I came to Christianity my early 30s but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with MS at 46 that I really understood what that meant.
I had a nervous breakdown at 28 and spent two months in the psych ward. I was completely bewildered as to why because I didn’t do anything different than any of my peers or family.
In that particular hospital there was a gable with a black wrought iron cross perched outside the smoking room (imagine that!) window. I used to sit behind that cross chain smoking but somehow felt safe even though I had no idea why or what just happened.
Being raised in a very large secular family I didn’t know the first thing about God. I was baptized Catholic because it was a 60s thing to do but was never once talked about, discussed or even mentioned. We were raised with good ethics, determined values and hard work morals.
It was also in that hospital that I came across an abandoned Christian meditation book whose very tiny one page write-up’s actually penetrated when nothing else did. And so began my spiritual journey.
From there I went to church shopping but it wasn’t until 1995 I quietly decided to ‘become a Christian’ and chose the Catholic faith because I was baptized there. I went in with the motto “Take what I like, leave the rest”.
And for the next 20 years I was a closet Christian. I was afraid I’d lose my friends, family, and people close to me if they knew I believed. So my life was very compartmentalized - family, art, writers, dog people, naturalists, home renovators, etc, but no Christians.
Regardless, I liked Jesus’ teaching and thought they were a good foundation to build my life on. So through my 30’s and 40’s I secretly studied the Bible on my graveyard shift and went to church by myself. I was always quite popular and had a good crowd around me but no one knew where my hope was actually coming from.
A great many things happened in those 20 years. Concrete things, like doors closing in printing & graphics while the social services field literally fell open at my feet and provided the longest I'd ever been at a job (ten years). And ten years at the same place breaking old records by a mile. A great seaside community where I got to work on art and creative projects in meaningful ways that benefit others not just myself. Then there were the inside changes: a sense of peace unlike any other, ability to stand firm when I often fell to pieces, the strength and discipline to live up to my own expectations. In short I was becoming who I always wanted to be. At first I thought that’s what becoming a Christian was all about and ended there. But that was not all the case.
When MS hit in 2007 I began to see what being a follower of Christ really meant. MS was like being fired in a kiln. I could either become hardened, bitter, cracked, and broken or robust, glazed, strong, and better for it. I wanted the latter. But I also knew I couldn’t do it without His help. I didn’t want to push boulders uphill. So my free will was to move closer to God and allow Him to direct and manage all. ALL. And the journey has been incredible.
MS continues to creep and I don’t always get it right. I stumble and get discouraged living day in and day out with this thing, or sometimes it swings the other way and I think I know more than I do. But I keep my eyes on where my strength and hope comes from. And I’m guided one decision, one day, at a time, (He is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path) into a to a rich, fulfilling life I couldn’t have never begun to imagine for myself, especially having MS.
Many of God’s promises have come true which encourage me even more because I know whatever He has in store for me will be far beyond my wildest dreams, a thousand times better than my version of ‘good.’
“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future.“ Jeremiah 29:11
So don’t let MS define you, let it mold you. There’s a beautiful life just waiting for you.