Passion 2016, an existential crisis, and divine intervention

It’s been a year since I went to Passion 2016 and over a year since I found out that I have Crohn’s disease. I was officially diagnosed December 23rd. I don’t remember that Christmas. I do remember posting this on my personal Facebook page (scroll past if you’d rather have no idea what Crohn’s does:

“Well, the doctor is 100% sure, so I’m making an official post about it: I have Crohn’s disease. For those that don’t know and only want the short version, it’s a disease that causes ulcers in the intestines. That means I’m pretty constantly sick.
I’m not going to change any of my plans due to this but I may be a little more slow than I have been (not on here, though; rest assured you’ll see my opinion in your newsfeed as much as ever).
I thought I’d let everybody know on here. There shouldn’t be much change but, for those of you who see me often in person: if I have a pained look on my face it’s probably not your jokes (or it might be, for some of you…)
I figured you guys, especially those of you who tend to read, like, and comment on my stuff more often, deserved to know. Thanks.”

Everything was a blur of pain. Thinking was like trying to walk in a dense forest at midnight wearing sunglasses. That is, I would hit things occasionally, but it was usually the wrong thing. I remember being profoundly angry.

I had already chosen to sign up for the Passion 2016 conference that would fall from the second to the fourth. It’s strange that it was a year ago – it feels like a lifetime, but also yesterday. Despite feeling absolutely horrible I went ahead and made the trip.

In retrospect it seems like an incredibly odd decision. I certainly shouldn’t have been up to it.

At any rate I got there and discovered to my intense frustration that not only could I not even stand up the entire time for worship, I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes at a time. Adding that to my confusion and anger at the situation of having Crohn’s in the first place only made things worse. I was angry, and in my anger, I actually demanded that God show himself and explain why he’d done this to me.

If I’m being honest I was hoping for Morgan Freeman to mysteriously appear, give me a quick object lesson, and then cure me.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

What happened instead was that each of the speakers on the third, a year ago today, all spoke about suffering and how it brings us closer to God. That wasn’t the main focus of any of the first speakers, but it kept coming up, and finally I was sitting there as everyone else was worshiping, angry tears on my face, and I said fine. I realized in that moment that I had always been running from God, ignoring what was right in my face.

Anyone who knows me personally would tell you I can come across as supremely self-confident. The ones who don’t like me very much would probably use the word arrogant. Pride has always been my downfall, and my pride made me incapable of having anything approaching a relationship with Christ. I called him Lord but internally I held onto numerous things which kept me from Him.

So, a year after I angrily demanded that God explain himself, I’m actually glad that I have an incurable disease. It’s a constant check on my pride. I didn’t give myself Crohn’s. There’s no way I could cure myself of pride. It was God’s power and strength in my life that called me to something better than physical health. Calling is the right word, but it’s not complete. God didn’t just let me wallow in my own nonsense, He forcefully pulled me out of it, and I am grateful for that. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I was struck by the power of the Lord.

I can’t do anything but praise Him. Thankfully, I can actually stand up for longer than one song these days.

My journey to where I am today hasn’t been an easy one, but as I start 2017 and look back on 2016’s beginning, I am thankful for the support of friends and family. My parents, especially, were incredible, taking care of me when I was useless, putting up with my angst. Their help was irreplaceable.

 

Have a good 2017, everybody!

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