When we get bad news, strange things happen. A somewhat predictable series of emotions occurs: anger, denial, sadness, etc. Sometimes news of this nature, despite the gamut of feelings it puts us through, can bring a strange sort of relief with it also.
This afternoon a local phone number popped up on my phone screen. I answered, not knowing what to expect. Upon confirming it was indeed me who answered, I was informed that it was the Polk County Health Department calling to inform me that I have tested positive for Lyme Disease. My head began the swirling search for reason that all heads do when receiving unexpected (and unpleasant) information. I answered the very nice woman’s questions about when and where I was bit, my specific symptoms, and we both tried to explain why it was she who was informing me instead of my doctor.
That last fact is what was most important. Getting this phone call wasn’t entirely unexpected, given that I’d been treated for Lyme’s two months ago upon returning home from Virginia with some creepy bites and creepier symptoms. While the ER doctor assured me I had Lyme’s, there was always a part of me that hoped it was a misdiagnosis. Or at least that we had caught it so soon we could wipe it out before my body even had a reason to produce the tell-tale antibodies. Thanks to a very generous doctor at a free clinic (uninsured and underemployed here), we were able to run the requisite follow-up blood work a couple of weeks ago. The doctor assured me that he would call with the results. While I was curious, I was holding on to the “no news is good news” idiom – especially after my mom-in-law told me she had seen the doctor recently and he said something along the lines of “oh, that reminds me; I need to call Emily.” Surely such a casual attitude means I tested negative and all of my hopes and dreams came true?
Before I had even hung up the phone with the health department, I began to cry. Once the connection was severed, I burst into sobs. All of a sudden the migraines and aching fingers, the still-lingering spurts of numbness and soreness in my neck and face, the ever-increasing numbness of my fingers including the recently finicky middle finger….it all seemed much more ominous. Allergies and sinus infections and improper ergonomics when typing vanished and lymph-node dwelling, meninges-eating, Lyme loomed darkly in my mind. A future of decreased mobility, no children, and memory loss seemed certain. All through this I prayed, and quickly went to find my mom for more assurance.
I am a firm believer in saying fears and worries like these out loud – as a good friend once said, bringing things into the light takes away their power. Ray and my mom prayed over me, for peace and even for healing. Later, I texted my closest friends who I know prayed similar things. My husband was quick to call, and made sure the doctor called me ASAP (which he did.) I retreated to the bathroom for a moment’s breath and felt the beginnings of peace and purpose creep in.
While roaming the aisles of Target with mom a few hours after “the phone call”, my doctor rang. Calm as always, he explicitly detailed the lab findings and said he wants to do another round of antibiotics just in case. He is doing more research; we will decide on a course of action this week.
I have been fighting off fear and anxiety this evening, but the peace and purpose have been taking prominence. I got home from mom’s, talked to Mike on the phone, and started to make tea. While the water was boiling, I leaned my arms on the microwave and bowed my head out of exhaustion. I said a quick prayer: “Jesus, I choose to trust you,” and I was INSTANTLY joyful. I felt filled with light. I wanted to dance (so I did a little bit, right there in the kitchen). I’m sure that some of you will say this is another emotional wave of receiving bad news – and maybe it is. But it was also more. On the 20 minute drive home from my mom’s house, as I prayed and didn’t pray, as I listened to music and flipped radio stations, the purpose was making itself clear.
There’s a crazy thing about Christianity; it turns the world upside down. Much of what I believe and experience makes no sense to those who haven’t experienced it themselves. This isn’t that strange; if you have never ridden a horse, or eaten sushi, or gone sky-diving, you cannot really imagine what that experience is like. You can’t imagine the nuances of working with a large beast; you can’t fabricate the taste of raw tuna and wasabi out of thin air; you can’t imagine whatever it is that skydiving feels like (case in point – I haven’t experienced it) unless you have truly given it a try.
That’s what this Jesus relationship is about. As I drove, I knew I wanted to write about this emotional experience today. But I was hesitating; any of you reading who aren’t Christians might not understand joy during bad news. In fact, I realized I was “protecting you” from my full range of emotions lest you think that following Jesus meant going through tough shit. But guess what? It does! The difference is that I know now when I go through this sort of thing, I turn to Him more. It means I get to experience Jesus on a deeper level. I also get to experience my friendships on a deeper level; think about a time when you were vulnerable with a friend and they responded with bigger love and acceptance than you expected. That’s what Jesus does, on a level where He can reach into your heart in the kitchen, take the fear you’re offering up, and replace it with joy.
I still want to experience the least amount of suffering in this life that I can, because I’m human and comfort is nice. However, I know in this moment, that even when pain is present, joy can be, too.
Ask me more if you want to. I’m happy to further explain.