My energy levels have been quite low yesterday and today because I took my last thyroid hormone pill on Friday morning and didn’t pick up the refill from the pharmacy until Monday night – so I missed three of my daily doses. I don’t normally think about it, but the rapidity with which my hypothyroid symptoms returned made me realize how dependent I really am on those little green tablets.
There’s a part of me that’s almost angrily frustrated about my need to take daily medication. I have this strong internal desire to be independent, self-sufficient, and essentially perfect, and here I have a daily reminder that on a basic physical level I’m rather more dependent and less self-sufficient than the average person: that a part of my body is incurably broken and I’ll be stuck treating the symptoms for the rest of my life. Every now and then I wonder if I could go off the medicine and miraculously have my thyroid kick back into gear, but every time I try I’m catapulted right back into the medley of incredible fatigue, poor memory, lack of concentration, and cold that define my hypothyroid experience. So dependent I am.
The silver lining is that I can see a few ways in which God might be using this defect in my body to bring about a greater good in my own life. I don’t think He caused it, because I don’t think He’s the author of disease and disorder, but I think He’s incorporating it into His redemptive work. At least, I hope He is, because I hope that He’s doing exactly that with every evil and broken thing in this world!
Maybe He’s using my physical weakness to teach me humility – because my intelligence, academic success, and mental quickness have left me prone to arrogance and pride, and this tangible flaw in my body (not just its appearance but its function, in some very crucial areas) serves as a reminder that my strengths and gifts are not of my own making, and that so much of who I am and what happens to me is outside of my control.
Maybe He’s using my physical need and dependency to teach me gentle patience – because it is so easy to become frustrated with my body, and that same part of me that reacts with frustration and impatience to my own needs is the part of me that responds to the needs and slowness of others with that same irritated reaction. If I could learn to treat my own body with grace and patience, taking its weaknesses into account and meeting its needs with kindness, it might be the first step toward treating my children with patience and kindness when they have inexplicable, irrational needs, or toward giving my coworkers time to process at their own pace instead of snapping at them for not understanding instantly.
Maybe He’s using my daily medicine to teach me daily gratitude – because life would be so radically different for me if I didn’t live in a time and a place where synthetic thyroid hormone replacement was readily available, or if I didn’t have the money to fill my prescriptions or visit my doctor. The chances are slim that I would have been able to become pregnant or carry pregnancies to term, and my impaired functionality would have hurt my career prospects and relationships as well. If I remembered that every morning when I swallowed that small pill – how everything I love and live for I could have missed out on without it, and how others who need it aren’t able to obtain it – it would make it hard to approach my life with resentment or indifference. The aura of genuine gratitude would suffuse it with beauty.
Without this physical brokenness (and this is probably even more true of the depression I struggled with off and on through high school, college, and especially during the first couple years of my marriage), it would be easy for me to rely solely on my intellectual strengths and never develop a heart of compassion or an attitude of tenderness toward the weak and needy. I can see the power of that temptation for me, and I’m glad for the events in my life that have showed me that it is a temptation, and not a good path to take. I’m reminded of a quote from the end of the book The Chosen, by Chaim Potok (and I don’t have the book myself so I had to find it on the internet, so hopefully it is correct!):
“‘I went away and cried to the Master of the Universe, “What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul!”‘”
If I’m going to be formed in the image of Christ, and carry on the task that He left us of reconciling the world to God, then like Him I’m going to need to live with compassion, righteousness, mercy – and most importantly, strength to suffer and carry pain. If I’m going to be loving people like Jesus loved them, then I’ll have to enter into their pain and their suffering and carry it for them as much as we can. How can I gain that ability unless I learn to meet my own suffering with humility and patience? I hope and pray that even though my suffering has been quite small in the greater sphere of things, it would still work to shape me in this way.
Funny how much can come from thinking about just one small daily pill 🙂