When Your Brave Runs Out
By Joyce Reed
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. (Philippians 2:1-2, The Message)
In March 2016, I went in for my first colonoscopy. I was experiencing no pain or any other symptoms, so imagine my surprise when the doctor found something. She diagnosed me with Crohn’s Disease. This began a nine-month medical journey that involved homeopathic treatments, two more colonoscopies, lots of blood works, two CT scans, and the eventual decision that I should have a right hemicolectomy on December 28, 2016.
The recommendation to have surgery came just after Thanksgiving. I came home from the doctor’s office relieved that a course of action was set, but also scared. The second CT scan raised concerns that I truly might have cancer lurking deeper in my colon’s tissue. As I sat in silence, listening for God’s still small voice, I had the strong impression that I could not do this alone. That I needed my faith community. That I should risk being vulnerable and invite others to walk beside me, sustaining me with prayer, as I approached surgery.
During Advent, I shared a weekly email with family and friends as I explored what Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love meant to me during this journey. Many thanked me for my transparency. Others spoke of how being reminded to believe in miracles renewed their hope. And many shared their own stories of seeking courage amid struggle. I was overwhelmed by the deep connection I was experiencing through the body of Christ. A blanket of peace wrapped around me, and fear and anxiety for what was to come fell away. Even as I was being wheeled to surgery, I was completely calm and felt cushioned in prayer.
Until I came home. Three days after coming home from the hospital, I ran out of brave. All my fears and anxieties came crashing back in a thunderous wave. I was exhausted, in pain, and sleeping in a chair because it hurt too much to get in and out of a bed. My body functions hadn’t returned to normal and I was scared that I might have to go back to the hospital. The only prayer I could seem to manage was, “Jesus.” But again, in the silence, the Spirit nudged me to reach out. To bridge my isolation with human contact. And I found the energy to text three of my prayer partners. In less than 24 hours, my mood and my body began to shift positively towards healing once more!
Unexpected health challenges often hit at the core of who we are. And while we often discuss the physical vulnerabilities, too often we don’t speak of the emotional and spiritual vulnerabilities we must traverse as well. The temptation is to isolate yourself. To tough it out on your own. But my recent experience taught me otherwise. God invited me to share my fragility and my need for others. To let others be brave for me. I was invited to surrender my pride, my strength, my ego for humility, weakness, and love. Author Brené Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” I am thankful for the invitation to deeper vulnerability, and for what God is revealing to me about my profound need for others.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, don’t let me be afraid to share my fears & anxieties with others. Allow me to see that being vulnerable leads to hope, and deepens my relationship not only with you but also with my brothers and sisters in God’s family. Amen.
Joyce Reed is an American Baptist Pastor and Missionary. She and her husband David serve as Regional Missionaries to Iberoamerica & the Caribbean in the area of Spiritual Formation & Renewal. For more information about the Reed’s, visit https://www.internationalministries.org/teams/91-reed-david-and-joyce