Wednesday, 19 June 2013

What next?

Well, I am tempted to blog yet again on current issues within the church, the ongoing rumblings regarding same sex relationships and the ministry, the pathetic polarisation of the viewpoints, the provocative posts by many of my friends from both sides of the argument,  the presumptuous appropriation of ‘labels’ by so many... and so on.

But right at the moment I am caught between an unwillingness to engage with it all and an anger about some things I have read (revisionist/liberal/progressive – so-called – and traditionalist/evangelical/orthodox – so-called) and I feel nothing I could say would help.

So to my other big concern of the moment... health, or more specifically MY health.

7 years ago (after many years of mysterious symptoms) I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I have friends and relatives who also have MS, and in the light of what I know and have seen I am very aware that my symptoms are relatively mild and nothing like as disabling as the symptoms of many, many others.

Just today I was speaking with someone who has a close relative with MS. The symptoms of this loved one have severely restricted him throughout most of his adult life, but increasingly so with every year that passes.

But what struck me about the conversation was the level of understanding, sympathy and concern this person was able to show to me, whose symptoms are so much milder and would hardly register at all alongside her loved one.

That she was able to enquire so kindly after me, ask appropriate, insightful, but not intrusive questions, and display such evident care says a lot for her, I think.

Perhaps because she has a loved one who has MS (albeit at a more advanced level than mine) she understands and knows more than most what is going on... and understands that for many people with MS, so many of the symptoms are hidden.

Yesterday another very insightful and caring person (who has many personal challenges of her own) asked me how I was keeping and then went onto say ‘You look well, but I know that may not be the whole story’.

No, indeed.

Today I have become so aware that this is not the whole story, because I have had to cancel some plans and pull out of some meetings because I have felt (amongst other things) very fatigued. Like many folks with MS (and various other neurological conditions) I find that fatigue is almost constant at some level. Usually that is something I can cope with. But occasionally (possibly more frequently now than over the previous 5 years) it recurs with a quite disabling intensity. Those who have not experienced it find it difficult to understand. This is not just feeling ‘tired’, this is not just the inevitable slowing down that comes with the advancing years... this ‘fatigue’ is as if someone has just pulled out the plug connecting you to the energy supply. It is a ‘sick’ feeling, a bit like a cross between how people often feel when they have the flu (but without the respiratory symptoms) and how an unfit person feels after unexpected and intensive physical exertion. But even these descriptions do not do justice to this thing we call ‘fatigue’.

I used to go regularly to the gym when I was well. I know what it feels like to be tired. I know what it feels like to have pushed myself. I know what it feels like to be exhausted because I have expended a lot of energy and so on.

But what I feel today (and so many days) is nothing like that.

I feel ill.

But you would not know it to look at me.

Nor, by looking at me, would you be able to discern the several other hidden symptoms with which I cope on a daily basis (in some cases) or on a recurring basis (in the case of others).

My most recent consultation revealed that some of my symptoms are measurably worse than was previously the case. Nothing drastic, and this is against a background of 5 years or so of much better health and performance than I had expected.

But the news still took the wind from my sails. In part it made me realise that I have to be sensible and remember that I do indeed have MS.... and with all my heart I wish that was not the case.

But also I find myself wondering about the future and wondering ‘What next’?

As I have said (and as I am constantly aware) I am so much better than many – no, MOST - people I know who have MS.

But I still sometimes wonder (and worry) about the future.

How often in the Bible we read the words ‘Do not be afraid’ (or similar). Someone once said that there are 365 instances of these words in Scripture... one for every day of the year! Well, that may be true; I have never counted. And anyway, if I am to be really honest, I am not sure that right at the moment I find this entirely comforting!

Of course, I do believe that God cares, and is there and that he urges us not to worry...

... and I know that I am so much better off than so many...

... and most of the time I find considerable reassurance in knowing (and experiencing) the care of God...

...but there are moments when the reassurances of our faith (which, when offered by some well-meaning but insensitive folks, can sometimes come across as no more than pious platitudes) just don’t seem to really have an effect upon me. 

...and so I hope I may be forgiven for sometimes just wondering... and – yes – worrying...

...what next?