“…take hold of the life that really is life.” This phrase leapt from the page this morning as I was reading in I Timothy. The writer is actually admonishing those who are wealthy not to be absorbed by their riches, but to “do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,” so that they may “take hold of the life that really is life.”
Good advice, but what, I wondered, what does this pithy phrase mean for someone who is not only not wealthy, but who is also not healthy? What does it mean for someone with a chronic illness to live “life that is really life”? What does it mean for me to live fully in the midst of numerous health constraints.
Well, for starters, I think it means to live without constantly comparing my life to the lives of those who have no health issues and then feeling small and inconsequential because I’m not able to do what others are able to do. Sounds easy enough, but, believe me, it is not, and it’s all too easy for me to over-do simply to “prove” I am really alive and living! That over-doing, of course, only leads to greater fatigue and then to a greater sense of unworthiness.
I think this little phrase means something, too, about acceptance of what is rather than experiencing a constant undertow of longing for what isn’t. I learn so much from watching the trees outside my window. Today they are lushly green and dappled with sunshine as they lift and fall on gentle breezes. But not so long ago, they stood gray and bare in frigid winter winds. Always, always, they simply are, staunch and solid and accepting, no matter what winds blow through their branches. I am so grateful for “my” trees.
And this gratitude, I’m convinced, is also such an important part of living a “life that really is life.” Gratitude, for my trees, and for so many gentle and good and beautiful things around me, opens my eyes, my physical eyes and my soul eyes, to an awareness of life in all its richness, all its beauty, all its holiness. Gratitude leads me to a quiet place where I am able, with greater ease, to say an accepting “yes” to my life-with-limitations.
No, those of us with chronic illness cannot be as active as we’d like to be, we cannot do all we’d like to do. But, yes, we can live “life that really is life”—knowing our worth without measuring ourselves against others, accepting what is with tree-like grace, and opening our hearts to a thankfulness that always renews and refreshes our souls.