Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Here for the Comments--My Response to the Response to My Food Journey Miracle Post

My recent post about my struggle with food received an overwhelming response. Not all of it positive.

I posted my story in the mast cell groups on Facebook. While most who took the time to read were encouraged and/or happy for me, some just weren't.

I don't blame them. Not at all.

Mastocytosis/Mast Cell Activation Disease affects every aspect of human life. There's no square inch it doesn't attempt to claim. To make matters worse, there's no cure, so it's a disease without much hope. Outside of Jesus, anyway.

And let's face it, Jesus causes trouble wherever he goes.

I thought I'd address a few of the comments made, not because I believe the people who made them will read my response but because you may need to. Some of the questions the comments imply may resonate with you. 

And deep down, who doesn't love a good Facebook debate?

The Comments

"I can't believe I wasted time reading this"

As someone who has battled MCAD, this comment translated as, "I came here looking for real hope, and you gave me a fairy tale." Do you feel the despair in that? Doesn't your heart break just a little? Mine does. 

To this commenter, I would offer this quote by G. K. Chesterton: "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." 

Jesus slayed the ultimate dragon when he gave his life on the cross. His life was for us, and His life makes us whole. In mind, body, and spirit. God is on mission to redeem it all.

"Unless you have a disease that can be cured are all stuck with mast cell. Some people needs their meds to live. This gives false and dangerous hope to people. Unbelievable... I have seen firsthand what a supposed cure can do folks. Putting the word cure on an illness known to be incurable except for periods of remissions can and does cause false hope. Wording is everything. There was no disclaimer...only stating cure. If anyone and I include myself in this.. Wants to say what is helping them as far as diet, supplements Et al then cool, but, unless it has been medically verified as a cure with accompanying information this becomes another blog with the supposed miracle cure. As a scientist, I aware people for reasons still poorly understood can heal. Hope is good. Proclaiming you have a cure without science not so much"

I agree--"wording is everything"--though even the best of us get it wrong from time to time. But the careful reader will notice I never used the word "cure" in my story. Rather, I spoke of healing. Why? Because I want to be clear. While medication, diet, and lifestyle modifications helped, these things did not end my disease. Jesus did. He healed me.

"I'd like to give my view on this as an atheist (and I know a lot of you are already placing labels on me for using that word, but please do not prejudge). I do not believe in prayer or a supreme deity that has the ability to heal us....but...I do believe that prayer can certainly be viewed as a form of meditation and there has been verifiable scientific study done on the effects that meditation has on the body. The most recent National Geographic has an article on the mind body effects of being in nature...scientific data. Including changes in EEG brain waves and drastic reduction in cortisol levels in the body. Doctors are actually writing "prescriptions" to patients to spend time in a natural setting for healing purposes. From my own personal experience, I can slow my heart rate purely by relaxing my body (I suffer from SVTs) and to some extent slow the progression of Mast Cell attacks the same way. This has been seen by multiple ER docs while I was hooked up to monitors. Then there is the whole epigenetics issue. Scientists have shown that these switches can flip back and forth quickly to stimuli and rapidly affect how our body reacts...or over reacts. She is not claiming to have been healed overnight. Nor did she do nothing but pray, she also modified her diet and tried other avenues of improving her symptoms. I believe placing this is the realm of religion is what is bothering some of you, but if you look deeper and place what she is saying in a more scientific framework, maybe you can understand better..."

I appreciate this person for coming to my defense. Truly. She was kind when others were not. Elsewhere, she chastened those who left--in her words--"incredibly rude comments," some of which were deleted by the moderator. That being said, we aren't on the same page. 

2015 was a rough year for me. Though I continued to lean into the Lord day after day, my thoughts weren't always positive. During the weeks before I was healed, I struggled with restlessness, guilt, anxiety, and shame. I was tired, beaten to a pulp by this monster of a disease. My mind did not heal itself. Jesus healed me.

"I always have to wonder, if you are "cured", perhaps the diagnosis was incorrect all along."

I expected this one from the beginning. Before Jesus healed me, I told Brandon and my mom that when He did it, people will say I never had the disease. People tend to reject what they don't understand.

But MCAD isn't a diagnosis doctors toss to the masses like beads and candy at a Mardi Gras parade. It's difficult to obtain, which is why I had to travel all the way to Minnesota to get it. 

While I'm sure God had more purposes for my Mayo Clinic adventure than I can imagine, I understand at least two--Gastrocrom (a medication which allowed me to eat without absolute misery) and that diagnosis. He wants the world to know no disease is incurable when it comes to Him. 

"I'm happy for you Melissa. It seems like your body has calmed down by making nutritional changes. The jury is still out on mast cell disorders, so thinking positive is a good thing. My fear however would be that your overzealous claiming of healing might turn around and bite you - should you regress, relapse, get triggered again etc. I've seen many women in this group already speak of going years "ok" than not ok. For me, EVERYTIME I have gone there - psychologically, emotionally etc and believed "I'm completely better now!" Or "I'm finally coming out of this!" --WHAM. I've been sent back to reality. So I learned to be "cautiously optimistic" and to speak about "improvement" and not black or white declarations that only kick my ass later. Just my share/2 cents. Mast cell (so far) keeps me humble."

I totally understand the warning. I've been in remission. And yes--I thought I was better, then BAM! But this isn't remission. I'm healed. Thank you, Jesus! 

"I am taking this with a grain of careful with the word "cure." Glad you feel better..please be respectful of all here. Religion, politics cross over many people's comfort level. And seems to imply we are all in the same boat and all able to pray our way to wellness. That is simply not the case. And can lead to blaming those who don't believe to the degree you do or in your religion. Makes me squirm a my armor on for the replies with this one..I will remove this post if the comments become attacks or too controversial."

Writers, to publish is to give readers permission to quote things you never said and infer meaning you never intended. 

Now let's discuss the idea of "pray(ing) our way to wellness..."

If anyone could've earned healing by faith, prayer, or specialness, it would've been Jenny. 

Before her, I'd never encountered such indomitable faith. Oh, how she loved our Lord! How she sought Him! She was humble enough to seek prayer wherever she went. Churches, communities, and even Dodie Osteen prayed for her healing. Until a few weeks before her death, Jenny believed she would live. Not hoped. Believed.

The woman was so magnetic that people sense her pull in photos. People who didn't want to like her couldn't help themselves. Few love others like she did. She was often the sickest person in the waiting room at MD Anderson, yet she stopped and prayed for people every visit. People who got to live. Before she let hospice put her into an induced coma, she prayed for and blessed everyone at her bedside. She sent me a goodbye text telling me how much she loved me. Jenny went out thinking of and serving others.

If we could achieve our own wellness, Jenny would've been here to celebrate her daughter's fourth birthday four days ago. But after two years of intense suffering, she died. 

Did I survive because I'm so much better than her? Because my faith is stronger? Absolutely not. And if my prayers achieved all that, Jenny would still be here.

This commenter didn't need her armor. She got no argument from me. 

Healing can't be earned. It can only be received.

"I am glad you are doing better, but to claim that God healed you leaves a lot of Christian people who are dealing with the same thing out. I find it distasteful that God would pick and choose you and leave everyone else to suffer. I think there are are too many variables to leave it to "God fixing everything".... Could have been shots finally registered in your system after all that time, anxiety dying down after postpartum time frames end, allowing you belly time to heal after a severe infection.... Ect.... Too many variables to leave it at "God chose to heal me over everyone else."

This commenter doesn't understand my God. And frankly, I don't either.

Human inclination is to fear what we can't control and to dismiss what we don't understand. 

We can't control God, nor can we understand him. So we fear and dismiss him. We explain him away.

And guess what--I've done it, too. 

I have no idea why I lived and Jenny died. I have no idea why some are healed and others suffer all their lives. But that doesn't mean God didn't heal me. And it doesn't mean He doesn't want to heal others. 

Truth be told, these thoughts aren't all that unrelated to some of my own, which have led to questions. Lots and lots of questions:

  1. Did Jesus ever turn anyone away in the gospels? Did He ever say, "No, I'm not going to heal you. It's my will for you to be sick. Your illness brings me glory?"
  2. Does illness bring glory to God? OR is it possible to suffer with something that doesn't glorify God in such a way that God is glorified anyway? Isn't that kind of the spirit of Romans 8:37?
  3. Does God send illness? Is sickness of God? Or does the enemy send sickness and then God uses it for His own purposes with the intention of drawing us to Himself and with a heart to deliver us from it and all lesser loves? 
  4. Does God want us to cuddle our sickness and hold onto suffering because He worked it for good in our lives? Do we need sickness to maintain our sanctification? Should we? Or do we just need Jesus
  5. Is sickness the best way to experience the nearness of God? If so, what does that say about the saints in the Bible? They weren't sick. Are sickness and pain the only ways to cultivate humility and dependence?
  6. Can we best fulfill the Great Commission when we ourselves are sick?
  7. If it was God's will for people to be sick, wouldn't Jesus have been going against God's will by healing them? Wouldn't we be going against God's will every time we prayed for healing?
  8. In Scripture, Jesus doesn't only heal believers. Many he healed weren't believers when he healed them. Some left him, healing in hand, without a thank you. So what does it mean that He didn't do many mighty works in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matt. 13:58; Mark 6:5,6)? What role does faith play?
  9. The mission stated over and over again in the Gospels is to preach the gospel and heal the sick. Preach the gospel and heal the sick. Preach the gospel and heal the sick. When Jesus sent out the twelve, he told them, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8). This doesn't sound like a pick and choose kind of God. So what's the deal?
  10. Could the gap between what we see in Scripture and our experience be our fault? As in the fault of the Church? If so, what does this say about our will versus God's will? If not, does the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever carry out his will differently now than he did in the first century?

In Summary:

Notice I have all these fabulous questions and no easy answers. I can't offer a satisfactory response to any of them because God is mystery. But here's what I make of my experience with the information I have at this time:

God did not send my sickness. Neither did He waste it. God used my physical sickness to rescue me from sickness of mind, body, and spirit. My sickness was the fastest, most efficient way for God to do this and make me usable. My sickness did not glorify God; I glorified God by leaning into Him through it. God never smiled at my pain; He smiled at what I did with it.

The enemy sent my illness and used it to try and kill me. Again and again and again. He did this because I'm dangerous. He failed because God didn't allow it. God is sovereign.

And yet other dangerous, usable people die. I don't know what this means. But I do know God is sovereign. He is the head of all principality and power (Col. 2:10). Not a moment of this storm was outside of his perfect control, and his character and attributes do not change with circumstance.

God healed me. God used prayer to heal me. My healing would not have happened outside of persistent, fervent, expectant prayer. My prayers. Prayers of family, friends, and elders. The prayers of many.

These prayers kept me alive, kept me close to Jesus, and helped me navigate the path laid out for me. The path led me to a group of people who operate in the Spirit of God. They saw my plight, had compassion, and rescued me through more fervent prayer. They had faith for me when I didn't have it for myself. Enough faith for me to expect something to happen.

My healing was intrinsically tied to deliverance, which was brought about in a personal prayer session (Sozo), a ministry of the group mentioned above.

My healing glorified God. My liberation unleashed more of the Holy Spirit into the world. Now whole and operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, I can better fulfill the mission--preach the gospel, heal the sick and brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, help the blind to see, liberate the oppressed, cast out demons, raise the dead. Make disciples. Make disciple-making disciples. 

I'm called to give as freely as it has been given to me. Which, you gotta admit, has been pretty freely, so I best be serious about this, yo. 

The miraculous bolsters faith in the miraculous. My prayers are not what they once were because I now believe in the impossible. I ask for impossible things. I believe for impossible things. The impossible has become my new normal.

I know that not everyone I pray for will be healed and delivered, but what do I lose by praying? What do I lose? Time? Energy? Who cares? I get God! Even when the miracle doesn't come. And now that I know it might, by the grace of God I'll never stop asking.

I want to do this thing in such a way that if I'm wrong I'll be the most pitiful fool who ever walked the earth and when I see my Jesus face to face I'll have nothing to regret. And who knows? Maybe one day I'll get to see God do something REALLY cool like raise somebody from the dead!

So yeah...that's where I stand. At the moment, anyway.

Now that I've closed my most recent Facebook debate, let a new one begin. And in the spirit of full disclosure, if you comment, especially if that comment is nasty or despondent, you'll be put on a list and prayed for. You've been warned.


Anonymous said...

I'm happy that you're feeling well. I would like to suggest one correction for your comment in your first paragraphs which said, "Mastocytosis/Mast Cell Activation Disease affects every aspect of human life. There's no square inch it doesn't attempt to claim. To make matters worse, there's no cure, so it's a disease without much hope." Although I can't speak for the Mast Cell Activation Syndrome form of mast cell disease, I do have the Mastocytosis form of mast cell disease. In my case, I don't agree is impacts every aspect of human life. While it may do so in many cases, it definitely does not in mine. I am fortunate to rate my quality of life as 9 out of 10, even thought I have more significant mast cell infiltration than most people with mastocytosis. Every patient is different. I also want to say I have great hope for a cure...maybe not in our lifetime, but hope is hope. I agree my Faith and Belief in God helps, but so does medicine! I'm wishing you blessing and continued good health!

MelissaKeaster said...

Great points. :)

Nataliajean said...

I have interstitial cystitis and indolent systemic mastocytosis. They're both managed fairly okay. I read the post and thought it was so good I was crying until I got to the "questions" and was like THIS SUCKS!!!! Yes God plans disease/pain/suffering for His Glory, look at Job, look at Jesus, look at the whole bible. No He doesn't do it Himself but it's not like He's up there all shocked walking behind Satan cleaning up his messes. Yes some of us need our illness for our sanctification look at Paul and his thorn in his flesh. We're not more sanctified than Paul. I love it when God heals people but I hate it with a passion when those people don't respect their suffering and they're just like "phew, glad that's over now". The bible says it's an honor to suffer for Christ which includes being sick. My sicknesses aren't a waste at all and I don't like people acting like they are.

MelissaKeaster said...

@Nataliajean- You misunderstand my heart. My posts over the last several years offer a clearer picture of where I stand on the issue. I encourage you to read more, especially from my days of suffering, but I'll do my best to summarize...

I view my entire story--from birth until now--as a rescue mission. I don't believe God sent my sickness nor do I believe He enjoyed watching me suffer. This isn't a theological leap. Sickness and death weren't part of the original design. They were brought about by our rebellion. So we can safely assume God hates sickness and death.

I also believe what the enemy meant for my destruction God meant for His glory, my good and the good of his Church. I believe He granted permission to the enemy to assault me, set limitations as to what the enemy could do, and has been sovereign over every moment and event in my life. God doesn't pace the throne room, wringing his hands. He SITS on the throne.

Our suffering is only wasted when we embitter ourselves toward God in the midst of it. As long as we lean into Him, NOTHING is wasted. And regardless of our response, God wastes nothing. He's in the redeeming business. Why hello there, Mr. Paradox.

Which brings me to the purpose of my questions--I'm simply making room for paradox in my theology. Scripture is full of paradox (i.e. God chooses us AND we choose Him). Two--maybe even three or four--seemingly opposing truths can work together. God's big enough to handle that. We, generally speaking, are not.

I haven't landed with most of my questions, even now. I may never, and that's okay. We aren't called to make a home within a particular paradigm but to make a home in Him. I don't want to make an idol of my theology, my healing OR my suffering. My chief aim is worship God as He is. To glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Through death into eternity.

I think we can agree on that.