In 1987 I became an officially published writer through a magazine article I wrote entitled When I Am Weak. I was in my thirties and nearing the end of my third bout with pneumonia in less than three years. The pneumonia stemmed from an underlying respiratory problem that had resulted in removal of part of my right lung in the 1970s with hospitalizations before and after the surgery. I was scared. I was broken. Treatment involved high dosages of cortisone. Side effects sometimes felt worse than the disease. Recovery was in sight, but I was sick of being sick. I cried a lot. I prayed a lot. I wrote about the power of God’s strength when we come to the end of our rope because I was experiencing His presence and strength within my weakened body and spirit. I wrote about healing that comes from humility and honesty because I was experiencing healing in areas of my life other than just my health. His way was better than my way. His strength was greatest in my weakness. I got it.
Or did I?
Three years later, the respiratory problem reared its head again. I minimized my symptoms when I saw my pulmonologist. Why? I didn’t want to take cortisone. I felt proud of myself when I convinced my doctor to let me try something other than cortisone since the symptoms were so “mild.” I prayed. God, I’ve got so many things on my plate. Please fix this. I don’t have time to be sick. In 1990 I wanted to be healed on my terms. What about humility and honesty and the power of God’s strength in my weakness that I’d written about in 1987? Had I forgotten?
Weekly checkups with my doctor revealed that the blood tests didn’t match the downplayed symptoms I continued to tout. He performed a bronchoscopy, and the truth came out. “I don’t know how you’ve been able to walk around,” he said. “All of your air valves were completely clogged except one, and it was partially clogged. If it had become clogged like the others, you would have fallen over dead in your tracks.” He gave me a shot of cortisone and the regimen began. In an instant, my self-centered I don’t have time for this vanished. Full recovery took almost a year with higher dosages of cortisone than I’ve ever taken before or since that episode.
What was I thinking? Looking back, I honestly don’t know. Maybe I took my health for granted after three years of good health or maybe in the busyness of life I simply forgot what I’d learned. I don’t think the mistake of 1990 negates the experience of 1987. I had experienced God’s strength in my weakness, and I understood that His way is better than my way. That part was real. In 1990, however, I saw firsthand how I can stumble and fail even when I understand a truth about God, even when I think I got it.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of 1990 came in the form of a gift. Now, when I let my pride get the best of me, when I act on selfish desires rather than what I know to be true, I can remember a time in 1990 when I did the same thing and He forgave me and loved me through the consequences of what I’d done. I have a real, personal experience to help me understand that my Heavenly Father, through the humility and brokenness of His son, Jesus, who took upon Himself the penalty for every sin I ever have or ever will commit, always welcomes me with open arms if I am humble and broken by what I’ve done and what He has already done for me because….His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS.