Just as in previous years, what follows is the posts which received the most views in 2022. Have a look, you might encounter an ‘oldie but a goodie’ for the first time, or, like me, be reminded of posts you’d entirely forgotten about!
But first I want to introduce this year’s post series:
Responding to Misconceptions in Chronic Illness
As a Watcher, you might have heard your chronically ill loved one voice a sentiment along the lines of:
‘I’m no use to anyone’ or, ‘I can’t serve God like this’ or ‘I’m all alone, no one really understands.’
As a Watcher, everything in us often wants to cry, ‘no! That’s not true!’ — but is that best response? What do we do when our loved one keeps voicing these beliefs? Is a response even possible? Ought we protest each time? Are our responses even helpful? After all, we’re not the ones whose every day is impacted and restrained by poor health.
This year we will be exploring these questions and more, in a series of articles formatted as letters. Each one will begin with a statement about chronic illness such as, ‘I’m all alone’ and follow with a ‘letter’ from a Watcher in response.
One thing that may have stood out to you by now is that these ‘misconceptions’ are not the sole possession of our chronically ill friends! I’m sure all of us have thought them at times. For various reasons we’ve felt incapable, handicapped or restrained by various life situations, and thoughts like these slip out so easily. And so it’s important that we spend some time mulling over them in the presence of God, and ask ourselves whether they hold any truth and how exactly we ought to respond. I’m excited for this journey, even as I suspect it will be a challenging one for us all, me included.
But before we begin this series (a new article will be posted every two months) I have the pleasure of introducing the top pots of 2022!
Watching is hard, and yet when it comes to surviving and thriving in long-term Watching, I think we often fall into 3 misconceptions.
3 misconceptions about Watching
1: Only people who are even-keeled, happy –go-lucky pragmatists can survive and thrive Watching over the long-term Watching. I’m not suited for this.
2: Watching is hard, and so I’m inevitably going to become cynical/bitter/depressed. It’s just a natural human response.
3: When it gets hard, the Christian thing to do is ‘deal’ with it quickly, and move on. It’s not good to dwell on the difficulty.
Now there’s a certain modicum of truth in all of these. Some personalities might be ‘naturally’ better suited to watching; it’s understandable if you find yourself growing cynical or depressed; and it’s not particularly helpful to ruminate on your troubles.
We’ve talked about how to trust and how to be trustworthy in the context of chronic illness – even when it’s really hard. We know how important trust is, and what a gift it can be. But what do you do when trust is broken? When things don’t go as they should go, when words are said that can’t be unsaid, or when actions speak louder than words and the message they send is wrong and unkind?
It’s happened to all of us, and it will happen again. We trust someone, and we are let down. Or we let someone else down, and feel like we’ve failed them and ourselves as well. Or perhaps we’ve simply refused to trust for so long that our relationships lie in tatters around us, and our world is not the place we hoped it would be.
What do we do? Can trust be repaired?
I think so. Trust is a decision we make over and over, and so there are always opportunities to learn to trust again. We live in a world that is moldable, and full of possibilities. We serve a God who is able to work in impossible situations. Furthermore, people are not static, we are continually developing and changing and so relationships too can always change for the better. But how do we get there? Here are some steps you might find helpful:
ONE: Grieve that we live in a world where people are not perfect and trust is broken.
Grief is about acknowledging hurt. Nothing can be changed until it is accepted in all its complexity, and one way to accept is to mourn.
Grieve for what could have been.
Grieve for what can never be.
Grieve for opportunity lost.
Grieve for feelings hurt.
Grieve for broken relationships.
Grieve for a torn apart world.
Grieve that life is not as it should be. This might sound depressing, and a bit like wallowing in self-pity, but I want to maintain that it is important. The reality is, life is not supposed to be like this – full of struggle and brokenness and trustlessness. When we accept this, it is going to be painful, and there’s going to be some grief involved. That’s okay.
TWO: Define the situation.
Having your trust broken hurts. Failing to be someone who is trustworthy hurts. It can be really helpful to define the situation to yourself, as though you’re telling someone else. Aside from all the emotions and interpretations and meaning you’ve placed on things said or done – what actually happened? What was actually done? What was actually said?
It’s easy, in our leap to deal with the pain of a broken relationship, to assign blame wrongly. Take a step back, take a breath, and give yourself a chance to write things out.
THREE: Talk together about what happened.
Sometimes it’s better to wait for a while before bringing up the situation, sometimes it might need to be addressed straight away. Whatever the case, it can be helpful to define the desired outcome before you go into the discussion. What will make this conversation ‘successful’ in your eyes? This is important because so often we enter conversations with unrealistic expectations (the other person will apologise immediately with tears) and then we throw yet another emotion (disappointment) into the mix. Here are some expectations I find helpful:
This conversation will be successful if:
I listen to what the other person has to say.
I accept blame where appropriate and ask forgiveness.
We remain friends.
Sometimes the conversation is not going to be ‘successful’ according to our definition – and that’s okay! It may be painful, but it can be helpful to remember that you tried to fix the situation; God is ultimately in control; and there may be another chance for resolution.
FOUR: Make the decision to trust again.
Trust is crucial in relationships, and a beautiful gift. When broken, it can be really difficult to continue in a relationship, to make the effort to reach out, to be trustworthy.
There are times where it is not possible to trust someone in the same way again, and times when you will need to redefine your relationship with someone so that you can trust again. What is important is that we remember that we serve a great God. Trust is always possible in some respect and mended relationships can happen. Let’s face the future with hope, because while trusting will always be costly, not-trusting is even pricier.
//So what do you think? Are these steps helpful? Do they seem too optimistic? Too black and white? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Have you read my memoir, Two Sisters and a Brain Tumour? It’s the story of (you guessed it!) two sisters, the diagnosis which turned their lives upside down, and ended up saving them. It’s a raw, honest account of hunting for hope in the darkness of chronic illness and caregiving, and finding laughter and even joy along the way.
‘Relationships are built on trust’ – that’s a phrase you hear often. But have you ever considered that trust might be more than a necessity? That it might actually be one of the greatest gifts you can give someone, particularly someone who is living with a chronic illness?
The Oxford dictionary defines trust as the ‘firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.’
Think about that for a moment. With this definition in mind, how would you feel if someone said, ‘I trust you’? I’d feel pretty good. I’d feel recognized, validated and affirmed. I’d feel more confident in myself. I’d feel challenged to ‘keep up the good work’. All that from three words.
Did you know that it’s impossible not to have expectations?
However vague, we always have some sense of what an event or a holiday or a job or a coffee-date will be like. Often, when we say we had “no expectations” what we really mean is we had “low expectations”.
Christmas and the holiday season bring a lot of expectations.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “Christmas”? Food, fun, community, isolation, stress – whatever connotations you have, they will form part of your expectation for the season.
I’ve discovered that it’s quite difficult to type with a broken wrist!
I’m also settling in to what it looks like to be at home, loving someone going through chemotherapy.
It’s not easy. Patience and domestic duties have never been my strong points. Far from it actually. Some days I want to give it all up and become an “impartial observer”. It hurts much less when you fail and takes far less effort!
Nevertheless, God has called me to be a Watcher right now, so I pray and know He will equip me in all the ways necessary (and probably in a lot I’d like to pretend aren’t necessarily, like the ability to ‘see’ what needs to be done around the house or remember to pick up my own clothes from the floor).
ALSO an exciting piece of news: This is the 100th post on Called to Watch! Is there someone you know who might find this blog helpful? Take a moment to send them the link, or sign up for email updates!
Being a Watcher is hard, and instead of ‘really’ caring, it’s tempting to disengage emotionally. When this happens, we become “impartial observers”.
I have a chronic illness, and I’ve recently been challenged about what it looks like for me to serve, specifically in mission (whether domestic or overseas).
Today’s post is my thoughts in regards to a series of questions I was asked by Wendy.
Q1. Why does it seem noble to sacrifice personal comfort to serve God in a third world country, but not to sacrifice your energy (as someone who has chronic fatigue) to serve in my own country?
Firstly, I think you’re right when you say there’s a difference between giving up your health security in a general sense (moving to a 3rd world country) and specifically sacrificing it, knowing exactly what the consequences will be.
Both scenarios involve potential daily suffering, but they are different, and I think it’s very important to acknowledge that at the very beginning.
“I’ve got this.”
“Honestly, it’s fine, I promise.”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are only a Watcher, and instead begin to think that we are (or should be) a “saint”.
This is what it looks like:
Watchers, we are not saints
…. feel guilty all the time. I’m not a good Watcher. Not even passable. Why can’t I do anything right?
… gloss over your hardships and sacrifices. Oh I don’t do much, not at all. Yes I spent all day driving my loved one to appointments in the rain, but that doesn’t matter. It was nothing!
… never share your problems. I’m going fine. One’s got to do what they’ve got to do! Other people have it worse, after all.