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The Spirituality of Illness: between Ascension and Pentecost

May 5, 2008

What I never really comprehended before is that waiting is the constant companion of illness. Waiting for appointments; waiting for advice; waiting for insight, for cure, for healing; for it to be over. Waiting to die.

Ours is not a culture attuned to waiting.

The first serious indications of something amiss came to me last September. It was then six weeks for confirmation, a further 4 weeks to finalise tests and then 2 more months to see a surgeon. From there I’m waiting for an appointment for surgery which will be some as yet uncertain time between June and August. A worse case scenario is a year from diagnosis to surgery. But maybe more. The thing is, I don’t know.

In the meantime, no football, no running, no cycling. Even a family treasure hunt with church friends had to be carefully negotiated. And through it all there is no visible sign whatsoever that anything is wrong. All of life is put on hold.

What’s more, in all that time, the knowledge of this condition is always top of the mind. Only very rarely does it slip back into the shadows where it can be forgotten about until a date is confirmed. This is what I must live with. Every day. Until something is done about it.

So I wait.

I blogged about this kind of thing before, back in 2006, back when it was more theory. This, now, is the test.

I re-read this post again recently, at the appropriate season of the church’s year, and in an appropriate season of my life. Back then I was musing on the interim period of 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost, the post-resurrection equivalent of Holy Saturday. now I’m living those 10 days when it must have seemed to the disciples that the heavenly project plan had been derailed.

Back then I suggested that there was a colossal act of faith required to believe that there was as much spiritual formation happening in the time of apparent abandonment as on the day the Spirit descended and Peter preached. Now I know it’s true, when I can’t travel, I can’t take appointments to speak anywhere and energy levels are variable. Now I pray that faith is necessary and God is sufficient.

This therefore is MY season, between Ascension and Pentecost.

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