In recent weeks, I had an endometriosis flare-up.
Those of us who have struggled with this particular illness find ourselves in great pain. I’m the type of person who thinks I know fairly well how to deal with this particular type pain and work through it. With Advil and ice packs as my best friends, I continued to place work as a top priority and kept moving forward the best I could.
But just like the rest of humans on this earth, I am given finite energy. Unfortunately, all of the friend-time outside of work as well extracurricular activities in which I would like to participate take a back seat as I only had energy to give to work and healing while tending to my flare.
While sometimes ice and Advil are enough to get over flares, this time it wasn’t sufficient. The pain increased to pretty much all day, every day.
Growing disappointment filled my heart with shadows, and I realized I was back in the wilderness that I had experienced a couple of times before.
I resigned myself to the next steps of what was necessary to remedy the issue. After weeks of intense pain and having a minimal life outside of work, I escalated the matter and scheduled another surgery. Thinking about an upcoming surgery distracted my mind. Will I get sick after the procedure? Will there be any complications? Will I have similar challenges as my other two laparoscopic procedures (which I had in 2003 and 2013)?
Once I had the operation, I was required to rest for at least a week. Granted, the first couple of days I slept quite a bit and didn’t feel once ounce of guilt. Then the third and fourth and fifth days hit. My spirit yearned to get up and go but my flesh was still weak and healing. The contradictory nature of my body and soul made me feel guilty. I should be doing more, I would think to myself. But my body is human, and patience and grace is something of which I needed to remind myself as I healed.
My recent time in exile reminded me how much I hate hate hate the wilderness – the time in which all of us must face and even admit our fragility and weaknesses. Lying on the couch and in bed stirred me to wish even more that I was perfect in body, mind, and soul. Knowing that friends were able to live full lives while I rested in bed frustrated my extroverted spirit.
And yes – I was tempted to get up and do more. I was tempted to become tough on myself for being in the wilderness again.
But everyone ends up in the wilderness every once in a while, I tried to remind myself. Even Jesus, the one who was considered sinless or perfect by some, found himself in exile.
I am grateful that every first Sunday in Lent, the Gospel reading is always Jesus heading into the wilderness. Granted, the story sounds a bit different in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But hearing about Jesus’ challenges in the wilderness gives us strength. It helps to know that Jesus was in the wilderness like all of us have been at various times in our lives. Besides the day of his death, Jesus’ time in the wilderness was some of his most challenging life moments. And hearing the story over and over and seeing someone come out of the wilderness with a few additional emotional scars but stronger than ever soothes our hurting souls.
So that’s why I write about my times in the wilderness and speak about my endometriosis: our exile stories need to be told and heard. Even if your life challenges and your wilderness is different than mine, maybe we all won’t feel so alone. Maybe someone will feel that you can get through the pain. Maybe someone will schedule the surgery they’ve put off for months now even if you’re afraid. Maybe someone will leap into a new adventure in life after feeling stuck for months. Or maybe we will all remind ourselves to embody grace and patience so that our time in exile is more bearable.
I’ll be back to my normal self in a matter of days. And just like everyone else – I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of my time in the wilderness. I’ll find myself back there a few more years down the road. But if we all keep talking about our times in the exile and encourage and comfort one another in our times of trial, then we will find our strength and resilience and move into a future with hope.