I have never been popular but at the time of my original diagnosis, I had a lot of friends who were constantly checking in on me and ensuring I wasn’t feeling left out. As time has gone by and I have spent more time at home in bed, I have also spent more time alone and when I do go out, I find it really hard to make conversation and ‘fit in’ with those around me. This is definitely not solely the fault of those around me as I am not great at making conversation because once I get asked ‘what I do, where I live or what I do in my free time, instead of saying something like ‘I am doing my dream job as a result of working hard in my degree, I live alone in a lovely house in the city near to where I work with my partner and in my free time, I love to go on long walks with my dog, meet up with friends for drinks after work and spend the weekends road-tripping and having short breaks away’. The reality of chronic illness, is that is just not possible right now, so I lack the conversation points and the conversation dies.
I am off to a leadership summit this week which I am really excited about BUT, I am also terrified as there are so many unknowns (see my post about spending time with new friends and the unknowns connected to that here) and I already know that I won’t be the typical person in attendance there.
Before we even address the chronic illness aspect of my life, I am a women (minority in church leadership), I am 26 years old (yet look about 18) and I am there to represent YouBelong, and online church (not exactly the norm!). Then we get to chronic illness. I am easily fatigued and need to nap, always in pain so require medication to get through the day, and I will be using my wheelchair, pushed around by my Mum who is there as my driver and carer for the trip. I am not normal. I won’t naturally fit in.
The bible (as always) has something to speak into this situation. In Matthew 15:21-28, we read about the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus seeking help for her possessed daughter and in Mark 5:25-29, we read about the woman who was healed from 12 years of bleeding by touching Jesus’ clothes. Each of the people mentioned here would have been marginalised. One because she and her daughter would have been viewed as evil as the daughter had a demon inside her and the other because she would have been viewed as dirty according to the culture and laws of the time.
The woman who bled didn’t feel that she could approach Jesus straight up and ask for healing like others which is why she instead took a hold of his clothes from within a bustling crowd of people. She planned to go unnoticed but having heard of Jesus power, knew it too good an opportunity to miss not being healed so she stepped out of the cultural norm and went out to Jesus and she was rewarded for it. Jesus loved her and cared about her and healed her. He didn’t react with disgust at her story but instead showered her with love.
In the other passage, we discover that the mother of the woman possessed by demons came running to Jesus and his friends begging them for help. Before Jesus could even speak to her, the disciples told her to go away because she was shouting and screaming and ‘making a scene’. They didn’t want her bothering them with her issues but Jesus told them to be quiet and knowing the faith of this marginalised woman, healed her daughter of the demons.
Now, this post is not about faith or healing at all but what these examples do show is that even when we feel marginalised, left out, unimportant, in God’s eyes we are special and loved just like every single one of His children. Different doesn’t mean bad or wrong or less talented or important. We are all loved and God has a plan for each and every one of us.
When I go off to the summit this week, I will not go in with my head hanging low, trying to hide like the woman who bled, trying to go unnoticed. No, instead I will go in with my head held high, perhaps standing out but also standing up for what I believe and what God has called me to do even if that means others laugh or don’t see the significance because I know God loves me and my uniqueness and that in Heaven, no one will be marginalised and isn’t really the world that we ultimately want to be a part of? Until then, we just need to work at making our piece of earth as much like that as possible by accepting everyone as they are and recognising their differences as God planned and purposed and ensuring everyone has a place at the table now as well as in Heaven.