Lessons I Learned From the Flu

Thursday I woke up feeling tired and low energy, and it only got worse as the day went on. Late afternoon came and I found myself shivering under a heated blanket and knew that I was in for the worst. The stomach flu is unlike any other sickness; it is life consuming and utterly terrible. I honestly can only think of like one or two people in the world that I would wish it on.

I knew that the following days would be absolutely miserable and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing requires mental toughness like the flu. And there is nothing to make it more obvious that you are single and live alone than being stuck in bed without the things you need because there is no one there to do that for you (thank you, sweet Jesus, for my precious angel college student neighbors who brought me the necessities).

But these are not the lessons that I want to share. It may seem silly, and hopefully it doesn’t leave you feeling nauseous yourself, but I felt like I found some valuable takeaways from my time in darkness (haha, but seriously. I couldn’t get out of bed to turn on the light).

Sometimes you need a restart. This might be considered “TMI” but we all know what the flu does to us. I woke up after a lot of hours of “restarting” my body and thought, “Wow, there is literally nothing in me right now.” I think you could have snapped me right in half. Every time I have the flu I think, “this is the time I should start eating healthy.” LOL. But actually, the one redemptive thing about this satanic sickness is that we come out of it with none of those unhealthy things in our bodies – no caffeine, sugars, nothing. (See? Jesus really can bring beauty out of just about anything.)

Sometimes in life we need a restart. We need to “go to bed” and start a new day maybe even in the middle of a Tuesday. Sometimes we screw stuff up, we mess up relationships, we break things, we hurt people. And we don’t always get the opportunity to actually start over. But we can offer ourselves grace in the middle of the mess. And we can extend that to those around us too. I’ve said it before, but I don’t ever want to be a person that is known for being stingy with grace. And we have to be willing to offer that to ourselves as well, in abundance.

Sometimes we need to lay everything down and ask ourselves, “What kind of person do I want to be, right now, in this very moment?” I find this incredibly helpful. When I am entering a conversation where emotions are high, when I am tired or hungry or hurt and I have to do anything…these are the types of questions I need to slow myself down for and really ponder. And sometimes, when we have totally, completely, outrageously screwed things up –  we have to give ourselves room to start over. To apologize. To reintroduce. In this season I feel like I have forgotten who I am in a million ways and am reintroducing myself to me, and to everyone around me. Who even am I? What am I even good at? In these spaces there is so much grace and room for growth. We have to give ourselves permission to restart sometimes. To wipe the slate clean and begin again.

We are so incredibly desperate and needy for the Lord. I sat in church on Sunday (finally getting out of the house a bit) and tears fell gently down my face as we sang, “Heaven come down, we want to see Your Kingdom here.” Too weak to even stand for worship, I was frustrated with my own limitations. I realized that when I am healthy I think I can handle this life. I feel like I can manage it pretty much on my own. That is a false illusion. The Lord gently reminded me that the desperation, the neediness, the weakness I felt when I was sick, and am still feeling as I recover? That is the perfect picture of the level of our strength (or really our weakness) in relation to our need for the Lord. We need Him so desperately.

I was so sick and frail at one point this weekend that moving from my bed to the couch felt like the greatest win – and even that was practically impossible. I need the Lord like that, all the time. And it is not just when life is hard. We can feel like we’re good when things are good; there is nothing like a hard season to remind us of our desperate state. But we should be careful when things are good to not forget our deep, soul-need for Christ. The reality is that we are all like a recovering flu victim, so weak and dependent on the Lord for absolutely everything.

We are not in control of anything. Dangit. Why does this keep coming up? A friend and I realized that we even start to think we can control our own bodies. Like, I can decide how we are going to feel today. Nope. Sometimes our bodies decide for us that we are going to be sick, and that we will not get out of bed today, and that wow, all that stuff you thought you’d accomplish? Not today! And it truly sucks. It is an equally humbling and frustrating reminder that we are in control of so very little (if anything at all). Here is the thing, my dear friend preached on this recently: releasing control means finding freedom in so many ways. When we realize we do not and cannot control everything or anything, it gives us the exciting (and scary) opportunity to trust the Lord and His promises. And it means we get the chance to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Or, in the case of the flu, shirk all responsibilities and sleep for many, many hours.

More than anything, really, I came out of this sickness grateful for the little things. When leaving the apartment feels like the greatest victory, that is how you know it has been BAD. And guess what – it is okay to acknowledge that things are bad. Sometimes we are so stubborn about life being fine, but then you get the stomach flu and realize the deep truth that some things absolutely SUCK. Not everything is going to be great. We can release that expectation.

But after being in the crappy seasons (or even in the midst of them), we can rejoice in the fact that we are alive in this world. That we get to know Jesus. That we can breathe and walk and enjoy another day. Honestly I felt that Advent feeling of “JESUS, COME QUICKLY” in such a real way when I was lying in bed sick. But I am grateful to be here, to be able to write, to love, to learn. I’m grateful for friends who stick it out in the hard times, for family who wants to spend time together, for provision, and hope, and all the other gifts our sweet Lord grants us.

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I write to process, and sometimes send those thoughts out into the void. Passionate about Jesus and people and bringing those two together. Living in and loving Denver. Working with college students, who are the coolest. Seeking Jesus and JOY in everything.

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