If This Is God's Plan...

Syrupy claptrap irritates me. Every time I look for chronic illness support, I find it. There was a forum I used to read where one participant always signed off, “I thank God for the storms of life. They blow me right into the Father’s lap.”  That particular bit of goo always made me gag. I would scroll past her posts just to keep from reading it.

During my final three years as a Christian, when I was struggling to be a Christianus Sickus, I came across this attitude constantly. It is a good thing that I have muscular dystrophy. God is going to use it to change the world. This is a gift. I heard people tell me this all the time. I tried to convince myself that I actually felt that way. But, I didn’t.

Over and over people told me:

God has a good plan for your life.
God never gives you more than you can handle.

Those two phrases bit into my guts like an electric drill boring straight through me. Every time I heard them, I got angry. Only, I couldn't show it. Pastor R. lectured me about my lack of faith in the Lord. How Pastor R. had the gall to do this is beyond me. Week after week, he never asked how I was doing, how I was feeling, not even how he could pray for me. See, he had the correct answers already and didn’t need input from me. He was trying to mold me into a perfect Christianus Sickus. I don’t think he ever saw me as a person. I was a mythic archetype playing a role Pastor R. designed for me. In reality, I was just me and I hurt inside.

My progressive disease started progressing. Tasks I could do a week ago I could no longer do. My body didn’t work like I expected and I didn’t know how to be ME inside this broken body. I was completely lost and didn’t know what to do next. Like tossing out a life jacket stuffed with rocks, people told me, “This is God’s good plan. You have to trust God’s plan and lean not on your own understanding.”

Every time I heard it I felt anger threatening to explode. A small smoking volcano grew inside. The first time I struggled to dress myself in the morning, people told me about God’s great plan for my life. Pulling a shirt over my head took so much effort, I had to stop in the middle to rest. All I wanted to do was put on a shirt. Just a shirt!

And there was Pastor R. telling me, "Remember, Cathleen, God is in control. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and God has a great plan for your life."

I was diagnosed with progressive, incurable, possibly fatal, muscular dystrophy in my 20's. The diagnosis slammed into my life and blew it apart. God’s plan for my life is for me to lose the use of my own body—slowly, so I can witness my physical decline in excruciating detail. God’s good plan for my life is for me to vividly remember what it felt like before I got sick. What a wonderful plan.

While Pastor R. told me about God’s plan, I had an overwhelming desire to scream, “If this is God’s plan for my life, God can fuck Himself!”

But, I never said it. I wrestled the anger down, choked it back, held my tears until I got home. At home I’d collapse in tears. The pain of my illness was bad enough, but to believe it was part of a deliberate plan hurt a thousand times more.

It took me a week to regain my inner balance. Then I went back to church and was pulled apart again. I endured this torment for three years. Finally I realized, I didn’t need Pastor R. to shepherd me through my illness. What the church had to offer wasn’t helping. It was damaging. I didn't need platitudes and assurances that God was in control. I needed to regain control of my own life. Somehow, I had to find a way to heal myself.

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