Last week I blogged about being sick and tired with how Black Friday is slowly infringing on Thanksgiving, a day set aside for gratitude and acceptance, not acquisition. How things change in a week! Now I am just plain sick and tired. It is that time of year. (And I am not talking about Advent, although that time of year begins this weekend, too!). It is cold and flu season, and on Tuesday I got hit with the worst bug I have had in years. This blog is, in fact, “overdue,” because I was supposed to write it on Tuesday, when all I could do was lay on the couch, passing in and out of consciousness while the pile of Kleenex reached monumental proportions around me.
Being sick has given me a lot of time to think. For instance, I have had time to think about why I got sick. Of course, there is a medical explanation for why I got sick, but I have been thinking more existentially and discovered that I got sick because I was too busy and overcommitted this fall. In fact, for the past three months I kept thinking to myself, “I am crazy to have taken on all of these roles and positions and responsibilities, but they all pay me money, they will all look great on my resume, and I actually like doing all of them.” And even more surprisingly to me, whenever I got overly anxious about how I would get it all done and had trouble sleeping at night, I could always truthfully say to myself, “I am not behind yet.” That little yet at the end of that sentence should have told me something about the inevitability that it would all come crashing down. After three months of not taking time for myself and of skipping workouts and pushing back bedtimes so that I could get just a little bit more accomplished, it is as if my body is yelling at me, much like a tempestuous two-year old, “I am not playing with you anymore!”
As my body has been yelling at me in its headachy, phlegm-y, shivery, and shaky way, I have also had time to think about what is most important in my life. When you are sick, it is as if all the extra detritus of life simply falls away, as there is only energy to for one thing: doing what you can to get better. Life gets stripped down to the bare necessities of life so that you can get through the day. Doing my hair and make-up? Too much time on my feet; a bath feels better. Checking e-mail and updating Facebook? Too much screen time; a nap is easier on the eyes. Cuddling on the couch with a cozy blanket and my two sons? Priceless.
In this week’s gospel from Luke, Jesus is warning his disciples about the frightening events that what happen when the Son of Man returns to earth. (The Son of Man was an apocalyptic figure in the Jewish tradition, and Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man in the gospels.) The Son of Man tells people, “When these things happen, stand up straight and raise your head, for God who will save you is near at hand.” Following this story, Jesus tells his disciples that they need to” be on guard” and “to think of more than eating, drinking and becoming successful, or the great will catch you by surprise like a trap.”
Getting sick this week made me stand up straight and raise my head (although only figuratively, as raising my head off the couch made me dizzy!). I realized that with regards to my overall well-being, I have not been on guard these past few months. I had not been taking care of myself, which meant that, in the end, I could not be much good to the people in my life who count on me. And if this is so about my physical and emotional health, how much more so the case about my spiritual health! Somehow I have gotten it all backward recently, worrying a lot about being successful and worrying very little about being on guard for the coming of the kingdom of God or working toward its birth.
I guess it is a good thing for me that it is that time of year–both cold and flu season and Advent! I have needed a wake-up call, as it turns out, in even more areas of my life than I was even aware of.
If you were to “stand up straight and raise your head,” what would you see in your life in a new way this Advent? Against what do you need to be on guard? What sort of thinking do you need to put aside so that you can enjoy a spiritually-focused Advent?