Just read a fabulous post this morning by fellow blogger Lisa (see post at http://whilewaitingiwillworship.blogspot.com/2010/06/rambling-thoughts.html --couldn't get the link to work!) Her thoughts resonated so strongly with me, perfectly articulating how I feel about IF, and its purpose in my life.
I may not like it, but it's my reality. Whether or not I am IF is completely beyond my control. What I choose to do with it--how I choose to act, by my words and my deeds--is entirely in my control.
Lisa's post brought another favorite verse to mind: II Corinthians 1:3-5
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."
I cannot help but see the truth in this scripture. In fact, it has played itself out repeatedly in my life.
When I was younger, my mom had a stroke. Not a major one, thank God, but enough to put her out of commission for several weeks, requiring both physical therapy and speech therapy. Other than a deep depression that she struggled with for several years afterwards, the only parting gift from her stroke was a personality change... one that was quite significant to her immediate family, but not as noticeable to the outside world. Let's just say that my mom's sense of logic, of humor, of common sense, are just a little...off. But other than that, she had no lasting physical impairments from her stroke.
Immediately following the event, and for many years afterwards, our family pulled together and focused on surviving...quickly learning to make up for any neglected areas that mom was no longer able or inclined to care for (cooking, cleaning, laundry), and life went on. In retrospect, I'd say we all came out stronger, and certainly more domestically-equipped. :)
In college, however, I became much more aware of the strength and intimacy of my peers' relationships to their mothers, and more aware of the condition of my relationship with my own. I began to view my mother's stroke as a kind of death, to mourn the loss of her previous personality. I began my journey to acceptance of my mom's new personality -- not an easy one for me.
I had a lot of anger about the stroke--why God had allowed it to happen. So often during visits or just phone conversations, I would be unable to contain my anger and frustration at my mom's new personality--the forgetfulness, the idiosyncracies that were seemingly illogical to me... but I knew I was angry at the stroke--not at my mom. The struggle to contain that anger, to hide it from her in our conversations and interactions, became a continual one for me. When I would fail to hide it well, I was left feeling so overwhelmingly guilty and ashamed of my attitude or the sharpness of my tongue... She was and is still my mom, and was/is wholly deserving of my love and respect.
During that time, God kept pulling me back to that verse. I had loved it from my initial reading of it, and easily saw the daily application of it in my life--but at the time, had no clue of its greater meaning and purpose.
Fast-forward to 2006. My best friend from college called me out of the blue one day, frantic and in hysterics... I could hardly understand her from her sobbing. Her own mother--a vivacious, sharp-witted and highly intelligent businesswoman at the top of her game and in her prime--had just suffered a stroke. A major stroke. And she was not so fortunate, in her final outcome. My friend's mom went from leading a full life, traveling for work 4 days a week as a VP in a major consulting firm, in a strong and healthy marriage, to needing 24 care, with little use of the left side of her body, and significant damage to both her short-term memory and her personality.
To say that this was devastating to my friend's mom, and her entire family, doesn't even begin to do the situation justice.
Her mother was the breadwinner in the family--her husband was retired, so all income and health benefits were covered through her job. The stroke caused irreparable damage to their finances, requiring the husband to go back into the working world, just to pay the bills and ongoing care costs. Their marriage, needless to say, has been tested in ways that I cannot even imagine.
The frustration and anger and grief that my friend experienced, post-stroke, was so similar to what I'd experienced... her pain resonated in me, recalling to mind so acutely the anguish I'd felt, mourning the loss of my pre-stroke mom.
It was then that I understood more intimately the truth in that scripture, and the purpose God had intended for it in my life.
One of my spiritual gifts is showing compassion & mercy--I have, by default, a nurturing spirit. So I know that whatever God does in my life, He does so in order to put my gifts to good use.
Because I myself had experience my mom's stroke, and received God comfort and compassion through that time, I was able to share that comfort & compassion with my friend. I wholeheartedly sympathized with her grief, with the anger and frustration she experienced, with the mourning of her mom's old personality and the struggle to accept the new one as permanent. I had lived this.
In the same way, I think God has a greater purpose for my struggle and journey with IF... I think He is equipping me to be able to share my journey with others, and to help comfort them in the dark days, and direct them as much as possible back to the One who is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort... And despite the pain of this struggle, I look forward to seeing what He does with this in my life. Who He leads into it, how He may grow me, and how He will glorify Himself in this process.
I pray that it will only make my heart bigger, and that my words and deeds to others will be a true reflection of that.
"For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."