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I hate being sick. I know everybody hates being sick, but I feel like I have a particularly hard time with it. I’ve had a cold since Friday, and I noticed that with this cold I was doing more than usual to try and make it go away as soon as possible.
I took a ginger and cayenne shot at a juice bar. I purchased whiskey from the liquor store—something I never buy—to make a hot toddy. I Googled “home remedies for colds” and discovered that oregano tea can help, so I made some, and it was pretty bad. I netti-potted, pill-popped, and liquid-consumed for days.
Despite my efforts, all the lemon and honey and whiskey and cayenne and oregano—I must smell like a drunken herb garden by now—my cold persists. So I have surrendered. This cold, like every other cold I have ever had in my entire life, will just have to run its course.
And in my surrender, I understand why I have been so frantic to make myself well over the last few days.
I don’t hate being sick because being sick makes me feel bad; I hate being sick because being sick limits me. I can’t do the things I normally can. I can’t work out or spend time with people. I’m not productive with my work because my attention span is the amount of time between this sneeze and the next.
I have to cancel things: a coffee date, a dentist appointment, a chiropractor appointment, a dinner I was supposed to host, a phone call. Because getting dressed, driving, having an intelligent conversation—those things take energy I don’t have when all of my body’s energy is focused on fighting a virus.
When you’re sick, you are forced into a place of rest and nothingness. You cannot produce and do. All you can do is sit and be. And that’s what I hate about being sick.
Rest has been this recurring theme in my life this year. I’ve written about it a few times. It keeps coming up in conversations. Rest in the sense of being ok with not doing for a little while.
I’m not necessarily getting better at resting. In fact, I type this in a cold-induced fog. Really, I am squinting at my screen through watery eyes, knowing I will need to return to this later for a heavy edit with a clearer head.
I’m writing, though, out of this sense that I need to do something. Accomplish something. Anything. Even though I don’t have the energy. Even though, in reality, I am ahead of a few self-imposed writing deadlines, so I don’t need to work right now.
But even when I have time to rest, I don’t.
It is hard to not do because when we don’t do, we begin to question our contribution to society, our family, our work, our world. We believe we are worth the effort we put in. And on days when you are sick and simply unable to put in the effort, you are forced to sit uncomfortably in, what feels like, your worthlessness
You don’t need to read another message about rest and Sabbath. I know. But that’s not really what this is. Right now, I just want to ask you a few questions. Do you get uncomfortable when you’re not doing? And if so, why?
Does a day of sitting still make you squirm? Do you, like me, fight illness with every remedy and pill available just so you don’t have sit in your own nothingness?
When was the last time you sat still on your couch—not reading, not listening to music, not watching anything, not looking at your phone—and sat there for a good long time? Does even the thought of that put a little pit in your stomach?
I’m reading it loud and clear. The message this cold is sending me. If I am only worth the effort I put in, I will never be worth enough because I will never put in enough effort. It’s a cycle that gets you nowhere.
It has to come from somewhere else, the worthiness. It has to come from a deep and strong place over which I have no power. It has to be something I had nothing to do with and have nothing to do with and will have nothing to do with.
The longer I write, the more inescapable writing about grace becomes. It just keeps popping up everywhere, in all things. When I’m listening to a song, when I miss a work out, when I’m sitting in church.
And now here it is, as I’m struggling through my inefficient week of sickness. The reminder, yet again, that I am not how much I do nor what I do. That as long as my things and productivity are the core of who I am, I will never be enough in this place. And, therefore, I will never feel like I deserve to be here.
In a way, that’s true. But in a bigger way, the opposite is true.
“The gospel is this:” as Tim Keller says just so eloquently, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
The gospel can whisper into every single tiny and big thing in our lives if we let it. We either breathe it in and out, or we are breathing out something else, something that we ourselves have built, medicated and treated in an effort to earn our place here.
Rest is not found at the end of our human-made paths. The path grace has built is the only one that leads to true, lasting, real and forever rest. The kind that won’t make us squirm or wonder if we should be doing something else, something better, but the kind that will allow us to take a long, deep, restful and grace-filled breath.