Today is a better day. Some days are just easier than others. This morning I woke up and my mind just felt less burdened. I somehow felt lighter. When the nurse came in to give me my medications, I was a little more talkative than I have been over the past few weeks. I was more giving. I was more kind.
And then there are the other days. On those mornings I wake up and try to keep my eyes closed as long as possible so I can somehow delay the harsh reality of my life. I might be wide-awake and thinking about 100 different things, but my eyes stay closed. They stay closed knowing that in a little while someone will be in to do what I used to do and took for granted: bathing, taking care of my personal hygiene, picking out my clothes and dressing me, exercise my body, and so many other things that I do not care to include in this writing.
What’s really bad is when my regular caregiver has a day off or calls out sick. On those days I’ll get someone who doesn’t know my routine very well, or, I may get a complete stranger from a nursing agency that I have to teach step-by-step how to take care of me. A regular 40 minute routine can then take up to an hour. On top of that, it’s another stranger seeing me naked. Those days can be very discouraging, and in fact, I call them my “dark” days.
Prior to today, it seems like I’ve had quite a few dark days consecutively. In fact, I have more dark days than up days, in general. I just need to be honest. Maybe that will change in the future, but for these first three years it feels like there’s been a lot of suffering and darkness.
Romans 8: 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
I’ve been studying all the passages in the bible that mention the word “spirit” and I’m gaining some deep convictions about what it means to live in the realm of the spirit. Romans 8 clearly teaches that living by the flesh brings death —and I believe death for a living, breathing person is synonymous with depression, hopelessness, anger towards God, and fear of the future. When I live in death, I feel like God isn’t listening to me.
Romans 8 also teaches that living by the spirit brings life and peace. Isn’t that what everyone strives for during their days on this earth? I was striving for it relentlessly as an able-bodied person, but using the wrong methods to try and achieve my goal. I thought life and peace would come through worldly success, affluence, perfect appearance, or a relationship. But even now, as a disabled person, I am asking myself, what does it mean to live by the spirit and gain life and peace? And how can I avoid living by the flesh and feel the effects of being dead while still breathing?
Many of those days when I wake up feeling sick of my life and am in pain, the last thing I want to do is read the word of God and pray. So what do I do? Open up Facebook and look at my friends lives and live vicariously through them. Usually this makes me very, very sad. Or, I get consumed with news articles about the election. This usually makes me very, very mad! I’ve also spent time reading celebrity gossip websites just because I’m nosy and bored. I wonder why they got rich and I didn’t. And I’m not just saying that to be funny. I really think that sometimes.
The way I live on my dark days is what I call living by the flesh. I’m not praying to God and asking him to guide me into positive activities throughout the day. I’m not asking him to fill me with love for my neighbors so that I may be an encouragement to those at my facility who are worse off than I am. I’m not asking God to help me trust in his plan for my life rather than desperately seeking to understand and question it myself (Proverbs 3:5).
And what about living by the spirit? Some of the spirit versus I’ve studied call us to do certain things in order to be more connected to the spirit. I believe the spirit is indwelling in us at all times if we are truly Christians. But these verses speak to me personally about the spirit. Of course this is just a few verses, but there are so many out there that give us a roadmap to life in peace.
Galatians 5: 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
Galatians 5: 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Colossians 1:9 We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way…
Ephesians 6: 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
How do I walk in the spirit and stay in step with the Spirit so I will not gratify the desires of my flesh? (And living by the flesh includes envying the lives of my friends; burying myself in negative media; questioning God’s will for my life…). Through prayer. I keep up with spirit through prayer. Colossians 1 says we ask God to fill us with knowledge of his will through prayer.
And we not only need to pray to God, we need to listen to him by reading his word. And for me, the prayers can’t just be on a whim. I need to have intentional prayers. For me, and I’m just speaking from personal experience, that means time set aside specifically to pray. Don’t get me wrong, I have prayers on a whim all day long, but I also need time set aside to give to God. Even when I’m down. Even when I’m gloomy. Even in the midst of those dark days.
And what is the reward?
Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.