I feel as if I were under a pile of things left undone: letters and e-mails and phone calls, conversations and agendas and projects, and all kinds of writing. (Thankfully not also under a pile of housework, thanks to my sister and my husband!)
I returned from the hospital a week ago. The verdict was another vertebral artery dissection, but no brain damage of any kind – just an artery in need of healing, and the news that I likely have a collagen 4 deficiency, which is to say, a condition that makes me prone to this sort of thing. But regular scans and aspirin should be enough to keep this condition from putting me in any real danger. In the meantime, a dissected artery HURTS, so I am taking medication which makes me unable to focus very well most of the time and makes me sleep more – and which even so keeps me from hurting only so long as I don’t put any stress on the artery by lifting anything heavy or turning or tilting my head to far to one side. When I am alone, I can be grateful for the pain, insofar as the pain is what took me to the hospital, where we discovered what we needed to know to keep me healthy and alive. When I am downstairs with the meowing cat and my concerned 5 year old and my almost verbal 13 month old nephew, and the clanging pots and pans and closing drawers and cabinets that signal my diligent husband and sister – then I can only be cranky and not very good company. I am a much better person when I don’t have to interact with other live people!
I have been trying each morning to sing through a part of the Psalter. I am using the Daily Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer, which directed me this morning to Psalms 30 and 32. It was very timely to sing: “O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me. O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.”
But I found that I no longer understand the bargaining that the Psalmist engages in in verse 9 – basically asserting that God NEEDS her – that if the singer lives, she will praise him, but if she does not, then she cannot. I remember the people who said to Jesus, in defiance of any change, “WE are the children of Abraham!” and Jesus’ reply, “God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones.” The dry bones, the stones, the dust will indeed praise God. Or, as Dr. Hall reminded us frequently during Ethics lectures last year, “We are grasshoppers, children.”
And so it was not enough for me to sing the final verses of Psalm 30 – that “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” I was glad for the BCP’s direction to then turn to Psalm 32 – to the acknowledgement of my need to confess my transgressions to the Lord.
Especially I confess that sometimes I have found myself believing that it would be possible for my voice to be silenced: that not being a pastor (or being a pastor!), that not having work as a teaching assistant, that not teaching Sunday school, that not writing – that vacating any particular position or title, that these deaths would silence my praises – that God needed me. And I give thanks that I no longer keep my silence, groaning all day long. Instead, I uncovered my iniquity, and found freedom and healing in God’s forgiveness.
God does not need me to be well in order that I might write my blog or even pray for longer stretches without falling asleep. God does not need me to be well. And yet, I am growing well. My life has been restored to me. Such is the extravagant goodness of God.
“O LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”