Sunday, October 04, 2009

When withheld grace is still grace...

There were times when i would come round from a seizure and the first words that would fill my mind were pretty negative - sometimes it would be a whole stream of swear-words, and sometimes i would feel so frustrated i would want to get up and kick a wall - infact, there were times when i did do that - i remember once when i had some seizures on my own in my room in Sheffield, i got up afterwards and kicked a mirror then punched the wall a few times. I'm not proud of these facts, i'm ashamed of them. I actually hate swearing and it distressed me alot that i would respond in such a way. To this day i still don't know if the anger and frustration that i sometimes felt was a simple physiological reaction to the seizure activity in my brain - my consultant did tell me that it is very common for people to be slightly aggressive after a seizure, simply because of all the random firing of neurons that happens in your head. But then again maybe it was just that i was responding badly to the fact that i'd had a fit.... i truthfully don't know? 

However, there were also times when i came round from a seizure and the first things to fill my mind were songs of praise and scripture. Times when i would feel so at peace that i literally felt like i was resting in God's arms. Times when despite the fact that i'd just had a fit i would want to sit up and sing of God's goodness. Infact, sometimes i felt an intimacy with God which almost surpassed anything i had known before my epilepsy - an acute awareness that He was in control and everything was in His hands and all i had to do was rest in Him and trust. An awareness of His overwhelming tenderness and beauty which made my seizures fade into insignificance. 

I remember times when i came round from seizures on the cold pavement outside and i was stunned by how amazing the stars in the sky were - like i felt a strange privilege in having been given a moment to lie there and notice them, to remember that my God even created and knows every star. Times when i would come round and be amazed by the love and mercy i saw in the eyes of those helping me..... when it felt like i was looking at the face of Jesus.... I remember meeting an old man once, a complete stranger, who helped me after a fit. He was trying to tell me something encouraging, although i can't remember a single word of what he said, all i remember is that i cried cos it felt for a moment like i was looking at someone so full of Jesus that i was instantly at peace and so grateful for his kindness. 

I used to sometimes wonder why it was that God showed me such grace after some of my seizures, but then at other times seemed to completely withhold that grace and let me feel so awful. And then i realised that it was precisely because He sometimes withheld it that i was able to truly appreciate the beauty of it when He did show it me. It made me realise that if i came round from a seizure and responded positively or had people there who responded positively, it WASN'T anything to do with me. It wasn't because i had some ability to cope well with the situation - because sometimes i didn't cope well at all. It was simply a gift from Him. 100% from Him. If He didn't sometimes let me feel the complete wretchedness of my natural state... the depths of my humaness... then i might not have fully appreciated that anything positive i ever feel is just a gift from Him. It takes away any basis for pride or boasting. There is nothing to boast of when you realise how badly you often respond to a situation and that if you respond well it is only because God is graciously giving you the strength to do so in that moment. 

I think it's like this a lot in life... not just with illness. Sometimes when we're tempted to sin God seems to give us the grace to resist.... at other times we might give in to temptation and do things we know we shouldn't. I can never work out why it is that sometimes i resist and sometimes i give in. But the fact that i do often give in once more keeps me constantly aware of my natural sinfulness.... and constantly aware of the fact that any good we do is only possible through His Spirit. And it means we can't judge others either - for anything - because, like us, they can only do good or be good through God.... all of us are the same when He withholds His grace. All of us are completely lost, completely sinful, completely wretched. 

And it made me realise too how much the prayers of others helped me... i dread to think what a mess i would have been otherwise. I'm quite sure that, more often than not, when i was around Christians and had seizures, even when the seizures didn't stop if they prayed for me, even when i ended up at hospital, i did still feel at peace, and knew God had heard their prayers. 

So, i'm strangely thankful for both grace and withheld grace. In some mysterious way they seem to go hand-in-hand. It reminds me of a quote i read years ago by John Piper:

"Everyone of us owes every ounce of strength we have to God. We owe every fibre of intelligence to God, and the slightest resolve to do good is a gift from Him. Apart from Him we are all cripples. And worse than cripples. We would fly into nothingness without his sustenance and we would degenerate into devils without His grace. If the totality of our dependance on God would hit us full force, O, how differently we would live and do good. We would 'serve as one who renders service by the strength which God supplies.' " 


Anette Acker said...

That is a very helpful post! Ingrid is nonverbal, so I don't know what she feels when she has a seizure. But sometimes she comes out of it laughing and other times she seems agitated.

What you said reminds me of Dostoevsky, who often had deep spiritual experiences during a seizure.

Becky said...

Thanks. Seizures are strange things and i guess everyone's experience of them will be different, depending on the type of epilepsy and type of seizures they have... but then i guess there will be a lot of similarites too.... I pray God pours out much grace on Ingrid in any seizures she has... although obviously i pray that they disappear altogether too... x