I’ve always left the doctor’s office discouraged. I haven’t felt good or strong in years, despite getting as much nourishment and rest as I can, and doctors can never figure me out. It’s always something “idiopathic,” which I think means, “All in your head.” Well, I finally met a good doctor, who listened, and told me I was in the wrong place. Find a neurologist, he said. What do neurologists treat? I didn’t know.
They treat Multiple Sclerosis. That one thing that one doctor wanted to test for over three years ago. That was the time that I didn’t listen. Multiple Sclerosis? No, not me. Multiple Sclerosis? Well, it could fit.
So I saw the neurologist, prompted by that week of headaches that never seemed to end, and I filled out her never ending questionnaire. She was a tiny, Chinese woman, with a bright smile, and a cheerful giggle. She tapped my knee with her toy hammer, and giggled. She tapped my knee with her tiny fingers, and giggled harder. My leg shot out like a horse in a derby, and I giggled too. I had never known why doctors play with those toy hammers before now.
I could barely make out “central nervous system,” and I don’t know what else she said, but those two letters, M and S, are still echoing in my mind. “Get an MRI, and if it’s abnormal, you come back to see me, and if not, you’re fine.” She popped out of her chair with an exuberant smile and showed me the door.
The past few weeks had been scary. Weak, tense muscles so that I couldn’t wave my palm branch or stand for the whole liturgy. Tingly patches in a few fingers and toes, and, awkwardly, my butt cheek. The right side of my lips sending electric shocks at a gentle touch. Trembling knees on the stairs. An unnerving twitch down my right side. Ringing in my ear, loss of balance. And those headaches that wouldn’t end. (Not everything at once, of course, lest you think I’m miserable!) Then there was the question: Could this be the rest of my life?
I have this pet imaginary future, in which I climb mountains and wrestle with my kids, and I’m a teacher and I show up to my classes to teach. But who would employ a girl who needs this many sick days?
A few hours after the visit with the neurologist, I was immersed in liturgy. It was Holy Week, and throughout that week, we kept returning to Abraham, climbing the mountain with his precious son and wrestling him onto the altar. God’s promise to Abraham, that son Issac, was Abraham’s future and his very life. When Abraham sunk into Sheol, what would his life mean, if not for Isaac, and then Jacob, and Jacob’s sons? God was asking Abraham to offer up his life.
But Abraham trusted God.
After I had heard the story a few times, I realized that God was asking me, too, to offer up my health, yes, my very life, to him. I said yes. Peace overflowed, and still overflows. It was a moment of faith, and I felt triumphant. I know, however, that my faith is far from complete. Yesterday’s moment of faith asks obedience of the rest of my life. Oh Lord, help me when I say no. Oh Lord, I am always saying no.
James says, “Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”
May my faith, as I face this possible diagnosis, and offer up my physical strength to God day by day, be made complete, too.