I have had a rough week. The one sickness I vowed to never camp with (again) is the very thing that snuck up on me 17 hours prior to our 7 day canoe trip. Coincidence? I think not. My brother, my cousins, my husband, and I had been planning this canoe trip for 6 months: seven days on the Potomac River. I was looking forward to it, and yet part of me was terrified. I felt unstable emotionally, but not enough to keep me from going. I wanted the experience, I wanted the stories, I wanted to be a part of an adventure worth talking about, I wanted to bond with my husband over something cool. But God had other plans.
*Warning: This is about to get very personal. If you know me, then you know that I am very open about my life and it is not odd for me to share personal stories if they will benefit others in the form of laughter, advice, or just a good story. If bodily functions make you uncomfortable then proceed with caution. You have been warned.
I should start by telling you that 5 years ago, while on my honeymoon, I managed to get a UTI while backpacking in the Smoky Mountains. For those of you who haven’t had the magnificent experience of a UTI, let me paint you a picture. Imagine the fiery depths of hell- red hot, burning, and full of sharp jagged rocks. Now imagine that when you urinate (which is about every 5 minutes) that you are pushing the depths of hell out of your urethra. Add in a fever, stomach cramping, and the unrelenting sensation to urinate no matter how many times you have already urinated, and that is a UTI. Sounds great, right? Now imagine you are miles from civilization, hiking with a 20lb pack, and instead of the luxury of a toilet seat you have a shovel, the ground, and the cover of trees. After such an experience I guarantee you would also make the vow to never camp with a UTI ever again.
So when I managed to come down with a UTI just hours before leaving on a seven day camping trip, there was no doubt in my mind that I was not meant to go. God knew what it would take for me to step down from such an adventure. Maybe if I wasn’t so stubborn and head strong I could have been spared the fiery depths of hell, but what’s important here is that God got my attention.
I didn’t know why God didn’t want me to go on the adventure. I spent the first two days in agony trying to figure it out. This made for an interesting beginning of the week. I was so exhausted and still running a fever that I couldn’t do much, which meant I couldn’t keep my mind busy with cleaning. This was also the first time I had been away from Dean since my onset of anxiety several months ago. To be completely candid: I was freaking out.
I felt like I kept losing everything. In the past year I had lost so much and it just kept going. Some of the things I lost were concrete, like the death of my childhood dog. Other things were more abstract; things I took for granted. like the complete mobility of my jaw, my husband’s good health, my emotional and mental stability, my dreams of being a young mother, and the list goes on. Some of these things may seem a little bizarre in the grand scheme of things, but they were all things I was living for.
This past year God has been striping me down to the bare bones. He has been removing everything from me that I have put before him. It has made me ask that frightening question, “what am I living for?” You see, I was living to be a good wife, desired by my husband, and a mother. I was living to be loved by others and looked up to. I was living to have fun, to have adventure, and to be great. These aren’t bad desires, but when I started living to achieve them instead of living for Christ, they became idols and I put them ahead of God.
This past week God removed my health and my husband, my two very biggest idols. My fears and anxiety took over. I worried about Dean being safe and if he would ever return. I worried about my health and if I would ever get better (not just my UTI, but my jaw pain and my depression/anxiety). For some reason I felt I could not continue living without any of these things. However, my body continued to live on, despite what my head thought. I know this sounds overly dramatic, and I am even a little embarrassed to be openly admitting it, but in the depths of my anxiety I cannot seem to rationalize as I normally would. Some part of me knew there was no reason to fear, but I couldn’t hold onto it long enough to find peace or comfort. But eventually God got through to me.
Philippians 3:8-9 MSG “Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant – dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.”
When God striped me of every single thing I put ahead of him, I questioned my purpose and why I was living. I felt worthless. I felt worthless, but I was not worthless. I felt worthless because I put my worth into things that could not fully reflect my worth. God is showing me that I must live for Him only. He will never leave me nor forsake me. When I live for Him I am able to recognize my worth. My worth is not based on good deeds, accomplishments, or credentials. I am not worth more if I have better stories, go on great adventures, or produce my own offspring. I am worth something simply because I am me. The creator of the universe sent his son to die to save me from death and sin. The creator of the universe loves me that much! No one and nothing could ever show me more worth.
Every morning I woke up and I had to make a choice. When I chose to live for God I could get out of bed and do the next right thing. Sometimes the next right thing was eating breakfast, praying, doing yoga, or cleaning. It was simple, but there were no expectations other than to just be me and sick Liz was not capable of doing much. When I chose to live for my selfish desires the pressure became too much for me to handle and I fell right back on my butt again. I couldn’t live up to my own expectations while being sick. I couldn’t do my job. I couldn’t be a good wife, a good friend, etc. I kept letting myself down because I was living “to do”. It suddenly hit me that that’s exactly what I would have been doing on that canoe trip. I just wanted to go so I could say I did it. I wanted to prove something to myself and to others. I wanted people to think of me a certain way. I wanted to be admired for what I did. But that stuff is insignificant. It is garbage compared to being in the embrace of Christ.
Of course that doesn’t mean we can’t do those things. I hope someday I will be able to be a part of an adventure, be a mom, etc. But when those days come I want to do it with a heart that is living for Christ. I want to do it because Jesus called me to do it, not because I want a good story. I want to live a life worth living. For me the only life worth living is a life dedicated to Jesus Christ.