Too much of our world understands crisis firsthand. Recent earthquakes in places like Haiti and Chile remind us of the fragile nature of life. In fact, there are "earthquakes" happening every hour of every day for families and individuals through the consequences of poor marriages, abusive childhoods, poor decision patterns—you name it. The debris is strewn from one end of the journey to the other. And when we are dealing with life on these terms, we find ourselves living in the trenches of warfare or in the ruts of complacency. Either way, we are unable to become what God has placed so deeply inside each of us.
But we must survive and so, in response, we learn to live chronically in crisis. And these patterns give birth to worries that permeate every corner of our lives. Soon, we become less about becoming all that God has in store, and instead we spend most of our time enduring what the world has thrown our way. Unfortunately, this sort of life is the most difficult and painful to continue and confront. On the one hand, it is not terminal. It is not the end. Life doesn't transition itself. But on the other hand, it isn't real life either. When we are living in chronic crisis, we are never quite breathing in the fullness of life, but instead holding our breaths, afraid of what might come around the corner. It is chronic, never-ending, all-consuming, but not fatal. Instead, we get the displeasure of living through our illness, for it is powerful enough to drain us of our hope, but not powerful enough to kill us—at least not all at once.
Too often, or as human nature is expected to do, we focus on these worries of life and remain hostage to the whims of this world. And all the while, our souls are craving something more, something different. We crave awe and wonder. We are built for such, to run and to praise—not to be tied down by the meaningless goals and broken relationships.
Most chronic patterns do not start overnight. We do not wake up one morning with a brand-new chronic illness. No, the symptoms develop over time and become debilitating. The result is a life lived at 50 percent power or possibility.
We have a friend who has fought a chronic illness for nearly twenty-five years. We watched this vibrant person in her late thirties teach kindergarten, volunteer at her church, and take care of her family as well as several others. One day her right arm began to ache, until finally, two years later, she found herself in a wheelchair unable to move her legs or arms without significant assistance. The doctors told our friend that she was lucky: the virus had attacked only her limbs and not her torso, thus her major organs were OK. But she would be in a wheelchair the rest of her life. Our friend said she felt "like half of a person—and not the useful half at that." Now, that is not to say that people who use wheelchairs are less than whole persons. We have lots of friends who live very active, amazing lives in wheelchairs and with other non-traditional circumstances. No, the issue for our friend is that she felt like "half of a person" because of what her illness did to her each day. She had imagined that her life would be so different than the circumstances she faced now. In fact, she once said that "living in a wheelchair is not the issue; it is living with the ache that I wish I could get rid of."