Lisa Joy Samson

Is there ever a gift to our afflictions?

Eyes rolling? I don’t blame you. I never understood any of that until today. Just a couple of hours ago, actually. And maybe only for a bit of time. I think we all know how that goes. You see, there’s so much I don’t understand here on earth no matter how much I try. I think I get “the answer” about some existential/theological/philosophical pondering and it’s good for a day, a week, maybe even a month or two, but the quandary comes back, usually through another door, another experience, another person. I look at it askance, like it’s some slimy old thing with warts and bulging eyes and a very weird hat, that, quite frankly, needs to GO, and I say, “What, for the love of all that’s holy, are YOU doing here again, you slimy old thing? And please get rid of that HAT, okay? I thought we’d already discussed all this, and you’re back? Go! Just, just get out of here already!”

The thing sits down. To set the stage please know the hat has a gigantic tennis-lady bill with dripping letters that spell out PHYSICAL AFFLICTION. Ugh. Nasty thing. Bodily suffering in general feels too hard to me. I know too many people with chronic pain, intense episodic pain, auto-immune disorders, cancer, and really hard, debilitating physical disabilities and ailments that put anything I deal with to shame.

But let me tell you about my thing because that’s all I can really speak to from personal experience.

Since the age of three, asthma has followed me around the planet. I was given a brief period of respite about three years ago and it was wonderful. For two years I didn’t renew my inhaler prescription and I finally experienced what it was like not to even carry one in my purse. I did a lot of intense physical activity around that time, too. I was even smoking my requisite 5 – 7 American Spirits a day. I thought doing tai chi and martial art was responsible, but when the asthma came rolling back, I still participated in those activities. What happened? Animals began collecting in our home. Miles my old cat had never bothered me, but then came Zeus, my dog. I’m allergic to dogs. Then, I kid you not, we ended up with SIX MORE CATS. Simply put, I was so tapped into the vibration of being rescued after my divorce, I rescued anything that I thought needed it. My body began to protest with seven animals under the roof of our 1,200 square foot dwelling. At one point, I could barely walk around. I remember one afternoon in particular at The Home Depot. I leaned on a cart and took my inhaler at least five times just to make it out with some trash bags, light bulbs, and who knows what else. Thank God I didn’t have a heart attack.

One night, my daughter was so worried, she urged me to go to a hotel room, which I did. I didn’t have health insurance and was too frightened of the future to spend my own money on healthcare. Fear will put you in quandaries you never knew existed until you look them in the eye.

My personal life was difficult at that point, too. After the devastation of a divorce, not knowing how to “adult” on my own, because I never had to, I was wide open for influence. I had so many opposing opinions as to who I should and shouldn’t be, I literally couldn’t breathe. There was no air I could claim. I sought God, told myself all the positive thinking things I could (my FB pictures are a really good record of my struggle because the more positive I was, the more I was actually struggling), and I shaved my head. Not all people who shave their heads are crazy, but some people shave their heads because they are heading in that direction and they’re crying out, “For God’s sake, help me!”

Consider Britney Spears. Unfortunately, most people at that point either think you’re bold and wonderful (bless ‘em, Lord, and I mean that!) or snicker behind your back and call you crazy.

So there I was, bald, breathless, and baffled. Great, huh?

Thankfully, God ripped me out of my regularly scheduled broadcast and my daughter and I hit the road in a leaky old RV. I learned so much, healed greatly, and realized who I am and what matters most, and yet, still, the asthma has hung on. As I write, it’s pretty bad. I’m praying for a windfall and good medical insurance so I can treat this bugger like it should be treated. But still, I have asked God, like the Apostle Paul, over and over again, to take this thorn from me.

Nope.

If you read any of the Mind, Body, Spirit kind of books like I do (I believe all truth is God’s truth) you may have come across the concept of manifestation, that our thoughts and beliefs manifest themselves physically in our lives. Many people have written about our physical ailments in ways that tell us we are holding onto various beliefs that bring us pain, and our bodies physically exhibit it. I know this is true in some cases. Like the person who refuses to quit smoking when they have emphysema, or those who refuse to modify their diet and exercise to help. Clearly they have a reason to keep themselves down. Perhaps they want the pity of others because it feels like love and affection; perhaps they don’t feel like they have anything to offer the world in and of themselves (most likely because someone who should have nurtured their wonderfulness told them they would never amount to anything) and their ailment is something to hide behind their own disbelief in their God-given gifts and talents. They may have manifested illnesses as a child to keep an abusive parent from hurting them even more. I don’t know. Seriously. I do not know and therefore I can’t judge any of it. We all have coping mechanisms and wounds upon wounds. I love others for who they are and any coping mechanism!they use that keeps them alive even one more day to find out how much God loves them, so be it. I will share that love by being honest about my own mechanisms and not pretending like a famous fitness guru known for “tough love” that I even begin to know where they have been or what they are going through. How can anybody know that for another unless they have been beside them from day one and have never left their side? Only God has done that. Do you see?

So I kept asking God to reveal to me why the asthma wouldn’t go away. I mean, I knew it could. I had already experienced it leaving, so clearly this wasn’t something that had no chance of being alleviated. It was my fault, my belief system, my inability to let go of it. I somehow needed it, right? It was protecting me, right? And all that manifestation legalism sat down next to the slimy old thing the hat. Because, friends, blame comes in all forms of spirituality, until we finally stand up and say, “God loves me just as I am!” But we seem to love burdening ourselves with extra burdens, do we not? I love that Jesus told us to cast all our cares on Him and baby, I am learning to do just that. Take it, Lord! Just, take it!

This morning, I was driving back from breakfast with my local soul buddy after talking about this very thing. At a red light I heard, “Take a drive through Garden of the Gods, I have something there for you.” God doesn’t need to tell me twice to drive through that magical place. As I was rolling through experiencing as usual the ethereal beauty of the place, the mystical qualities wrapped up in its ancient nature, I ended up at an overlook with the most precious view of Pikes Peak a lady could want. I walked out to an outcropping of red rock and sat beneath the pristine blue of the Colorado sky.

“Let’s talk about your asthma.”

Okay, Lord.

“It’s exactly like you said with your friend. This keeps you compassionate, Lisa. Your ailment makes it easy for you to have mercy and kindness on those who suffer.”

I’ll be honest with you. In the past, I have not had much time for people who complain all the time about their ailments. And when I was breathing free and clear, I was absolutely, 100%, the least compassionate I have ever been in my entire life. I was still all about my own inability to get my feet beneath me in a drastically new life and anybody else’s troubles had no room next to my own. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that healing isn’t a one way pathway, but two. Heal and be healed. Be healed and heal. Doing one without the other is like taking half a pill and wondering why you still have a headache.

“It hasn’t been taken from you because you are seeking to be the most loving person you can be. This helps you be that.”

Then, let it be, God, I thought. I accept this thing as a gift, and I will keep it if it means I can look upon others and grieve the losses their diseases, their disabilities, their discomforts give them, if I can look at them with kindness and compassion, not casting the finger, EVER, of judgment, condemnation and the words, “Well, if you would just _____.”

I looked out over the few houses in the valley beneath me, their second stories popping up between outcropping of giant red rocks and boulders and the deep green of evergreen trees. And for the first time in my life (I received this ailment at three years old), I said, ‘Thank you, God. Thank you for this asthma. If it gives me the gift of the compassion I want. I bless it.’

Because, dear friends, I never want to be that condescending lady again who sees others’ struggles only light of her victories. Jesus didn’t come to condemn, He came to heal. And while I’m not performing miracles of healing like He did, the very least I can do is sit by those who are suffering and say, “I love you. Just as you are. You are safe with me. Just as you are.”

What a gift is this life we are given. What a gift can be the infirmity that allows us to see, really see the people around us and love them utterly, exactly where they are. It doesn’t matter if they’re helping themselves or hurting themselves further, that’s not my place to judge. I can choose to release all of that because the truth is, I don’t know! I don’t know anything about why they are suffering, what that suffering feels like, and what it could possibly mean to them. But God knows, and knows in fullness and it’s a Holy business, an intimate journey between Creator and Child.

What do I want my business to be? I want to go about the business of loving God and loving my neighbor as myself. And if I can have compassion on myself for my infirmity that seems to keep me from being judgmental and cruel, I can certainly have compassion on others, for I do not know the interior gift their suffering might be bestowing on them in the development of their own loving nature, their own godliness.

Today, I’m simply grateful for being allowed to see why these old lungs of mine are a gift and welcome them into my life. What a day, eh? I pray yours is just as filled with wonder as mine.

Update:

As I read this now, three years later, I have come to see that the gift of my continued asthma is one I gave myself. Even in the reading of the loving conversation I had with my Creator, God never once said, “I gave this to you, Lisa.” I’m no longer of the opinion that God bestowed it on me, but that I took it back on to protect myself from my own inabilities to love. I took on a dog needing a home who has taught me unconditional love in a fur-covered, four-legged body, and from that I was given the gift of compassion. I still have Zeus. I still have asthma. And my compassion has grown as God has walked with me through the valley of airlessness, panic, and the coolness of a finally caught breath.

The truth is, my asthma would go away if my dog was rehomed. But I love him. I love having Zeus beside me, smiling, wagging his tail and giving me that kind of beautiful love only a dog can bestow. I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I choose steroid inhalers even though I’m an alternative health believer. I choose this way of living simply because I love my dog.

Isn’t that just lovely?

And in the realization of this, I still look upon others who struggle, and all their choices, and who am I to judge? There are many who would tell me to get rid of my dog, and to some degree they have a point. But what they don’t have is the love I hold in my heart for this beloved creature.

Love to you all. However you are experiencing your body and mind today. God loves us all, just as we are. And that, my friends, is the deep down, precious truth, no matter where we find ourselves and how we feel.

(c)2020 Lisa Joy Samson 
https://lisajoysamson.com