Groaning (part 1)

Graphic by Cecile GraatI’ll admit it: I don’t much care for being sick.  It’s been a while since flu or infection has actually knocked me down.  But some bug finally caught up with me this past week.  Head pounding from repeated coughing jags and a fever of 102, I ensconced myself in the recliner with a blanket over my legs–sort of a pitiable parody of Whistler’s Mother, with a bit more facial hair.

My sickness came right on the heels of a more bizarre condition with which my wife struggled for a week: BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.  That’s med-speak for “non-life-threatening dizziness that comes on suddenly when you move your head.”  The condition is caused by, well, rocks in our head: tiny little crystals of calcium carbonate in our inner ear.  Fortunately, BPPV is sometimes treatable at home; if you need it, here’s the YouTube video we followed.  It was a hassle, but it worked.

We’re not out of the woods yet.  My symptoms aren’t gone, just migrating.  And though we’ve tried to be careful, my wife is now the one with a cough and fever.  Sigh.  We’re definitely not escaping the flu-season demolition derby without some dents and dings.

Needless to say, there’s been a fair amount of groaning in our household lately: groaning with nausea, groaning with exhaustion, groaning with fevered pain.  In our younger days, it was easier to shrug off sickness as a temporary setback.  But now we’re more conscious of approaching a season in which groaning will be a way of life.  The question is not if we will groan, but how.

This may sound strange, but sickness can actually remind me of how marvelous our bodies really are.  Consider vertigo.  Here’s a metaphor do-it-yourselfers should appreciate: our sense of balance is maintained by tiny fluid-filled bubble levels mounted at right angles to each other inside our inner ears.  It’s a wondrous but delicate system.  When those little crystals get in the wrong place, their movement tells the brain that you’re moving more than you really are, despite the fact that your eyes say no.  The brain makes sense of the contradiction by creating the visual illusion of a spinning room.

There are fascinatingly complex processes at work inside of us all the time; we’re supposed to be able to take them for granted as we navigate through life.  But it takes only a tiny crystal–smaller than a grain of sand–or an even tinier virus to wreak occasional havoc on these bodies of ours. And over time, it seems to take less and less to knock us out of balance.

At this point, I have a choice.  I can groan in a way that is filled with grumbling and complaining, or in a way that is still able to marvel at God’s creation, creating a springboard from there to resurrection hope.  I am not so naïve as to think that I won’t grouse as the physical reasons for groaning multiply.  But that’s all the more reason to choose hope now, as a spiritual discipline through which God may graciously build strength of character (and help me keep my sense of humor).

More in the next post.