I’ve got a very highly unpleasant migraine tonight (of course, when is a migraine pleasant?) and I’m frustrated that I can’t be as productive as I’d like.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s OK that I want to get the desk cleaned up and do the laundry. Unfortunately, I tend to go quickly past frustration about the migraine into feeling worthless because I’m not “producing”.
Why is this? My counselor and I have had lots of conversations and prayers about this issue. I’m making progress because each round I go with the “productivity” monster seems to be shorter and less intense than the last time. I just wish I could “get over it” completely!!
So, back to the “why” question. Why do I feel “lazy” if I’m not up and doing things because of pain? Spending 22 years of my life training to become a doctor and then practicing medicine can explain part of it. It’s been very easy for a large part of my life to get my self-worth from my academic success and then my career. And, in medical school and residency, any sign of “weakness” was seriously frowned upon. We’d write medical excuses for our patients to miss work so they could allow their bodies to heal, but we’d work unless we were half-dead. Calling in sick was seriously discouraged – not necessarily by our instructors, but by our peers. If I called in sick, it meant that someone else had to do my work. And our workloads were plenty heavy without having to add someone else’s work to the mix.
For much of my life, I knew that I was a good person because I worked really hard. And my M.D. was proof of that. Then, when I quit working, I reverted to making the state of my house and even the state of my children as evidence of my worth.
It’s really just been in the last few years that I’ve faced up to the fact that God loves me because He created me, not because of what I do. I could have said those words a long time ago, but they weren’t real to me at the time. Having been out of medicine for four years has made me deal with this reality. God is just not impressed by what I can do on my own. I’ve cried over not being able to “use my gifts” or “minister” like I used to. But, God doesn’t need me to work hard on my own.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 records what Paul said about his own weakness:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God wants to use me, but in His way, not necessarily in mine. God’s power is made perfect in my weakness. Yes, I am weak. I am in pain, and I can’t work because of it. And God is completely aware of this – and, apparently, is OK with it because He hasn’t seen fit to change the situation.
My value to God is not because of what I do. God values me just because He made me. And Jesus died for me for the same reason. God still wants me to serve Him. But, He wants me to serve Him – not me – and when I’m doing things (working, cleaning house, whatever) to remind myself that I’m a good person, I’m not truly serving God with all my heart.
Yet once again, I’m back to the simple truth that I need to take my eyes off myself and put them on God. I must reorder my priorities into His priorities. If practicing medicine isn’t part of the plan, then that’s OK. If God wants me to serve Him by knitting socks and praying for people, that’s just fine. Practicing medicine is not inherently more valuable than these other activities. I want to practice medicine, but God must have another plan. And I need to ask God what He wants, not ask myself what I want.
I can write all this stuff down, but I still have a hard time believing it. Changing a lifetime of incorrect thinking isn’t easy. But, I can trust the Bible. I choose to believe that “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
And one of these days, what I feel might actually match up with what I believe.