Receiving Grace

For almost a month I have been living with a shingles outbreak. At first, I thought it was a rash, and treated it as such. When it didn’t improve, and when I realized it was only affecting one side of my body, I made an appointment with an on demand clinic. The nurse practitioner confirmed my fears and prescribed medication. Because the pain was unbearable after completing the treatment, I saw my doctor, who prescribed additional medication. When I say “my doctor,” I confess it had been so long since I had seen him that I wasn’t sure he would accept me as a patient. For years, I have avoided dealing with any health issues, creating false timelines,, such as “when I lose enough weight.” Graciously, he accepted me, asked appropriate questions, prescribed medications and said that he would see me again in two weeks. He did not lecture, but offered understanding, treatment, and help for the future. I have committed to working with him to make changes that will improve my health. Though the pain continues, I am better able to control it most of the time.


When my doctor asked “What stress has brought this on?” I laughed. Two of our three sons are living in unbearable situations. I am ministering to a congregation known to me only through phone conversations, virtual meetings, or by seeing their foreheads above a mask. Instead of gathering on Sundays, I preach to an empty sanctuary most Thursdays. Friendships are limited to phone calls, shopping is now an on-line experience, and “home cooking” is no longer appealing. (But we are saving money, as much of my discretionary spending went to restaurants. We are still supporting our favorites through take-out orders.) Many people share similar stress and concerns, and our outlets for relieving stress are limited by restrictions due to the pandemic.


Without doubt, other than pregnancy, this is the longest condition I have endured. I am in awe of people such as my sister, whose cancer treatments are measured in years, not weeks. I have been forced to recognize my own vulnerability. I have set aside my assumptions of what I can and cannot do. The pain and the medications seem to slow down both my body and my mind, making it more difficult to accomplish tasks. Though I don’t feel “sick,” I spend much more time doing “nothing.” When I feel guilty, others remind me that I am healing, and my energy is being redirected toward that process. When I need things, Dave has stepped up and become an errand-runner, ice pack supplier, caregiver and the family chef. Cards of encouragement come from members of the congregation, along with meals (and gift cards) to relieve some of the daily chores.


In almost every situation in which we find ourselves, there are lessons to be learned, and opportunities of which we can take advantage. The graciousness of my doctor has confirmed my commitment to make my health a greater priority. The concern and gifts from the congregation are sustaining me, as is their willingness to take care of the work of the church that I am not able to do. Perhaps one lesson I am learning is to receive grace gracefully. To accept the undeserved offerings of love and support. For those of us who believe we are strong, self-reliant people, this is a significant lesson to learn. Out of that learning comes the opportunity to understand and articulate ways to receive God’s grace more fully and gracefully. And that makes all the difference in the world.


Stay safe and be blessed,

Pastor Barbara

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