I’m not sure I’ve ever found a person who said that they enjoyed having pneumonia. And, while I have no plans to start that trend, I’m still glad it happened to me. On June 5th, I went to bed with a fever of 104 and didn’t get up again until almost a week later. I’d been sick and tired for months and, apparently, my body just decided it’d had enough! So for the next two and a half weeks, I laid in bed and spent my time reading, watching tv, and listening to podcasts… or at least pretending to, but I was mostly just sleeping.
Let’s back up a few weeks to the middle of May, when I went to the women’s retreat with my church family. One of the sessions was about embracing seasons of refuge. She talked about not being afraid of seasons when we had to take a step back and take cover. That really connected with me because I’d felt for some time that I needed a season like that. I needed a time to just rest and reconnect with myself and with God. But I’m also that person who doesn’t know what to do myself if I’m not stretched thin between three different things. I’d begun to feel like Bilbo in Lord of the Rings. At one point, he tells Gandalf that he feels “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” That’s what I felt like… but it wasn’t my bread that I was stretched over, it was the bread of everyone else’s expectations and requests and all the good things that I’d chosen to take on in my life. But I didn’t know how to un-stretch myself. I had nothing in my life that I wanted to (or could) take a step back from… at least that’s what I thought.
But when you literally can’t get out of bed, you find a way to say no to things. You find other people to help carry the load of your responsibilities. You ask your boss for grace as you heal. You say no to people who want to hang out with you.
At first it was great! I was resting and didn’t have anywhere I had to be. But after a while, I got restless. I’ve always had a long to do list to either work on or think about how I should be working on it. I felt like I was missing out. I felt lonely. I felt empty.
But in that emptiness, I found anything but. I found Jesus. I found myself. I found latitude. I found the room to breathe and dream and grow.
That latitude is teaching me how to rest. And not just how to go to bed and not get up again; but how to carry an attitude of rest with me when I do get back out of bed and re-assume my responsibilities. It’s teaching me how to say no to things and people in order to spend time dreaming and communing with my God.
I used to be afraid of silence and emptiness. Afraid that if I didn’t constantly have fourteen things I was committed to, that I would get left behind. But being sick made me realize that, while life goes on without us, our life doesn’t leave us behind when we say no to things. And that realization is what made me glad that I got pneumonia.