On Saturday, I woke up with this funny pain in my left side. I couldn’t describe what it felt like. It was sort of tingly. But sort of burny. And sort of stabby. I decided that I slept on it funny and had maybe somehow pinched a nerve while I was asleep…or something?
The next day it still hurt, and I still couldn’t describe it. The pain seemed to be spreading. Then I noticed that I had a rash on my back. I went to my doctor on Monday who immediately said “That’s shingles.”
She explained that shingles is a version of the chickenpox virus; if you have chickenpox at some point in your life then the virus is in your system and it can be triggered later in life.
“So why did I get it now?” I asked her. “What triggered it?”
“Stress,” she answered, without missing a beat.
I found this rather bothersome.
I have spent the last few weeks telling those who ask that I am not stressed, even with all the change going on in my life. With my husband beginning a new job, I have more responsibility at home, and considerably more responsibility at my church, where I am now serving as pastor without him. But, honestly, I feel like things are going pretty well! I have lots of support. I’m enjoying myself. The church is healthy, and moving forward.
But here I am with stress-induced shingles, which I find very offensive.
Don’t the shingles know that I have been very intentional this year in developing a schedule that lets me have down time? That I have said “no” to a number of opportunities? That I’m even taking a Sabbath?
I guess no one told them.
My head be like: “You got this girl!”
My shingles be like: “Nope.”
I don’t really know what to do when my body tells me something with which I disagree.
Here is what I do know:
I have shingles and they are painful. Whether I want to or not, there are things I can’t do this week. Like walk a lot. Or sit in my chair a long time. Or go visit a newborn baby from our church (sad face!). Like it or lump it, this week I have to rest. I AM LISTENING SHINGLES!!!!
Rest is important, whether or not your body uses shingles to tell you so.
We are rarely given permission to slow down. We are rarely made to feel valuable if we are not contributing. We are told that we must do more, produce more, be more, give more, help more, work more, serve more. But that voice is not the voice of God. Jesus said: “Come to me, all of you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”
He didn’t say: “Come to me and I’ll help you get your stuff done.”
He didn’t say: “Come to me and I”ll help you organize your schedule.”
He didn’t say: “Come to me and I will help you develop a meal plan.”
He said to come and REST.
What’s funny is that we can find the invitation to rest as irritating as shingles sometimes. Our identity is so deeply wrapped up in what we DO that the invitation to stop doing – for even a little while – can make us feel itchy and uncomfortable. When did being told to rest become such an insult?
I’m still not sure I entirely agree with my shingles. They haven’t convinced me my stress is out of control. But they have reminded me to sleep, and to pause, and to walk a little slower.
Which are probably decent lessons, so I’ll take them.