[This story was initially featured in House2House Magazine…]
About a month ago, my husband and I were in the chiropractor’s office for an exam. My husband had been having hip and back pain for far too long. I too had a nagging little pain in my lower back, and at 6 months pregnant, I thought I ought to have it checked in case it would affect my ability to labor. Because Myles had been in chronic pain for many months, we fully expected his report to be worse and my report to be something minor. But instead, the scan of Myles’ back showed only one trouble area, and he passed his stress test with flying colors. I, on the other hand, was quite a different story. My back scan showed a whole slew of trouble spots, I was having muscle spasms on over half of my spine, and my stress test was… well, frankly, embarrassingly out of control.
As we stared at the results on the computer screen he chiropractor gave me a stern look. “I don’t want to worry you, but this is BAD. You have got to do something to lower stress in your life.”
He thought for a second. “Do you do yoga or meditation?”
“I pray,” I responded.
“Well, you need to get in touch with your Higher Power and seek some serious wisdom about this! Especially because stress has a major effect on your baby.”
There’s nothing like getting horrible results on a stress test to stress you out even more. I was a wreck the rest of the afternoon, overcome by anxiety, and deeply troubled that my little baby could be harmed by my state. That night, after Family Dinner, I pulled a few women into my bedroom, shared the results with them and tearfully asked them to help me “seek my Higher Power.” I felt like I’d already made a few hard choices at the beginning of the semester in order to maintain a lower stress level and keep the baby healthy and I was dismayed by the negative report. My friends graciously and patiently sought Jesus with me.
Later as Myles and I climbed into bed, I began to consider something I never would have considered on my own. I am currently in graduate school, and was quite determined to finish by the time our son is born at the end of April. This meant I was enrolled in two classes and I was attempting to write a Master’s essay, while working 20 hours a week, and maintaining my commitments to our community. I was convinced that I needed to have my degree completed before the baby came and had not even considered postponing graduation. But in the midst of seeking God’s voice, I felt that perhaps I should just focus on my classes and write my essay next semester instead.
To understand the weight of this decision, you should know that I am an extremely competitive and driven individual, particularly when it comes to academics. I have always pushed myself, and have always found much of my identity in my ability to excel in this arena. I graduated from high school before my peers and I finished my undergraduate degree – a double major and a minor with honors – by the time I was 20 years old. All the while leading 3 different campus ministries. But, I was also a far cry from healthy. I gained a lot of weight in college, suffered from a few different bizarre stress-induced sicknesses, and was an emotional wreck. On paper, my college years might impress someone, but my personal life was such a mess that I rarely think of them with fondness.
I fell asleep wrestling with myself and with God’s gentle, persistent voice.
There is no one in the world telling you that you have to finish in April besides yourself.
But this is not me… I always get done faster, not slower!
Your essay is already paid for because of your scholarship and you have five YEARS to finish it by the university’s standards.
But this is not my plan.
What is coming first in your plan, your ego or the growth of your child?
You’d think that last line would have gotten me, but if I’m honest, I woke up still wrestling. After getting ready for my day, I sat down with my bowl of granola and banana. I was leaning towards postponing my essay, but I still wasn’t 100% convinced it was the right thing to do. I opened my little prayer book to the Wednesday morning prayer, and tried to turn my heart towards Jesus. Here’s exactly what it said:
“Let us arise today in the Spirit’s power:
In place of fear, God’s strength to uphold me;
in the place of emptiness, God’s wisdom to guide me;
In the place of confusion, God’s eye for my seeing;
In the place of discord, God’s ear for my hearing;
In the place of froth, God’s word for my speaking;
To save me from false agendas that harm my body or soul.”
(The letters in bold were literally in bold in the prayer book.) The Lord doesn’t always give me answers in bold letters on page, but that morning He sure did! I knew instantly that my plan was a false agenda that was harming my body and soul and my baby’s body too. I knew that my “Higher Power” had indeed granted me wisdom for my life, and that I needed to lay down my plans and my ego.
Can I give a testimony? These days I am truthfully the least stressed I have been in years. My internal state is calm, and my body is healthy. This is quite possibly the first winter in my whole life that I haven’t been sick. Because I’m not spending every spare minute writing an essay, I have time to embrace a more sane lifestyle. And you know what? I have a bit of revival in my heart these days. I am hearing from God more clearly on a daily basis than I have in a long, long time. My spirit is more receptive to Him, and I am far more aware of His presence with me. I feel the desert places inside me springing to new life, and I find myself wondering how much of that desert was self-inflicted.
When I made the decision to postpone my graduation, my husband was so relieved he cried! I had no idea how much my drivenness was affecting not just my baby, but my marriage and my relationship with God. My false agenda was simply getting in the way of things that are the most valuable to me and the most valuable to eternity. That chiropractor didn’t know it, but my Higher Power really is the wisest.