Healthy to crippled, controlling to surrendered, perfect to beautifully messy.
Everyone needs something in their life that makes them need God. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t need him until I suddenly woke up one morning at age 17, stiff and swollen, barely able to get out of bed.
My symptoms were so severe that I was quickly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
And with that diagnosis, my entire earthly identity got flipped on its head.
All through high school, if I decided I wanted to achieve something, I almost always did. As a successful athlete and in love with running, my senior class even voted me “Most likely to live past 100.”
And yet at age 17, here I was sitting in a hospital room feeling like I already was.
I was crippled, weak, and incapable. I lacked control. I lacked predictability. I lacked perfection.
The months and years following were full of excruciating physical and emotional pain. Praise God that through fighting, prayer, a super strict diet, and God’s miraculous grace, my disease is not quite as debilitating these days. I will always have pain and imperfection and struggle, but I no longer have to give myself shots of medication. It is truly my miracle.
God’s taught me a few things—okay, a lot of things. Here are a few:
1. God is both a giver and a taker, and that’s allowed, because he’s GOD. And when He takes something away, He gives you something else in its place. I surrendered my identity as the healthy girl who can do it all (and trust me, it took some counseling to get to that place). In its place, God gave me so, so much more, like a dependence on him I never want to go without and deeper friendships with other struggling women. Job confesses a beautiful, hard truth in Job 1:21: The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.
2. God is in control. When He reorchestrates your life, remember that he’s a million times smarter than you and that all will work out for the good of his Kingdom. Had RA not taken away my chance at becoming a teacher like I had planned on, I would never have found myself in a career of nonprofit communications, which led seamlessly into my business of life coaching and writing. What was true for the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11 is true for us: God has plans for us that we don’t necessarily need to understand, and, those plans are for his glory and our good.
3. God is glorified in mess. When your perfect world is rocked and you find yourself in an ugly place, cheer for how God will make himself known in that mess. I cling to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
The high school perfectionist Diana still lurks around, tucked away back in a corner inside of me. Deep down, I want to be good at everything. I want to be as skinny and toned as I was when I could run 2.5 miles in 15 minutes. I want people to admire me. I want life to be predictable, controllable, and tidy.
The sinful, controlling part of me will always wrestle with the redeemed, surrendered part of me that knows that being tied to this world is so pointless. I forget so easily that I’m not in charge until a flare-up snaps me back to reality.
But my mess is beautiful.
Amazingly, God has accomplished much more through a woman with a chronic illness than he accomplished through me when I was perfectly healthy.
I get to coach women on how to live a life focused on what matters most. (When your health is totally unpredictable, you have no choice but to focus only on the essentials.)
I get to take what God has taught me and mix it in with my love for goal-setting and personal growth into a recipe that helps me coach women ready to break free from stress and overwhelm and perfectionism to live bold, intentional, joyful lives.
Because even when I feel like a mess, God views me as valuable and capable right in the midst of my ugly. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
So, this is Diana and she is beautiful.
Photos: Laurelyn Savannah Photography