Stuck in a Shell

Some people are risk takers.  Other people plow through life without thought to the risks and consequences of their actions.  Then there are people like me who are risk-averse, to the highest degree.

I avoid risk at all costs.  My father’s admonition to “think before you act” helped shaped me into the person I am today.  But in true perfectionistic form, I take it way past the point of logic and way past what he intended me to learn.  Today I find myself in a position where I am endangering my health and my relationship with the Lord because my “thinking before acting” has turned into “obsessing and panicking.”

I avoid risky situations to a laughable extent.  For example, I will not eat raw vegetables or cantaloupe anymore.  Why?  Because of the food poisoning episodes throughout the past few years: spinach, tomatoes, salsa, sprouts, lettuce, cantaloupes.  E Coli, salmonella and listeria might be on the food; therefore, I will not eat it raw.  If I cook it, then any organism will die before I eat it (and don’t tell me if that’s not true because if it’s not, I’ll stop eating them cooked, too.) Go ahead and roll your eyes; I’m doing some internal eye rolling myself. But I still haven’t changed that avoidance behavior.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry” is my life motto. As a general rule, I don’t go out on late dates with my man.  There may be drunk drivers on the road after 10pm.  I don’t do much traveling, and when I do travel, severe anxiety intrudes on my fun. So I don’t go out in boats.  I rarely fly.  I avoid long car trips. I don’t take trains. My perceived risk of getting injured or motion sick on all of those modes of transportation is enough to make me choose to avoid them altogether.  I don’t eat unfamiliar foods.  I don’t do roller coasters, rock climbing, white water rafting, canoeing, or kayaking because I deem the risks too high.

Now I have the chance to eradicate the germ that is causing my stomach problems…and I can’t make myself do it. There is a risk that the medicines themselves will make me sick. So once again this morning I sat and stared at my medicine.  I went so far as to pick it up and prepare to swallow it…but in the end I set it down and walked away.

What does this behavior say about my faith?  I’m supposed to be a Christ follower.  Christ scorned the pain of the flogging, scourging, and crucifixion.  He scorned death itself…for my sake.  The early Christians rejoiced when they faced lions in the arena and floggings and stonings and beheadings because they wanted to share in Jesus’ suffering.  They saw his resurrection and fixed their eyes on what was to come, not on what is here now.

Worm that I am, I scrabble and scuffle to run far away from hardship and pain and risk.  Even my decision to go forward with the hysterectomy had at its root a belief that doing so would end some of my pain and suffering (some of which I now think was due to H Pylori). Now I just can’t seem to scorn the pain and possible sickness that would arise from taking my medicine.  If Jesus himself appeared to me and told me to take it…I don’t know if I’d be able to to do it, even then.  Would I risk throwing up, for Jesus’ sake?

Have I not really turned my life over to Jesus?  It’s obvious I’m not truly trusting Him with everything except my salvation.  I know that is secure: I have it in black and white and red on the pages of my Bible.  But might I be trimmed from the vine and thrown into the fire because I am not producing fruit? I am not where I need to be…and I have no idea how to get there.  My anxiety is so profound that I lost three pounds yesterday.  Three pounds worth of panic attack just thinking about swallowing those pills.  How do I get around myself?

Is it a coincidence that of all the infections the Lord could see fit to allow to invade my body, He allows THIS one?  The one that involves the part of my body that I shield the most?  The one I was most afraid of catching due to the horror stories heard from my mother-in-law about her treatment regimen? For some reason, the Lord has allowed one of my biggest fears to invade my life.  That would be like Him sending my mother into a pack of growling, snarling dogs.  Or like Him sending my daughter an illness that required her to get her blood drawn twenty times a day.  Or like sending an agoraphobic person to the streets of New York.  That is the level of anxiety I feel.

I confess that at this moment I am angry with my God for allowing this to happen to me.  I guess it just goes to show me that I can practice as many avoidance behaviors as I want….but I still am not in control of my gut, or of anything else.

My Prayer

Lord, you are Sovereign. You know the lengths I’ve gone to avoid getting sick.  You know the pounds of hand sanitizer, bleach, and soap I have purchased and used in my home.  You know how afraid I am to take just one antibiotic, much less double the dose of two antibiotics. Yet you still allowed me to get sick with a bug that supposedly requires them. How can I do this, God?  How can I willingly subject myself to drugs that might make me feel worse than I feel right now?  Can’t you just take me home now, to you?

Haven’t I been through enough this year?  Proven my faith yet?  Must it involve me doing exactly what I’ve avoided doing my whole life?  Couldn’t you just ask me to do something else?  Fight lions? Sleep with snakes? Why must I face this fear? Ever since I talked my mother-in-law through her medication ordeal, I prayed to you in the back of my mind that I would never have to face it myself.  And now I have learned that you have chosen to give me the very thing that scares me the most.

One thing I am sure of: I can’t run from you, Lord.  You are before me and behind me.  And just like you intensified my pain to motivate me to have the hysterectomy,  you are intensifying my pain today. The supposed cure is just ten steps away, sitting on the kitchen table, mocking me.

“Come, swallow me…” the medicine calls, “and I will make you miserable.  I will make your stomach bloat and cramp. I will make you nauseous beyond belief.  I will kill off some of your bad bacteria but not all of it, and then you will have to take a stronger form of me all over again.”

Do you hear the lies in that?  Yet those words and others like them reverberate in my mind over and over, almost like a hallucination. Satan is embodied in those pills for me.  He comes to kill, and steal, and destroy.  I feel like I will die and be destroyed if I take these antibiotics.

I’m suddenly struck by the similarity of my mocking voice to that of Jesus, on the flip side, in Matthew 11:28:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Yea, I seriously need this yoke from Jesus.  And therapy.  Or maybe a mental institution. Or a shot of whiskey. (But I don’t drink whiskey — it might make me sick!)

Lord, please save me from myself. Get me out of my protective shell.

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