Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pray it away

Since being stricken with Fluoroquinolone Associated Disability (FQAD) in 2015, I’ve had perpetually bruised knees – not from the illness, but from prostrating myself to my Higher Power, begging for a miracle.

Two years of disability – that’s 730 days – 730 days of begging, pleading, showing gratitude, asking for Divine answers, waiting for instructions from The Most High. Sometimes penitent, sometimes shouting, sometimes just sobbing, “Please, please, please…”

But apparently that’s just not enough for some people.

Indeed, if I am told by one more evangelical that I continue to be sick because I’m “just not praying hard enough,” I’m gonna be sick…er.

I know I am not alone in this. Almost every person I know with chronic illness has experienced it. “Just pray harder. God will heal you. You have to claim it.”

It’s insulting.

It’s hurtful.

And it’s wrong.

I get it. For those whose faith dictates that God “made the lame to walk and the blind to see,” nothing is impossible. Miracles occur everyday.

And you know what? Maybe they do. But that doesn’t mean that God has a miracle on the shelf for me, and that I need only ask Him (or Her) to take it down for all of this to go away. Sure, there’s no harm in asking. I ask at least every other day (if not every other minute).

But this whole “ask and ye shall receive” mentality from strangers, friends, or even family is toxic. Why?

1. It’s victim blaming. Instead of placing the “blame” for our illnesses (which is outside of our control. No one would choose to be sick if they didn’t have to be), it places the blame squarely on our shoulders. Don’t wanna be sick anymore? Just pray. As if miraculous healings can just be ordered via Holy Amazon.

2. It’s a misreading of every holy scripture of which I am aware. Just because God can do miracles, doesn’t mean everyone gets one. “You get a miracle! And YOU get a miracle! Everyone gets a miracle!” He’s not Oprah, for Heaven’s sake.

3. It’s nonsensical. We live in a world replete with suffering. Children get cancer, heart disease claims more than 600,000 US citizens a year, Zika is a thing. You really think all of these people – and their families and friends – didn’t think to pray and ask their respective Higher Powers for help? I guarantee you, they did.

So when the miracles don’t come through – when we remain sick or worse – what does that mean? For some, it means we’re meant to endure trials to become stronger, to learn lessons, to provide inspiration or comfort to the suffering. For others, it means we simply drew the short straw: some people live to be a healthy 100; some don’t. Tough break for us. But for others, especially those of the evangelical sort, I always get the same response: you must not be praying hard enough.

My illness is therefore linked to my faith, and I must be a spiritual slacker.

Nope, nope, nope. I refuse to bear this blame any longer.

Just because there are people on this planet that cannot conceive of a world full of senseless injustice doesn’t mean I or any other chronic illness warrior is to blame for the hardships we suffer. I’ll be damned (pun intended) if I continue to shoulder the blame of that accusatory belief system.

Does God continue to grant miracles? I’m sure. Will I continue to hope/pray for one? You bet. Can you add me to the prayer list at your church/temple/mosque/house of worship? Yes please.

But if you see me next week, and I’m still sick, please don’t pester me about how my continued suffering is a result of some personal, spiritual failing. It isn’t.

Instead, remember: “there but for the grace of God go I.”

And give thanks for your health. Because some of us would do anything – including pray every single day – to have ours back.