This may be a familiar acronym to you. I use it. It says, “I don’t know.” It’s a humbling response. Yet, for me, right now, it should be placed on a HUGE banner over my life. “I DON’T KNOW!!!”… I don’t.
For years, I had no idea what was wrong with me. I hurt from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. My hands and feet would throb, as I sat at my desk helping patients, trying to look fine. I was so NOT fine. I could do nothing but go to work and go back to bed. I would cry from the pain of carrying groceries. My hands would turn super red and hot and they would swell to the point I could not close them. I missed parties. I missed church. I missed work on days I just could not lecture myself into a shower and clothes in order to show up at my office.
Since I have spent 22 years in healthcare, I mastered the art of hiding. I could smile through bouts of piercing agony and use my best coping skill of bouncing my right toe through one pain storm after another, counting in my head with each pounding wave, while still carrying on a funny conversation with a patient who needed an appointment or an explanation of their insurance policy. Most people never knew I was sick, unless they were close friends. My precious, dear friends knew I often turned down invitations to go to dinner or a movie. The ladies in my Sunday School class knew I missed many Sundays. But, in general, I faked how sick I was for over a decade.
Behind the scenes, I went to doctors, a lot of doctors. I kept looking for answers, for reasons why I hurt so badly and was too tired to do anything but work, and even that was a struggle. I had a lot of medical tests, x-rays, blood work, but almost all of the results were within normal limits. “Normal for who?” I thought. Not me. My body was so far from “normal” that I was literally sleeping the entire weekend, unable to lift my head off the pillow and then still beginning my Monday mornings with more internal lectures to, “Get out of bed and get in the shower!”
“I don’t know.” “I don’t know.” “I don’t know.” It was my answer again and again and again at times when I could no longer hide my pain or keep my smile and someone would ask, “What’s wrong with you?”
You can only hide for so long. At some point, the rubber meets the road and the truth must be told. I am so grateful for my God and His never-ending grace. It was always sufficient for me. He provided the strength and the resilience to persevere day after day. By that same grace, I completed 26 years of working 40+ hours a week. And, in August of 2014, the Lord provided answers. I now KNOW I have a rare, genetic, connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My current doctors think I also developed Fibromyalgia from being in such severe pain for so many years. So, basically, all of my connective tissues, my tendons, ligaments, fascia, etc. are a loose matrix and stretch way too much. They do not hold my bones in place. So, my joints dislocate often. When I walk now, the bones in my ankles shift so much that the surrounding soft tissues become injured and, in literally minutes, my ankles will swell and turn red. The pain is horrible, like someone suddenly beat my ankles with a bat repeatedly. So, now at age 43, I use a wheelchair to move distances. When I bought my wheelchair, I thought it would solve all of my mobility issues, but I didn’t realize I would need to push the wheels with my hands and this would tax my wrists and then they too would dislocate and hurt. So, I don’t go out much. I spend most days in pajamas because they are soft against my skin and that way I am always dressed for the odd hours my body can finally sleep.
I live on the 3rd floor. There are 40 steps to get to the ground and 40 steps to get back up. When I need to go to the doctor, I have to brace my leg joints to keep them in place on the stairs. A friend has to drive me and then push my wheelchair, as I cannot. Even if I could push the wheels, my fatigue is so severe that I am very weak and spend much of my day with my eyes closed, even when I am awake.
I am sharing all of this to say that even though I now KNOW what is wrong with me, the questions never stop. I am now asked, “How are they going to fix it?” “I don’t know.” “Are you ever going to get better?” “I don’t know.” “Why isn’t God healing you?” “I don’t know.”
Illness is just ONE of many things that helps us to realize we are human, frail, and like the Scriptures say, “like a flower that fades away”. We are NOT God. We do not have all of the answers. But, there are some things I KNOW, because my God has told me. I know that God knows the answers to every one of my questions. I trust Him. So, I am waiting for Him to tell me, show me, draw me a poster of what I need to do during all of this. I KNOW He has a purpose for this. He wastes nothing. Every struggle I have leads me to pray, for strength, for His help, for His intervention, for His presence. I wonder if other people who are well and healthy are reminded as often as I am how much I NEED Jesus.
There are so many things for which I do NOT have any answers. After being unable to work or drive or even take out my trash for the past 7 months, I don’t know how I will pay my bills going forward. I don’t know where I will live when this lease ends. I don’t know if and when I will be approved for disability. I don’t know if I will ever be without pain again. I don’t know if I will ever be able to bounce down the stairs, jump into my car and drive away, alone. I don’t know.
But, you know what? I don’t HAVE to know. I just have to rest in the loving arms of my Holy Father and be. I just get to be, like a little child, I just get to go through the day and KNOW that my God will provide what I need for each and every minute. I KNOW He is with me and will never leave me. I KNOW He loves me. I KNOW He has no limitations and can do the impossible. I KNOW He can heal me in a heartbeat. And, even if I get all the way to Heaven and nothing with my physical body changes, I KNOW I will be 100% healed when I see Him face to face. I KNOW He will give me the grace and wisdom to get through the hard days. I KNOW He has every one of my tears in a precious bottle because to Him, I am precious. There are a lot of unknowns in this life. But, there are many things we can KNOW because God tells us what is true in His Word and He cannot lie. His truths are known and we can KNOW them through knowing Jesus and learning to digest the Words of His Holy Scriptures in the Bible, hour by hour. I need a lot of feeding. I need a lot of truth. I require bunches of things I can KNOW, because my life on this planet remains on shifting shadows. But, again, with God there are none, no shifting shadows. I KNOW He loves me and I KNOW He holds my future. What else do I really need to know? ❤