Flannery O’Connor wrote often about something she called a “moment of grace . . . the point where people are forced to make a decision that either enables them to transcend a circumstance or succumb to it.”
This summer I was in the hospital for 56 days with a rare combination of strep, mono, viral meningitis, encephalitis and an auto-immune disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
I was non-responsive for nine days, and when I became responsive, I was informed that I had nine lesions in my brain and two lesions in my spine. The lesions in my spine had left me basically paraplegic, and I had to relearn how to sit up, stand and walk.
At one point, based on my brain waves, doctors believed I would not get better. I have no memory of being taken to or admitted to the hospital and am missing 15 days of memory.
The days since I got sick have been filled to the brim with moments of grace as I continue healing. While adjusting to my new limitations, I have learned countless things, eventually coming to the conclusion that my illnesses left me with a lesson and a burden to share it.
The lesson is this: The only control we have over hardship is how we decide to respond to it.
One thing I have heard consistently since becoming ill is that I must be wondering “Why?” The truth is though, that God does not owe me an explanation, and He does not have to provide me with a specific reason for my trial. In fact, He already gives me reason enough in that He is a God of order and good purpose, always.
If I had decided that God owed me a specific reason in some sort of writing on the wall, I would have become angry and resentful when one did not appear.
Anger and resentment stunt healing and growth while trust and acceptance feed it, so I chose the latter. But it was and is not easy. One day, I had to take a hard look inward and decide that if God never gave me a reason for my illness, it was because I did not need one.
The fact of the matter is that my getting sick had absolutely nothing to do with me but absolutely everything to do with God and His power, His mercy and His glory.
I said choosing trust and acceptance is hard.
So, how do we choose it?
I wrote something down in the notes app on my phone a few months before I got sick, and I have come back to it many times since.
This is what I wrote: “If you have to run to the Throne of Grace 1,000 times a day just to survive, run. God hands us bouquets of grace like wildflowers from a never-ending meadow.”
God allows us to experience situations of hardship because He longs for us to fall at the feet of the Throne and call out for His grace and His help, both of which He gives freely.
For a long time, I felt like I had to be brave and positive about my situation, but I tried to do it all on my own. It seemed to me that I was a failure if I felt fear, but true victory came when I realized that my fear was welcome at the feet of the Savior.
I have no clue what you are going through, and I will not pretend to. All I know is that the only control we have over whether or not we get better is if we decide to get better.
We must choose trust, we must choose acceptance, and we must be honest with God about our inadequacy and fear. Anger and resentment, false positivity stemming from self-reliance—these are poisons that promise freedom but result only in despair.
When we drop our pride and run to the Throne of Grace, we receive true freedom and beautiful healing.
Though Callie Parker continues to recover, she was able to enroll in classes this semester and write for The Collegian.