College was supposed to be my moment of independence. I was supposed to spread my wings and fly, so to speak. In my mind, I had plans. I would take 18 credit hours a semester, work 20 hours a week, join the hunter/jumper team at school, and still find time to write my novels. I wouldn’t be dealing with any chronic pain, or nausea, or a racing heart rate, because I clearly wouldn’t have time for that.
If you know me, you know that this was the opposite of what happened when I went off to college. In a way, it was a humbling experience for me. But, at the time, it felt like my life was one big train wreck.
About a month before college started, I found myself diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Gastroparesis. That meant I had chronic pain, and chronic nausea, right as I started college. I remember being really afraid of what I would tell my roommate as I received the diagnosis. What was I supposed to tell anyone, for that matter? I had so many questions running through my mind, and I wasn’t sure how I would handle any of it. I think it was pride, more than anything, that kept me from asking for help during those first few months.
I like perfection. I like to be perceived as perfect. And I think that’s why I’m so drawn to God. He is perfect. Everything He does is perfect. I think it’s my desire for perfection that causes me to seek Him in everything I do. In a way, it’s perfection that drives me to be who I am. But, I think it is also perfection that is constantly tearing me apart. I want to be perfect, but I struggle to remember that perfection isn’t achievable. I think God recognizes that I have pride, and that I do strive for perfection, and when I was diagnosed with EDS, I think he saw it as an opportunity to break me down and reform me in His image. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m perfect, much to my chagrin. As much as I would love to be perfect, I think that a step towards becoming Christ-like is being able to admit that I’m not perfect and I never will be. For some, humility isn’t difficult. They find no issue kneeling before God and asking for help. For me, that’s the most difficult thing I will ever have to do in life (except, maybe, getting a shot at the doctor’s office; that’s really difficult).
Going away to college was incredibly hard for me. I took 14 credit hours the first semester, and I struggled (yet, I took 18 credit hours the following semester; that’s what pride can do). I didn’t get a job, but I did go to Kroger far more than I thought possible. In fact, I look forward to going to Kroger. Is that sad? I didn’t make the Hunter/Jumper team (more on that next week). I didn’t write another book. Instead, I struggled to make friends. I struggled to ride horses. I struggled to eat and to deal with my anxiety. It took a long time for me to acknowledge my imperfections, and even longer to ask for help. But, my friends helped me. In second semester, I took 18 credit hours and asked for help from professors. I still went to Kroger a lot. I got a cat to help with anxiety. I began writing again. I joined the hunter/jumper team. And I began to realize that humility wasn’t such a bad thing.
“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
If this verse isn’t humility, then I don’t know what is. I had to do a devotion for one of my classes, and talk about a bible verse I loved. I picked 2 Corinthians 12:9, which is, “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” I thought I knew everything in that moment, as I looked down proudly at that verse and boasted about my weakness, my EDS. I talked a good talk, but I think my professor noticed something else. At the end of my prayer, he said quietly, “Libby, have you ever read the verse below it?” I nodded, and said I’d read the chapter a few times, but he had me read it aloud. I don’t know if I didn’t notice it, or if I purposefully ignored it, but I definitely saw my connection to the verse.
I like perfection, and I like to be liked. I think everyone should like me. Taking pleasure in the weakness, in the insults, in the hardships, in the persecution, and in the troubles seemed so difficult. It seemed humiliating. But, as I grew over the past semester, I always remembered this verse. I slowly began to let go of the doubts, and the fears, and the worries. I began to delight in my pain, and in my humiliation. I began to look at my sufferings as my strengths in Christ. If God can use Samson, if He can use Paul, if He can use David, then why can’t I let him use me? My weakness, my pain, they were all strengths in Christ’s eyes.
Stop Me by Christon Grey
“Preaching at people with no love,
Stay looking at sinners with cold shrugs,
The like minded get met with warm hugs.
Welcome to the circus, it’s all good on the surface.
If you don’t agree then throw a stone,
All our houses made out of glass, I’m going home.”