We all have them or have experienced at least one in our lives – something that ails us or takes away our strength or vitality. An infirmity is often defined as a medical illness, and for some, it may be. But our vitality, our strength, is encapsulated in our very being, which expands far beyond physical boundaries.
As a matter of fact, many folks walking around with some of the most self-damning infirmities appear to be healthy in the physical sense.
We might run across others whose bodies are working overtime to betray them, but their sense of well-being is extraordinarily uplifting.
When Jesus saw [the man with the infirmity] and knew he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” -John 5:6 (RSV)Image located at: http://www.fireonyourhead.org/2011/01/26/what-are-you-receiving/
Do you get the idea, from this Gospel reading, that perhaps the man mentioned here had become a little too attached to his infirmity?
Refuse to be defined by your infirmity.
There is an elderly woman who I dearly love; yet, without fail, whenever I ask how she is doing, she goes into a diagnostic list of all of her aches and pains. Granted, I know her body is wearing down and was not designed to be eternal. But I also suspect her spirit is crying out, in need of attention for a lifetime of emotional aches and pains that were never soothed away.
Somehow, it’s more socially acceptable to define herself by her physical ailments. Or is it?
I know another woman who never complains about physical ailments. Instead, when asked how she is doing, she goes into a tirade of how terrible life is, how awful her children and grandchildren treat her, how her ex-husband of many decades ago is a horrible person, and how nothing ever satisfies her. She has no problem expressing all of the emotional turmoil that she’s held onto – and even nursed – for the majority of her life. Unfortunately, her social acceptance rides a fine line – simply because she refuses to live a current life and accept others around her based on trying to form new relationships.
Her infirmity of bitterness has defined her.
On some level, she even tries to become an infirmity to others.
I know a man who was diagnosed with lung cancer years ago and given a prognosis that should have placed him in the grave years ago. Granted, he has undergone many rounds of chemotherapy and experimental treatments – and he is open and honest about his concerns of leaving behind his family, or sometimes of going through another treatment. Yet, he has never let this infirmity define him. As soon as he is over being ill from treatments, he moves on with his life just as he would have otherwise. He doesn’t dwell on the cancer. He goes to work; he is active in his church; he gets in touch with friends to go biking; and he gets involved in other people’s lives when he becomes aware of a need.
You see, living defines who he is – regardless of which side of heaven he is on.
If you’ve ever dealt with a developing child, you’ll readily understand the importance of this philosophy. A little one is running along. He loses his balance because his desire to be as swift as lightening is only moderately matched by the budding development of his leg muscles. He slides across the gravelly ground, the flesh of his palms revealing faint bloody traces of the path his hands took when they tried to get his body back under control.
He looks down at his infirmity, but his first instinct is not to cry.
If you watch closely, his first glance is at the supervising adult into whose care he has been entrusted during this outing. If mom (let’s say, for example) gasps loudly and frantically runs to assist as though an ambulance should be alerted, Niagara Falls is soon to follow. If she, however, responds (more commonly like…let’s just say a dad, for argument’s sake) by calmly walking over, setting Junior back into an upright position, and lovingly brushing him off with a casual, “Ouch, bet that stung” (okay, a quick kiss of the damaged area could be called for here), 9 out of 10 times, the incident will pass quickly with the child’s thoughts traveling back to his original intent of flying like the wind.
Granted, life does become different. We are forever changed.
This example I gave doesn’t say the child’s needs aren’t attended to. Perhaps a squirt of Bactine or a Band-aid might be in order. But even these are momentary fixes. What the child needs, more than anything, is an assurance that this temporary infirmity doesn’t define his ability to move forward with intended activities – with life. Even stitches are impermanent, requiring a trip to the clinic, a few days of water protection, and a little clip-clip. In the end, a parent who would forbid the child from ever running again because of a few scrapes or a little scar would only serve to further damage that child’s sense of well-being.
When we allow every injury, every insult, every infirmity that has ever been cast upon us to rule the hours we’ve been given in each and every day, we have to accept responsibility for the damage that is being cast upon our own well-being.
Refuse to allow it to have dominion over you.
Refuse to allow others to cast you in that role.
Refuse to allow your vitality to be robbed when your life – here and beyond – can serve to be a well from which others can draw their being without ever taking from yours.
[Author’s Note: I think it’s imperative that I stress here that many deal with their infirmities publicly and positively, not only to personally take some level of control over them, but to encourage others with similar struggles. That is NOT allowing an infirmity to define such an individual; rather, that is the individual working to define the infirmity and to take charge of it for the sake of well-being. Peace & blessings to all who face such struggles head on – in that, you are already victorious!]