For the last week of April through the first week of May, I was sick. Sick for two weeks! Yuck. The first week, I mainly felt gross and had normal cold symptoms. I laid on the couch and watched Band of Brothers, Transporter 1, Safe, LA Confidential, Rambo 4, Hobbit 1 & 2, and Lord of the Rings. The second week, I was able to do a little writing and the cold symptoms abated, but I felt exhausted. Putting on a load of wash required resting for a few hours afterwards.
I tend to be an active person. I get up at 5AM and go until about 7PM. Between keeping up the house, my writing, and my far more important church and family, I rarely have a day to just sit and be. I like it this way. I don’t want to spend my life sitting and being. I want to serve and do. Being sick for two weeks required many reminders to let my body rest and heal at its own pace. It required trust in God’s providence and calm. I hope I learned from this experience how to better love others who are sick. In our own church, we have several people who have battled illness for years, not just days and weeks. We have fellow saints who know, barring accidents, what’s going to bring them face to face with the Lord someday in the future. How can I better serve shut-ins, those struggling with long-term illnesses, or those who just caught what’s going around? Here are the things I noticed while I was sick.
- Communication: I had so many text and Facebook comments to encourage me to rest, to let me know I was missed, and reminding me to trust the Lord. Communication helps the person whose world is suddenly reduced to a room by reminding them of the bigger world outside, the place they hold in your lives, and your desire to have them back. It lifts the spirit and the morale. Often I was too sick to take phone calls—never knew how much energy that required—or have visitors who weren’t related to me, but thank goodness for Facebook and texting. This does require the sick person being at least slightly open about being sick. You can’t hide away and then be upset when no one can find you.
I’m renewed in my determination, after being sick, to not lose track of my own church family members who are struggling with sickness. Some of them can’t come to church. We need to notice that and do what we can to remind them they are still part of our body. Send a note. Send flowers. Send a text. For those of us afflicted with lighter health issues, it’s important to notice when a member is gone. We have moms who don’t make it to church for weeks due to a rampaging cold or stomach flu. Text them. Facebook them. Remind them that this is a season.
- Empathy: As a writer, I tend to analyze and explore every experience I have, or that you have, so I can increase my character realism. Being shut up for two weeks gave me new insight into the life of those who are shut up all the time and renewed my empathy for them. It reminded me to pray for them. To pray they don’t listen to the lies of their heart and the Devil and become bitter. It’s easy to do. From my window, I could see my sisters getting together to take a walk through our neighborhood. I had to swallow a hint of bitterness and selfishness. How dare they get together without me??? (As if we can only get together when I’m around.) Watching people do things you can’t, or finding out that life had to go on even though you weren’t there to be in it can be very hard, even when you’re thinking logically through the situation. Being sick helped me glimpse this danger, which will help me pray for those who are sick.
- Visiting the Sick: I don’t know about you, but I tend to stay away from sick people . . .they’re sick. Or, I don’t think about visiting someone who is sick. I think about texting them, but I don’t think about visiting them. Part of this stems from being a bit of a loner. When I’m sick, I tend to want everyone to go away. But, even then, a visit from my moms or sisters for just a second or two can really lift my spirits. This obviously has to be balanced with how much the sick person can handle, but a visit can really make a difference. A drawing from my nephew and a gift box from my sister made my whole week. We are instructed to visit the sick in the Scriptures. Christ spent a fair amount of His time with the sick. This is an example we should follow. A visit doesn’t have to be in person, it can be a simple note just saying the person is missed.
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ – Matthew 25:36
Being sick for a few weeks reminded me of our church members who are sick even now. I think about Sherman, Mark, Delbert, my Dad, and others. I think about my own Grandma and Aunt Vi who, due to age, aren’t able to make it to church as often as they like, or ever. I’m convicted. I go about many of my days without thinking about them, praying for them, or finding some way to visit them. There are people who have struggled with major health issues in our church, some of which, I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t even really notice. I want to notice. I want to visit. I want to let them know they’re loved and missed. This was done for me. I want to do it for others.
Being sick for a few weeks reminded me of the joy of being visited, the joy of being missed, the joy of being in a church family. It convicted me of the ways I don’t make time for others who are sick in my church family. It reminded me to that my health is not promised to me, but God’s goodness is.
I’m very thankful for Christ’s gentle leading and I hope I can hold onto the frustration I felt at being in this room, trapped on the couch by my own body, so that I can better love and serve my fellow pilgrims.