Tag Archives: Jesus

No Turning Back, No Turning Back

no turning back

Photo Credit: Roost Photography

“What if I wasn’t created with love and intent for a specific purpose? What if I really am just an abnormality explained by science… essentially, a cosmic mistake? There’s a mystery behind being known and understood that gives life meaning.”

I wrote out these words at 1 am as I sat crying silently in my bathroom and let myself travel down the mental path of questioning what my life would look like if I truly believed those first two statements.

It was frightening. It looked like despair. A life void of value. Complete, unending darkness that would swallow me. It looked like death.

But I needed to sit in it. I needed to let myself go there and feel that in it’s completeness. I needed to find out if God’s love was deep enough and wide enough to cradle those questions.

Surprisingly, after all the pain that I’ve experienced, I never had questioned that God allowed the formation of my spine to stop at L5, leading to permanent life long damage of a clump of some of the most important and delicate nerves in my body. I had always just accepted it.

Recently, I uttered a phrase to a friend who is hoping in her journey with singleness. I said, “You know what your life would look like if you abandoned your belief that God is good and has a purpose in all of this. But you don’t know what it will look like if you keep trusting him. There’s hope in that.”

I realized that I’ve played this mantra over and over silently in my mind but had never given a voice to it.

know what my life would look like if I abandoned my faith in Jesus. I would be angry and cynical about my pain. I would be self-centered, my faith would rest solely in doctors and my identity would be my disease. I would use alcohol and cutting to numb the emotions that I didn’t have the mental strength to process. I would make all my decisions based on my feelings. I may have not even had the opportunity to write this because in a moment of mental exhaustion, I likely would have chosen suicide.

I’m in the middle of a 30 week seminary class titled “Biblical Theology and Interpretation”. Every Monday night, I leave the class feeling like my mind is going to explode from information but what  I am learning about how to study the Bible and about the Bible itself,  are life changing.

This weekend we looked at how to deal with doubt and hard teachings in the Bible. We focused on John 6: 48-69

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

If you’re familiar with the Bible, imagine being the Jews and hearing Jesus say this for the first time. They would not have had his death on the cross and Resurrection to put it into context. They would have had no idea of our modern tradition of communion. This all would have been gross and confusing. It’s not surprising that the response of MANY of his followers was to “turn(ed) back and no longer walk(ed) with him.

I love Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’s question, though, “Do you want to go away as well?” He doesn’t reply, “Of course not! I totally get everything you just said and I’m in it to win it, no questions asked!”. Rather, Peter’s response suggests that he had thought about turning away and if he did, to whom he would turn to…and he was one of Jesus’s best friends!

But ultimately, Peter chooses to stay because of everything he had “come to know”. A better translation of this would be because of everything he had learned over time…the time he had spent living with Jesus. He had seen and heard enough truth to believe that Jesus was “the Holy One of God.”. Did he doubt? yes. Did he lack understanding and probably think some of what Jesus said was hard to accept and a little crazy? yes. Did he think about turning back to his former life and job as a fishermen? yes. But he knew enough to know that going forward with Jesus was filled with more hope than turning back.

I know what God has done in my life up to this point. I know what my life would look like without his death on the cross and Resurrection from the grave. I know enough to continue clinging to my faith.

As I continue to have increasing pain and disheartening diagnosis’, I have found myself humming this familiar tune;

“I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.”

This video shows the story God has given me. It was created and used by my home church, Elmbrook and I hope you are encouraged by it. Video filmed and edited by Matt Roth.

Much love,

Adri

 

 

 

 

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“That’ll be a great day…”

Tonight I’m writing out of a place of a lot of pain and hurt. I wish I could tell you that I’ve spent the day reveling in the joy of a flawless blood report, but that just wouldn’t be true. This is the part of living with a chronic condition that is so hard. It’s hard for me to try to formulate all of my thoughts into coherent sentences, but if I didn’t try, I’d only be sharing half-truths with you. I’d be attempting to make myself look stronger than I am, when the truth is right now, I feel crushed.

But I know God can use my crushed state of mind, too. It’s all or nothing and for some bizarre reason, I’ve chosen to share it all with you. Maybe it’s because I keep hearing over and over how God is using it to encourage those of you who are struggling with something that is chronic in your own life. It doesn’t change. There doesn’t even seem to be an end to it.

So for me not to share these feelings with you would make it out to seem like I am not human, that depression is not still a reality in my life, and that I don’t desperately want to be free from this stupid human body. (It’s not stupid. While I am so frustrated with it right now, I know deep down that my time here on earth in this body is a gift and a privilege.)

Let me explain why today was so hard, because I’m sure a few of you are completely bewildered right now at how I could be feeling all of this when I’ve just been told that I don’t have cancer.

This morning at my hematology appointment we received great news. A perfect echo of my heart and a stellar blood report. I’m healthy as a horse as far as my blood goes. This should be AWESOME, right?! Yes. And No. It’s complicated. Obviously, I don’t want to have Leukemia. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say that, but I will, because I don’t want you to misread this next part of what I’m going to say.

Every time I start experiencing a new symptom and then the test results come back “normal”, it means another part of my “normal” function has died. And that is HARD.

It is hard to hear that these constant night sweats are most likely a result of my autonomic nervous system continuing to decline. It is even harder to hear that if that is indeed the case, there is no way to treat it. A part of my “normal” is dying. Again. And as I’ve said before, that takes some grieving time.

At this point, you might still be confused and asking, “Couldn’t there still be a possibility of a treatable bone infection?” Maybe. But after a few hours of phone calls this afternoon to doctors and nurses both in Chicago and here in Milwaukee, the verdict is leaning toward not doing a bone scan or looking for infection. The chances of an infection three years after surgery is almost unheard of. Plus, we’re lacking a lot of “concrete evidence” of a bone infection (as one nurse put it). I am not having fevers, the sore spot on my spine is not red or hot, etc. So where does that leave us? Exactly back at where I started when I walked into my Primary care doctor’s office one month ago; with a high likelihood that this is another ramification of a nervous system that is shot and worn out and continuing to fail.

And so that is what I’ve been sitting with this afternoon and evening. The heaviness of THAT. My antidepressants have made my mind function well enough for me to know that depression is hovering. I know the signs. My antidepressants are doing their job. They allow me the grieving time that I need, staying crumpled up in my bed, letting the painful reality of this new loss wash over me. By God’s grace and beautiful love, my mind is able to separate and sort out that it is OK to feel like this for a while, that it’s OK to fall asleep for six straight hours in the middle of the day, but that it’s also necessary for me to wake back up at some point, even though every part of my flesh would just like to be home, forever asleep, being comforted in the arms of my sweet Jesus.

If you’re in a place where your mind isn’t able to think like this or sort out these confusing feelings, please tell someone. I remember the place you’re at right now, and on nights like tonight, I’m very aware of the enormous difference that telling someone can make.

You need to know all of this because if you are in a really dark frame of mind right now, it is possible to move to a point where you realize it’s OK to feel the hurt without trying to numb it. And then from there you might be able to move to a place of realization that not only are you allowed to feel emotionally weak, but it’s a good thing because it allows God’s strength to be poured into your weakness. Your dark moments will probably always come and go, but you’ll start to get into a rhythm of mourning and then being filled up with God’s redeeming strength for tomorrow. It’s a process, but it IS possible.

Chris gave me the sweetest gift tonight. As he gathered my crumpled self into his arms, he simply said, “That will be a good day when you’re finally home, won’t it?…no, actually that will be a great day.”. All I could do was nod my head as warm tears spilled off my cheeks onto his head. He gave me the gift of knowing that he understands that this life is hard for me and that there is an eternity waiting for me that will be so much better.

But God chose to wake me up again and I know that while I’m exhausted, his constant mercy and goodness will be there in the morning. And so that’s what I find deep joy in. Not acing a blood report, but in the fact that the blood Jesus spilled for me on the cross is allowing me to wake back up again.

-Adri


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