Salt water runs down my cheeks. I’m so fed up and ready to throw in the towel. Instead, I dutifully stare at my communion cup agonizing over the past.
Twenty years ago, I landed in a hospital bed where a doctor confirmed what my insatiable thirst, erratic nausea and constant exhaustion had already hinted at. I had Type 1 Diabetes. Luck of the genetic draw, I supposed, but my pancreas no longer produced the insulin needed to process glucose in my cells.
A different life began.
I pricking my fingers until they developed scars to test my blood sugar multiple times a day. I counted each and every gram of food I put into my mouth and injecting my arms, legs, and stomach with needles full of carefully calculated insulin four times each day. I’ll never know how many gallons of juice and milk I’ve consumed to elevate a plummeting blood sugar that could put me in a coma.
It was not how I’d hoped to spend my 20’s or any decade after.
There were unseen changes in me as well. Losses that took time to process. The loss of independence: Unlike my friends, I had to think harder about the preparation for my day as well as my meals. Less of life could be lived “on the fly.” The loss of mental freedom: Almost every hour, I had to think about what my blood sugar was doing and how to address it. The loss of dignity: I’ve had more than one person yell at me at a potluck, “Hey, can you eat that?” The loss of control: Though, I’ve done everything to control this disease, it still controls me. A recent seizure due to a blood sugar low cemented that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for my life and grateful to have managed this disease relatively well over the years, but rarely do I stop and consider the toll this has taken on my relationship with God. Today was different.
As the worship band played on, I sat holding my square communion bread and thimbleful of grape juice — seething in agony.
“How many times have I gone up for prayer and asked you to heal me, God?” I said under my breath. “How many times have I cried out to you with all the faith I possess?” Like a dam bursting with pressure, my sense of rejection poured out, “Why do you heal others and not me?”
I half expected Him to say, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” He didn’t.
Instead, he posed a gentle question.
“Julie, do you believe that I love you?”
“No, I guess I don’t.” The truth was a more welcome hazard than a Sunday School answer. More tears dripped down my face.
Without warning, an image of Jesus as I’d never seen Him before appeared. I saw his beautiful, lifeless, horrendously tortured body lying in front of my chair right there on the brown church floor. His body was in a crumpled heap — so close I’d have to step over him to go anywhere. His blood pooled in and around his frame and absorbed into the carpet — smelling of sweat and drops of vinegar.
I’d never seen him this way before. I’d always envisioned him as I’d seen in artwork — nailed to the cross, bowing his thorn-crowned brow. Always suffering, but at a distance. Distance can provide a comforting, safe escape from truth. Maybe from the depth of His love as well.
“My lifeless body is in front of you as near as the bread you hold,” the Lord boldly spoke to my heart. “My blood is as close as the cup in your hand. I gave them for you.”
He asked me again, “Do you believe that I love you?”
My thoughts turned from my own body towards his — undeservedly tortured and broken on my behalf. I could not deny so great and so personal a love.
There was no stopping the tears. I was reminded of a song we sing often in our church written by a songwriter in our congregation, “Love Divine.”
You gave Your crown
Put on our weakness
Your life laid down
Our wounded Healer
This is love
This is love divine
It goes on:
This is hope, this is hope
You are Hope, You are Hope
This is love, this is love
You are Love, You are Love
My questions remain unanswered, my thoughts undone and my circumstances unchanged. But, oh, how my view of Him is these desperate moments is widening and deepening.
His love overwhelms me in the midst of my desperation. He comforts me when hope seems distant. He breathes life into me when I cannot do this anymore.