Think of a favorite place; a place where you feel peace saturate your soul. Do you have such a place? I have friends who will think of the vast view at the top of a mountain trail while others will speak of whispy first-light smoke floating on a river surface where they stand waist deep with fly fishing rod in hand.
It’s that place where you leave the pressures and struggles of the world behind and feel an uncanny calm as though everything is alright and life is good. Do you find it standing on the 17th tee, lying on white beach sand, swaying on the porch swing watching an approaching thunder storm?
Peace. Do you find it in opening a brand new book and hearing the binding crackle as you settle into your favorite spot on the couch? Is there a fresh cup of coffee sitting on the end table? Are you alone for an entire afternoon free from demands? Is that your place?
When is the last time you went to your place? I hope it wasn’t long ago or is coming up on your calendar soon. We all need a regular peace soaking. One of my favorite peaceful places is beside my sister’s pool in Central Florida.
I remember aching for peace when I was so sick before my transplant. I wanted so badly to be sitting by my sister’s pool where the problems and stresses of life just melt away. Some of the happiest times of my life have included that green, plastic lounger in the corner of her screen house. We’ve had several family vacations here. I’ve been here when Josh’s college baseball team was playing its Spring training ball and I’ve enjoyed times with just my sisters and dad. Robin and I have spent a couple vacations with just the two of us here. Good things and good memories, for me, have come in abundance here until my last visit in May of 2011 when I began my spiral into chronic illness.
Do you realize that your chronically ill friends and family are desperate for peace? I remember my sister Gail posting a question on her Facebook status asking her friends what they thought heaven was like. I described her poolside.
When you’re chronically ill you cannot find an escape. Well, I couldn’t anyway. When I tried changing my surroundings, my disease came with me with all of its reminders. I carried two bags with machinery in them to help me breathe. I had to make sure my bag of prescriptions was always accessible. Going to bed was a process, waking up was a process and showering was a process. When you are chronically ill, nothing is easy. You can’t just “go for a drive.”
How can you help your chronically ill friend? For me, it was a gift when friends would treat me like I was just a normal guy and talk to me about normal things. Friends who let me talk about my illness if and when I wanted refreshed me. I remember when my friend Peter invited me to go to a movie, picked me up and laughed with me even when I had to leave to go to the bathroom several times during the show. Even though I think I fell asleep for part of it, it meant the world to me to be included. I don’t think he even mentioned my illness.
I also liked it when friends didn’t try to protect me from problems they were having but shared them with me like they did before I was sick. I know they didn’t want to burden me further with their challenges but I truly wanted to be there for them. One of the only things I could do was pray … and I prayed a lot.
Last year on this date, I doubted I would ever make it back to my chair in the corner of my sister’s screen house, poolside. This morning I returned to my spot with not a breathing machine in sight and my new liver functioning perfectly. By the grace of God and the gift of my donor, I sat soaking in peace once again.
If you are chronically ill, please don’t give up. I totally understand when you feel like you’ll never return to that place of normalcy. I get it. Please don’t give up. Please call or email if you need someone to talk to or pray with.
If you love someone who is chronically ill, please don’t let their disease define them in your mind and behavior. Beyond the machines, the medicines and changes in appearance, is the same person you love.
Finally, if you are fortunate enough to be healthy, I beg you to visit your peace place regularly. Trust me, you need a regular dose of peace.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7