Recently, while watching a viewer call-in program on television, I heard one particular caller say that religion was irrational. He obviously meant that those who had any kind of religion were not using reason at all and believed in God for flaky untenable reasons. My silent reaction –I never feel any great urge to call in to television programs-- was to tell the absent caller that Pascal, the great French philosopher said, "The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of." Of course, such a retort would only have convinced the caller that he was right.
And yet, for Christians there is reason behind our sometimes apparent disregard for mental and logical reason. Our choices are logical and our path unswerving and methodical in its own irrational way. In other words, we have proof that this our way of reasoning is more valid than the more usual ways. reason. But enough of philosophy. On to the point.
I am a 43 year-old woman who has suffered with chronic fatigue fibromyalgia for 17 years. I have a 13 year old non-verbal multiply-handicapped son who is diagnosed with autism. These are two illnesses that have been pronounced as incurable by the medical authorities. For those who do not understand the implications, this means that for most of the past 17 years of my life I have not slept more than one or two hours a night. I then had to wake and make 3 different breakfasts for my picky immunity-challenged son, chase him around the house to dress him, and send him off to school. When he returned from school, whether I have the strength or not, I have to take him on his required walk no matter how draggy or pained and drained I was. Sufficeth to say that this kind of thing is tiring. Stuck with two unchanging bad situations without the benefit of sleep, all I could hope for was death. I often repeated to my husband, "I want to die, then I'll be able to sleep." This was not said with humor. I meant it. Death would bring rest and sleep and I awaited it with longing...I would have greeted it too, but who would take care of my son? Husbands and big brothers are loving, but they are notoriously lax when it comes to denying an allergic insistent handicapped kid his bite of the pain-inducing chocolate. It was bad but I had to live.
I wondered where God was. I had endured great pain and sorrow in my life. But the only thing that made me seriously question His existence –or His kindness– was the sleeplessness. Surely, God should care enough to make me sleep! One can bear any kind of suffering if one has the nightly respite of sleep.
Well, God had not been too far off. Occasionally, in that one hour of sleep I would get little bits of dietary advice. Not blazing and flashing enough to be taken seriously, but little hints. Then one night, I had a long dream in which an angel gave me a dietary regimen –vegetables only, water, orange juice, apples, swimming. No wheat, meat, poultry, dairy, or sweets. He also gave me a vision of my future and of the work appointed for me to do, with the warning that my work may not be accomplished if I didn't take care of my body.
It must be stated that when I woke from this dream –which a skeptic might say was merely my body giving me clues to its need-- I was both perturbed and joyful. On the one hand, I had something of a great future ahead of me as a writer. On the other hand, there was that nasty call to discipline. Surely, God could have just healed me of the thing. But no, like an alcoholic –many of whom are hypoglycemics and allergic to the liquor they drink-- I was to be healed by discipline. And truth to tell, I didn't have a disciplined bone in my body. But, then again there was that great appointed future! What to do?!
Well, first of all there was the matter of actually believing the dream! How did I know that this was not just a bit of yesterday's undigested potato giving me false hope? Try the thing out of course. For a miraculously disciplined three weeks, I did without meat, poultry and sugar and ate only veggies. I drank only O.J, and water and plumbed myself with more apples than I knew how to hold. I also signed up for swim classes. Suddenly in the middle of the day I'd feel a sleepiness descend on me. At night I began to feel sleepy. I actually slept. Two hours, four, five!
And then, as in my undisciplined days, I felt I was cured so I started again on the meat, poultry, sugar etc. All went well for another two weeks. Then the insomnia returned. Habits are hard to break.
At this point I had another dream. In this dream I was told to sing praises to God every night for my son's healing. I told my husband who immediately began singing. The next day, (coincidentally) we picked up a devotional of ours we hadn't touched in months and the Bible verse for the day was the verse about Paul and Silas praising God in the prison and being miraculously freed.
Several days later, I dreamt that that there were little pockets in my stomach but that I should eat vegetables and I would be well. A few days after this, my friend sent me a book on hypoglcemia and another friend sent me a book on fibromyalgia. I went to the doctor who gave me a colonoscopy and confirmed that I had diverticulitis –little pockets along the colon. He also suggested I take Malic acid for the fibromyalgia pain. The angels regimen was what was required...even to the eating of the apples –malic acid helps with the pain of fibromyalgia. Several days later, a doctor I had not spoken to in years called and gave me a good talking to, plus some medical advice. Providential?
All this time, I was working on my scifi novel, The Daughters of Men. But the sleep problem made writing difficult. It was at this time that I suddenly decided, for no reasons to look up an old favorite writer on the internet. Lord Dunsany. One of his books was mentioned, a book I had never heard of. I visited the local bookstore. During all my previous visits, I had never seen any work by Lord Dunsany on their shelves. Suddenly, what appeared before my eyes? The very book that had been listed on the internet website. I bought the book and began reading. In the middle of the book, the narrator used the phrase, "The Daughters of Men." I took this as an external sign that God's promise to me through the angel was true and that God wanted me to write.
So I decided to be disciplined again. I am. And for the most part –because I am not as disciplined as I should be-- I am very healthy.
But the question is: are all these dreams and coincidences irrational? Early Church writers often spoke of God's providence. My Bible reading this morning was the chapter in which Gideon happens upon two enemy soldiers as one told his dream –a dream about Gideon-- and the other interpreted it. The Bible story tells us that Gideon was so full of doubt that God sent him down to the enemy camp. For me the story has a ring of truth. It tells me of the God of providence and timing who knew the enemy's dream, knew where the enemy would be sitting, knew when and where Gideon arrive at just the right spot and coincided all things to his will. Gideon had to obey the irrational and he was rewarded because he listened to reason that reason knows nothing of. For me, this is faith. The knowledge that God is in the large and small, that he leads, that he interacts with us and that he works with us. Every night my husband and I sing. And because God has promised deliverance for my son –and He has not failed me in the past– we look forward to the deliverance with joy and hope. This is our faith.
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Carole, this story of faith, and communication with God is wonderful. I often have the same type of seemingly coincidental confirmations that I truly believe are from God. He is Real. I hope this amazing story gets published.
What a wonderful testimony, Carol. You have lived a life that most of us couldn't. It just shows that God provides for us as we need Him to, just like a good Covenant partner. It also illustrates the truth of 2 Cor. 9:8 "...that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work". Keep abounding, Carol, we need you to share it with us.
Carole, a wonderful testimony! God speaks to us in so many ways and we must be ready to obey. Thanks for sharing your struggle so couragously. I'll be praying for your son as well...our God is faithful! - Jay Cookingham