I was chatting online with a friend about our chronic illnesses and the idea of being strong and not being able to work as much as we'd like came up. That got me to thinking about how those of us with chronic illness relate to our society's obsession with health and strength.
You don't have be watch too much TV or be on much social media to see how much we are surrounded by images of health and strength. That, in itself, is not bad. What gets bad is when it becomes an idol, when we start to give health and wellness the time and energy that belongs to God and others.
The problem here is not my limitations. They are there and I can't change them, although my medical team and I are always on the lookout for new treatments.
The problem is our society's value system. American society values appearance, particularly the appearance of health and strength. Society also values hard work and the success that comes with it. By themselves, these are reasonable goals, but when they are placed as primary goals, we need to rethink.
Why are we even on this earth? We have to answer that before we can determine what are our primary values. The Westminster Catechism says "Man's chief end is to glorify God and love Him forever." How do we do that? Jesus tells us in the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:37-39 "Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
My goals for health and success strength have to be subsumed in my overall goals to love God and love others. If I try to hard to be strong one day and am unable to be available to my family the next day because of it, have I loved them well? Perhaps the best way to love my family is to steward my energy more carefully. I have to get over the fact that I feel like I'm being lazy when I'm really just managing my illness.
I'm also learning to manage my goals. I don't need to do every activity that looks interesting. I don't need to cook every cool recipe this week. I'll save some for next week.
All of us living with chronic illness have to figure out how do sort out the ups and downs of daily life. The holidays are coming. Let's make sure to carve out some time for rest every day. Do some meditation. Read scripture. Pray. Do some exercise. What ever gives you peace in this busy season. You decide what is strong.