These are just a few of the ways M.S. is defined in my life. Though its official term is Multiple Sclerosis that is not what it means for me. Please allow me to explain.
Eleven years ago in August an odd thing happened to me. As I was driving to church, I took a sip of coffee and noticed that the left half of my top lip felt numb. I found that odd, but didn’t think much of it. However the next day the numbness had spread a little farther up my face. After a few days it had covered the whole left side of my body. I was unable to walk without help, smell with my left nostril, taste with the left side of my tongue and my vision was double. My husband was out of the country on a mission trip so I found someone to watch my three small children and drove myself to the Dr. That was the beginning of a lot of tests, but the first stands out the most to me. It was a defining moment in my life. The Dr. told me that my symptoms seemed a lot like M.S. and she sent me to the lab. As the cheery nurse who was taking my blood asked what I was there for I had to choke back tears and tell her I was being tested for M.S. a disease I knew almost nothing about. As I got in the car to head home, the tears did come, but so did a resolve, as well as a verse from Job. Chapter 1 vs 21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” I spoke it out loud and meant it. I would praise Him no matter what. That brings such amazing security, to see how your heart responds in a trial, to be able to trust my Sovereign God completely even if He takes away my functionality.
It was a very humbling time for me, having to rely on others to do simple tasks. I have no trouble helping others, but letting them help me is hard. To lie there and watch as someone folds your clothes and cleans your kitchen is not easy, but it is very educational. During that time God gave me several verses to really cling to.
1 Peter 1:6-7 In all this (my eternal inheritance in heaven) you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
1 Peter reminded me that trials are short lived, at least in light of eternity and that trials are given to prove my faith. I was encouraged that by simply enduring through I was bringing the result of praise, glory and honor. My faith was being strengthened. 2 Corinthians reminded me that when I am weak I give God far more credit because I realize I can’t do it alone. It is a great relief to be able to boast in your own weakness – but it is a hard lesson to learn.
I continued on with a myriad of tests. Every other Dr. was either baffled or not confident enough to diagnose me. In the midst of all the tests my feeling, vision, taste and smell were slowly returning. My limp was the last to leave, but by January it was gone as well. The last Dr. I saw said “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but if it happens again come back.”
When I went home I wrestled with the temptation to worry about if whatever “it” was would come back. To this day I have not experienced anything close to the severity of that attack. I have had bumps along the way, minor episodes when my vision goes double, or an aching in my head returns, or extremely irritating and uncomfortable sensations occur on the left side of my body and occasional “fuzzy thinking”. I have always been functional and taken those episodes as reminders of God’s amazing grace and that each day is a gift.
Every few years an episode would be a bit more than annoying and I would be prompted to go back through the gamete of tests again. But I got the same results “We don’t know what’s wrong with you.” Through those times there was a bit of frustration but not for the reasons you might expect. You see, in all of this, from the outside I looked just fine. No one could tell if I was doing well or not. So when an episode would hit, it was easier for me to just pretend all was well instead of go into a long explanation of what has happened and how I feel but don’t know what is wrong with me. I was never frustrated by the symptoms themselves, because I have such a peace that God is in control of my life and will grant me the grace I need for each situation.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Has proven true in my life. When I am tempted to be anxious I turn to God and He grants peace that is beyond my ability to explain. His sovereign Hand that is working all things together for my good and His glory is such a comforting thing to rest in.
This year God brought a new couple to our church, and it was through them that He finally led me to a diagnosis. I had an episode in April and began speaking with my new friend. As I explained my symptoms she nodded her head in understanding and would finish my descriptions of certain things. It was the first time I had ever had someone truly understand as I explained how I was feeling. She insisted I go see her Dr. Honestly, I didn’t want to, more tests and a dead end weren’t my idea of the best way to spend my summer. But there was this prompting on my heart to go, so I did.
This Doctor was more thorough than any I have ever seen before and he was determined to figure it all out. So back to the lab, the ophthalmologist, the main campus of Cleveland Clinic for more tests than I’ve ever had before, and the results are in – after all this time, I finally have a name for what randomly interrupts my life: Multiple Sclerosis. But you know what? It really doesn’t change anything, except it is much easier for me to explain to people why certain things at certain times are hard for me. It doesn’t change my outlook on life because my God, who is my source of strength, is still the same. His grace doesn’t change based on a label I may have, and my faith won’t change based on an ability I lose. In some ways it excites me, because I get to see how He will use this for His glory. I know He has a reason for it all. He is the God of all comfort and as He has comforted me, I can comfort others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I can’t say that this has all been easy, but I can say that God hasn’t yet given me more than I can handle, and through it all He has made me stronger, more content and joyful. I think my favorite meaning for M.S. in my life is: Master’s Servant – that’s what I want to define me.