’ve been sick for a long time.
The last couple weeks I’ve come to the end of the week, looked back, and completely forgotten what happened. People have asked how my week was and I’ve answered with “fine” not because it was “fine” but because I sometimes genuinely don’t even remember enough of the week to answer properly. I’ve so filled my head with to-do lists and multi-tasking that I don’t actually know what it is I’m doing. Am I eating breakfast or reading? Am I doing homework or watching Netflix? Am I driving or making phone calls? Am I brushing my teeth or scrolling on Instagram? And I get to the end of each night and look up at the Heavens and realize that I’ve missed it. I’ve missed this beautiful, glorious, gift of a day because I’ve tried so hard to fill all the space on my paper of life this that I’ve left no margin to stop and find God in the midst of it all.
But this isn’t a recent issue. This has been building in my heart and soul over the course of months and years. However, now I’m working full-time. And going to school full-time. And trying this crazy writing thing. And walking dogs. And moving apartments unexpectedly. And trying to be a good friend/daughter/sister/volunteer/etc/etc/etc. And, as time seems scarcer and more precious, the symptoms start to show up more strongly. And suddenly the urgency and necessity to see a doctor becomes painfully obvious.
And so I stop. And I think about my heart. And I realize that even as I seemed a “classic picture of health,” there were indicators that something was not completely right before.
We see something similar in the Bible with a guy named Simon Peter. Simon Peter was “the man:” his life was good, he was walkin’ with Jesus, he was sayin’ good things, he was told he was gonna have the whole church built upon him. He was the OG “The Rock.” And yet we are so BUMMED when he denies Jesus three times. It is so painful to read about Simon Peter denying Jesus over and over because it is such an obvious, blatant showing of Simon Peter’s symptoms on full display. And yet… we know he was sick. We see the indicators.
We see Simon Peter time and time again wanting to be bold in faith but not taking the time to fully understand and honor the very person he was working to have faith in. We see his quick temper and tendency to not think through his decisions. We see it in Matthew 16 when he rebukes Jesus for talking about his death, and in John 13 when he asks Jesus to wash his hands and head in addition to his feet, and again still in John 18 when he cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant arresting Jesus. So when see him deny Jesus again… and again… and again. We are devastated, sure, but we cannot say we are shocked. The root sickness—the sin—that led to the denial of Jesus isn’t anything new in Simon Peter, it’s not a recent issue. It just is so overt that we cringe more than before.
And so it is with me. I realize that even when I’m feeling like a rad disciple (or a great sister, a wonderful friend, a holier-than-holy Christian), the root sickness is very much still alive... and in fact, often thriving. It is even in the midst of feeling “healthy” that I must be fervently seeking treatment, desperately pursuing healing (or rather, the Healer).
I’m so easily caught, friends, in the idea that when I seem “healthy” it means I’m no longer sick. But I’m deathly ill. I am trapped in this flesh and bone body and soul that is tearing itself apart everyday. I have moments where I am shocked by my own goodness and also moments where I am shocked by my own darkness, pride, anger, or resentment. I resonate so deeply with Paul when he says (in Romans 7:15), “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
And so, I am chasing the antidote. Because I don’t want to wait until I get the flu to see the doctor. I want to get the vaccine. Or take a whole bunch of Emergen-C. Or take some vitamins consistently. Or sleep a little extra when I know my immune system is struggling. Just as I don’t want to wait until I am feeling dead and dark inside to see the Healer of my heart and soul. I want to be refreshed and reminded that I am alive and well and redeemed and loved every. single. day... regardless of how well I may seem.
Please Note: When I’m actually getting sick I’m a much bigger fan of sleep than Emergen-C.