Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Why I Am Still Christian (in the face of chronic disease)

I've noticed a trend in the stories of adults with LPLD; they often mention that, during the trials of childhood, in which they struggled to fit in with their peers when they couldn't share a simple meal with the other children, their mother fell away from her religion.  I can certainly relate.  Particularly in the time of diagnosis, while Monica was being tested for all sorts of awful cancers, and we were just waiting, waiting, waiting for the news, I remember the quiet times with my husband.  These were times that we usually would have been sharing every important thought of our hearts and minds that had come up lately, fleshing them out with each other, enjoying each others presence.  These were the early mornings and evenings after the kids were in bed, when it was just us.  Instead of talking together, or even just quietly holding hands in peace, there was awful silence and distance while we were waiting for the diagnosis.  The silence was filled with heartbreak and fear and tears that we didn't feel like crying anymore.  It was the silence of despair.

I suppose despair is easier if shared.  Mostly it's easier to recognize in yourself when you see it in your loved one, first.  But it's still awful and hard to dig yourself out of.  Monica didn't end up with any of those cancers, but she was instead diagnosed with something we had never heard of or imagined, LPLD.  In the first weeks of those diagnosis, it was hard not to wonder if she might have been better off with one of those cancers, or just dead, rather than a whole life of daily suffering and trials, of choosing between her health and a good life.

Watermelon! Yet another beautiful (fat free) part of life
Of course I have come to realize that there is far more to a good life than fatty food.  Sometimes my heart prickles with grief over my daughters not experiencing the 'richness' that 'rich food' can lend to a meal.  But in the face of his despair and grief, how can I still believe in a God worth having around, let alone a Savior who loves my children even more than I do?

There are lots of good answers to why bad things happen to good people.  All of the answers are best in different circumstances of life.  The answer that has most helped me to cope with Monica's diagnosis is that good things come out of adversity, and the trust that Monica's character will be shaped in a miraculous way due to the difficulties of LPLD.

Leading these kids to holiness is a big job, but I love trying!
I consider building character and virtue to be one of the central purposes of life on earth.  I have no doubt that LPLD will help me to teach my daughters self control and self sacrifice.  It makes me think of a dear friend that I went to college with who suffers from Crohn's disease.  In the midst of episodes of chronic abdominal pains, difficulty choosing what to eat, and socially embarrassing bathroom trips, she told me once that if she had had the choice to give this disease to a friend, like me, or to suffer with it her whole life herself, she would have chosen it for herself.  I pray that LPLD is, similarly, a big step in leading my daughters to be the best versions of themselves, willing to undergo suffering for the sake of others.  Suffering that starts with LPLD, which they did not get to choose, but that they eventually accept, and move on to accept additional suffering so that others may have relief, perhaps by building a homeless person a house, forgoing a meal and giving it to the hungry, or giving up years of life in America to teach in a less comfortable country.

Ready to take on the world.  Photo credit to Sharon

In summary, yes, LPLD sucks.  But it allows ones character and tolerance for sacrifice to grow.  I trust that God knows exactly what he's doing, even in this, and that my two LPLD girls will be better people for their sufferings.

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