Today marks the one month point since the Ark touched down [see Genesis 8:4]. Yet even now Noah and his family could see no sign of land.
Early in this series I wondered if Noah and his family were in survival mode while “shut in” the ark.
Survival mode is when all you can handle is the bare minimum – the daily necessities can even be too much. There is no strength left to think or wonder about the future.
Survival mode is a term we use in chronic illness to make sense of our limitations.
Now, I am not trying to compare my experience with Noah’s situation. But rather, my pondering God’s work in his life prompts me to continue letting God teach me, and hopefully encourage others, through my own challenges.
Feel free to skip this post if you’re not interested. I almost didn’t post it, but then kept remembering how in the early years Elsa and I needed the hope we gained from hearing some stories of others further along in their journeys with chronic illness. Especially if they knew God was with them in the journey!
With chronic illness the survival mode stage can last, at varying levels, for years. It can even keep returning in cycles. At first, even the basics of eating, rest, treatments, and the occasional shower are too difficult.
When chronic pain is involved, so much energy is used in
just coping. Simply breathing can be exhausting and painful. At that point it
can be necessary to use strength one doesn't really have just to do something
to distract from the pain [such as knitting with audiobooks for Elsa and me].
I only remember a few details from the first weeks and months of my sister and I being “shut in” by our health and strength utterly giving out. Eight years ago, after bringing Elsa home from her second ER visit in two days (without any help from the doctors who simply did not understand that she was in adrenal crisis, complicated by long suppressed chronic illnesses and severe heavy metal and mold toxicities) …our family was living in survival mode.
A month after Elsa’s crash came mine. I have blogged before about the sudden onset. But after hours of rallying around to pray Elsa through the valley of the shadow, days of spoon feeding and tip-toeing around her fragile frame on the couch, and weeks of learning a new way to shop and cook while working on isolating and eliminating the main food allergens that were now wreaking havoc in her compromised immune system… my body followed suit.
The memories continue foggy as we lay on the same couch, head to toe under a down comforter – hardly able to prop ourselves up enough to eat. Eventually we found strength to knit, and Elsa taught me to follow a lace pattern to make the wool scarf I have used ever since. But that was a very slow and exhausting process – making both of our brains ache.
Meanwhile we found free audiobooks on LibriVox.org. I remember Anne of Green Gables for one. It was also in those months (years, actually) on the couch that we first found new favorite books such as Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. [See posts such as What to Read: Part I about how this rekindled an old dream for me.]
Survival mode in the next months meant mostly treatments and pain management. Over time we added our increasingly disabled aunt Dorothy to the couch and read to her and each other. Then as our older sister accepted the part time job of helping at some friends’ greenhouses (which turned into the full-time job of being the owner’s wife!) we picked up more and more of our own food prep.
As strength slowly returned (usually only able
to see progress by looking back a year or two), we resumed more
responsibilities bit by bit. But strange as it may sound… that kept sending us
back into deeper survival mode. Earlier, when we couldn’t do anything else, we
could get a ride in to Bible study every week or two for fellowship. But when
daily life took more or our increasing (but severely limited) strength, that
had to drop out. At first we made it to church about once a month. But when we
realized that our chemical sensitivities were setting us back for nearly a week
after every time in a crowd, we had to cut that out in order to make any forward
progress at home.
Eight years and much healing later, survival mode shows up in:
• weeks or months of being unable to answer emails or letters
• seasons where we rarely get off of our 8 acres on the prairie
• days of having to hide away from family noise and activity in some quiet room
• times where we can’t even read our Bibles or pray and can only handle gentle chapters from audio-Bibles and silent cries of “God, help!”
• unpredictable days and nights of PTSD rearing its fearful head
• hours of being too weak or inflamed even to knit or listen to any audio at all
While long experience has made these times less of a shock, they are always challenging and discouraging to some extent. But focusing on the pain never helps. And so, we must cling to TRUTH beyond all feelings.
Where can I even start in sharing the truths that have pierced the pain and waiting through the years? Here are just a few examples. I’d love to hear what you cling to in your seasons of survival mode and waiting as well!
II Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
• • •
Dear Lord, for all in pain
We pray to Thee;
Oh, come and smite again
Give to Thy servants skill
To soothe and bless
And to the tired and ill
And, Lord, to those who know
Pain may not cease
Come near, that even so
They may have peace.
~ Amy Carmichael
• • •
He Will Hold Me Fast - sung by Kristyn Getty (Listen on YouTube)
• • •
See previous posts in series here:
Part I: The Lord Shut Him In
Part II: Day 10: The Animals
Part III: Day 20: The Man Noah
Part IV: Day 30: The Walls
Part V: Day 40: What God Says... He Does
Part VI: Day 70: After the Crisis
Part VII: Day 100: When Waiting Turns to YearsPart VIII: Day 150: Touch Down!