In a world where everybody is told they need to be somebody, lying flat on my back and unable to move was not a position I considered optimal for thriving. In fact, with my eyes on the blades of an equally immobile ceiling fan, the only thing I could do was trace dust.
It wasn’t the first time I’d found myself in this predicament. At the age of forty, anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction) sent me to the emergency room for rescue. Despite extensive tests for my immune system’s repeated allergic reactions, no one could name my specific disease. Instead of answers, doctors gave strong medications in attempts to mask my symptoms. They also suggested lifestyle changes that might help . . . but also might not.
Chronic pain, inflammation, and neurological issues continued to be part of my life until, at age fifty, I contracted mononucleosis (a viral infection), further adding to an already complicated situation. My unstable immune system failed to control the virus, leaving me with chronic Epstein-Barr. The virus caused chaos in my body and led to weight gain, which only further strained my relationships, because my “able-ness” left me feeling purposeless, invisible, and misunderstood. This, in turn, ultimately isolated me from the ones I thought would see me and care.
Friends commented, “What happened to you?” and “You used to be so beautiful.” Others sent well-meaning messages on social media, offering to purchase things they thought to be “solutions” to my situation. I was no longer the somebody they used to know. To be honest, I was no longer the somebody I once knew. I no longer recognized myself . . . and whenever I looked in the mirror, all I saw was a nobody.
My gaze locked onto the dusty fan as words wet with tears spilled out to God: If this is how I have to live for the rest of my life, then I don’t want to live at all!
This confession shocked me and shook me to my core. Did I really believe my worth hinged on ability? Would God see me as unlovable and worthless if I couldn’t perform to a specified standard? Had I embraced the notion that “doing” made me a lovable somebody and that an inability to do made me an invisible nobody?
Even though I didn’t believe these things, this was the posture I’d unintentionally been living from. I wasn’t trusting God for peace or preservation. Instead, I was living in fear and believing that others would find me unfit, consider me unreliable, and use my weaknesses against me.
In my debility, God reminded me who He was and what I meant to Him. He whispered, “Rest, my child. I am with you. Because of the cross, you have everything to live for.”
I sensed my heart shift as my view expanded beyond the lifeless fan. I began to see my inadequacies in light of God’s ever-present mercy, which enables me to thrive beyond mere survival — even, and especially, when I cannot stand on my own. My worth rests not in my significance or strength but in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. There is nothing I need to do to be found worthy of His love because the cross proves His devotion and my value — even amid suffering.
A world divided into somebodies and nobodies is an illusion. Our uniqueness doesn’t fit into categories like well and unwell, useful and useless, or somebody and nobody. We are not our outward appearance or our ability to perform. When God made us, it was not to parade us for optics or to consume our usefulness — it was so He could be near us in love.
God doesn’t view His creation as garbage, and neither does He view weakness as a reason to walk away from His creation. In God’s economy, being incapable does not equal being a nobody.
He saw my frame, writhing in the unexpected and unknown, and He did not use it against me . . . as the world is apt to do. Instead, God saw it as the perfect posture for me to receive the grace and strength He alone possesses.
Another decade has since passed, and I still hear the taunting comment (What happened to you?) every time my physical appearance shifts or when illness interrupts my plans. I manage long periods of wellness and symptom relief with medication, for which I’m grateful. Death is less frightening, opinions less volatile, and the love of Jesus is more precious than ever before.
I often wonder if someone will use my weakness, my unpredictable illness, against me. However, those who judge or categorize me are not holding the pen that writes my story— God is. And, to Him, I was and always will be somebody He loves.
Sisters, the same is true for you.