at two points in my life, I had to pretty much stop attending church. when I was undiagnosed with celiac disease, I still went, but as I sat in those pews, my mind wasn't there. I didn't even have a mind back then; it was turned into a giant gluten slushie. the second time was last summer, when I was so sick and bouncing from doctor to doctor because we didn't know what was wrong. some Sundays I couldn't go because I couldn't leave my bed or sit in one position for that long, some Sundays I stayed home because I was so anxious about that amount of people pressing against me, "watching" me, talking over me. it sucked. sucked so much I hate remembering it.
so I'm glad life has moved on from that point. I still have bad days, I still have flares, but for the most part, I'm doing pretty good. compared to a year ago at least. I'm going to school, I just finished my temporary job and am searching for new employment, and I have things to look forward in life, as well as hope that my tomorrow is getting better every day.
I am still chronically ill. trust me, every time I forget my illnesses, they make sure to remind me of their presence. (how sweet and considerate of them.) if it's not a flare, it's a fresh bout of anxiety or depression at the drop of a hat that leaves me asking "why...."
and that's ok. I'm learning my "new" body and how to take care of it, and bad days are just as much a part of my life as the good ones. it's not the end of the world if I can't do everything an ordinary person can do every single freaking day. (you guys are like super humans. I'm not sure how you do it.) when I have a bad day, some times the best thing is to put aside whatever project I'm working on--be it school, the great ones, an ornery blogpost--and sleep it off. I used to need actual verbal permission from others for me to accept this, because I just couldn't let myself admit that I was too weak to handle everything I heaped onto my plate, but now I hop in bed to sleep the moment I notice I need it. and I'm okay with that.
except when it comes to church.
I love church. I love my new church family, I love the worship, I love that nasty school cafeteria we meet in. it's home. so when I can't make it because my body feels like limp spaghetti noodles (and I do not refer to myself as noodles lightly, because they are truly disgusting), I miss it a lot. and also lowkey feel like a terrible person.
I didn't make it to church this week. I barely made it last week. I don't know if I'm going to make it next week, just because life is busy and crazy and stressful right now--and my body doesn't do stress. I remember a few weeks ago when I knew I wasn't going to make it by the night before, mostly because I had a rough day and felt that eleven hour sleep ache pulling at my bones. I even told my family that if I wasn't moving like a human by certain point in time, leave without me. I know how to handle my body. but why can't I give myself permission to okay skipping church because my body seriously and actually needs it?
at some level, I feel guilty. "You're not as bad as you were last year and you're still lying like a slob in bed, living off your parents and not doing anything with your life," says Shoulder Devil, ready to punch my happiness in the gut. "But you're doing so much more these days and your body knows you needs the rest, so it's important to take the small consequences now instead of letting them pile up until you seriously hurt yourself again," says Shoulder Angel, who massages my tense shoulders and hands me a gluten free chocolate chip cookie. "Shut up," says Shoulder Devil. "You shut up," says Shoulder Angel, who is also a boss and doesn't get enough credit from me.
I know I shouldn't feel this way. I know that God understands my circumstances--and it's not like church is my only source of worship. I do my personal readings, listen to Christian DJs, took part in devos with my old college group...I'm so blessed to have all these opportunities as a Christian. and yet, because I can't sit still for two hours, or because the music is too loud and I'm a sobbing mess, or because I just need that little bit more sleep, I feel like a terrible human being and a horrible believer.
I remember how desperate I was to be in church last year--not to be surrounded by people, but to hear the word of God and to have good thoughts flowing around me. because of my pain, because of my frustration of not having any answers, I didn't feel like I was going anywhere, and I blamed that on the fact that I wasn't at church. the reality is, I was stuck in a rut because I wasn't trying. when I got in bed every night, I was always "too tired" to do my reading. and sometimes that was true! but not always. and then it became a habit. when I stayed home from church, I did my reading in the morning instead of at night--and the habit of whizzing through the chapters so I could sleep on the couch with Teen Wolf playing in the background began.
you collect a lot of bad habits when you keep telling yourself that you're too tired for God.
so I guess that's where part of that guilt comes from. now when I stay at home from church, I am cornered by the question: do I really feel this badly? or is it in my head? are bad habits popping up again? sometimes I have good answers for these questions. sometimes I don't.
being a chronically ill Christian is tough. there's this tug of war between your health and your faith, and it's very hard to choose between the two. but I think the real question I should be asking as a chronically ill Christian isn't "why do I have sacrifice one thing that keeps me going--keeps me happy--for the other thing that helps me survive?" I need to be asking: "what do I need to do to make these two things work together?"
so church for me isn't always sitting in a seat for a service. sometimes it's staying home, sitting on the front porch and praying. sometimes it's going for a thirty minute walk, listening to the worship music I grew up listening to instead of this new stuff. sometimes it's taking that extra hour of sleep and doing good with my day, instead of being a zombie because I forced myself to go. and when I do go, sometimes it will be harder than other times. sometimes I'll have to put my hands over my ears for half the service because the speakers are just too loud. sometimes I'll constantly be rearranging myself, shifting and aching. and that's okay. church is not a cookie cutter experience. it cannot--and should not--be the same, "normal" thing every single Sunday. you are going to have bad days where you can go, and you are going to have bad days where you need to stay home. and that may be hard for you to accept--it was for me--but that is just how it is.
Church is amazing because it's a bunch of people, coming together because of one thing, drawing to God as a people to celebrate and worship him. Church is also amazing because it's a bunch of individuals, crying out to God because of individual prayers and needs. the fact that a church body can be so together and also so alone--in a good way--at the same time is a beautiful thing, guys. and for a while, because of my discomfort with my frustrations and weaknesses, I focused on the group relationship as more important than my personal relationship with God. that was probably the biggest mistake I have ever made--the true source of the guilt in my life--because for a while I let that relationship wither and fade away. so while yes, I do feel guilty when I have to skip a Sunday, I am also learning to take that opportunity and, instead of wallowing in my guilt, to grow with God because of it.
I don't know if anyone out in the void of the inter-webs who happens to be reading this struggles with this same thing--if they are overwhelmed with guilt for cancelling/not attending events, especially church ones, or if they force themselves to attend despite how they truly feel, emotionally and physically--but I just want to let you know that you are not alone. and you don't have to feel guilty. and most of all, you shouldn't let this opportunity go to waste.
you are amazing. that's all.
|yup. whale always love you guys. way to end on a serious note, Ely.|
P.S. whilst on yet another accident hiatus--I had a valid reason for this one, I was unbelievably sick with strep throat--I broke 30 followers on this blog! it's a little milestone, but it's huge for me! thank you guys so much! <3 see ya soon! (and that's a promise...)