Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Sickness and In Health

I'm sick right now, and it's kind of a drag. I'm not a fan of body aches, insomnia, or that annoying pressure that I get between my eyes sometimes that makes it hard for me to think. We all devote a reasonable amount of energy to not getting sick—we take vitamins and wash our hands and avoid sick people. We don't like to be slowed down, and we don't like the unpleasant (and sometimes painful) symptoms.

Still, a few of my happiest moments in life have arrived during an illness.

When I was in 8th grade, my showchoir was invited to perform at the White House employees' Christmas party. Nearly our whole choir got sick. I think one kid even threw up in a bathroom at the White House. I felt like crap, but I could still sing, and I remember how beautiful the surroundings were and how intoxicating the smell of all that pine was (the place was filled with live Christmas trees, and there were live greenery garlands around all the doors). I have a marvelous photograph of myself looking up in awe at the iconic portrait of George Washington as I was walking into the East Room to sing. Sickness and all, I wouldn't trade that day for anything.

Later, when I was a sophomore in college, I spent a trimester in Ireland. It was an incredible and challenging time of self-discovery for me. I caught a cold during my last week there. I remember feeling all fuzzy in the head, and I went into my bedroom in the cottage where I was staying, opened the windows, and crawled under the covers to take a nap. I remember how blissful I felt as the smell of all that wonderful green grass wafted over me and I snuggled deeper into the soft sheets. I was actually grateful that I had a cold that day because it gave me the excuse to stop working and experience this wonderful moment of absolute tranquility. I might have missed it if I had been well.

Just last night as I was bumbling my way to bed with my stuffy head, I stopped for a moment to look at an embroidery sampler that a friend made for me as a wedding gift. It has my husband's name and mine and our wedding date, and it bears the following verse from Ezekiel: "I will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them. Then they will be My people and I shall be their God." I stopped for a minute to stare at it as I internalized the words. There I stood, sick and moderately miserable, but God was there with me, promising to put a new spirit within me. All the aches and the pains of my body faded away as I remembered with joy the incredible promise God has made to me, the promise that transcends all sickness and hardship.

I have another wall hanging in my home that reads, "Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain." I truly believe that God gives good gifts in all circumstances, and that we can find joy even in sickness. When I married my husband, I promised to love and be faithful to him for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. What are our marriage vows but a reflection of God's promises to us? He will be with me in sickness and in health, every single day of my life. No hardship can separate me from him, and no sickness and take away my joy. I am blessed to be a beloved daughter of God, even now while I have a headache and an overabundance of snot. I am so happy. I am so loved.

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