Feeling Fraudulent

I sometimes feel a bit like a fraud.

Some of the time – when I climb stairs, or get into a coughing fit which takes 5 minutes to recover from, or can’t eat – it’s clear that I’m not well. But at the right time of day with the right pills, I can sit in a chair and chat to a friend and feel entirely normal. And so when my wife fetches me a drink from the kitchen, or someone else hastens to answer the door, I feel I want to say “No, please, I can do that for myself.” When I ordered a blue badge (a marker for your car allowing you to use disabled parking spaces), I felt that there must be many who are more deserving of one than I am.

But these feelings of wellness and fitness are really an illusion. Normality already includes having to deal with bouts of severe coughing, tiredness requiring multiple naps per day, back pain, and shortness of breath. And, while various symptoms have come and gone (I had oedema in my legs, then didn’t, and now do again but less strongly) the general trend is clear if you look dispassionately. The fact that I can have short periods where none of the symptoms are bothersome doesn’t mean they aren’t there. So why is my heart so keen to believe that the feelings of wellness are real?

As God would have it, we had a sermon today at The Crowded House, Loughborough (on Romans 3:27-31) which touched on this. The root of these desires is the sin of pride. I want to feel independent, in control, autonomous, competent, normal. That makes me feel good. But God has made us to be dependent beings – primarily on him but also on each other – and to find our contentment in him, not in our health or strength. And it seems he is teaching me to depend on him more, both by having to pray for the strength to make it through each day, but also having to graciously accept the fact that I am ever more dependent on others.

In a verse which has been important to me ever since I was diagnosed 18 years ago, God promises that in all things he will “work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). In other words, I have cancer for my own good. Here is yet another way, the latest in a line of many, where God is demonstrating that he is using it to make me, slowly and sometimes painfully, more like Christ, for his glory.

3 thoughts on “Feeling Fraudulent

  1. Gervase, I just wanted to thank you for this post, and for many others here, and for your non-blog writings on gerv.net, and… Well, I guess I could just admit that I’ve been on-and-off cyberstalking you for years, because you write so well about things that matter (and, in free software, worked on things that matter). When a piece has political or social commentary, I may agree or disagree with it, but never have I seen any that were laid out carelessly or without rigor, or that I regretted reading. And when you have written more personally, as here, it is like a small but very clear window into your being, and I always learn something — in this case, for example, that the desire to feel independent and in control is, at root, a manifestation of pride. Obvious once pointed out, yet somehow I never noticed it.

    We’ve only met a handful of times, and I’ve enjoyed them all, but they have been too few. Patrick Finch told me about Going Home, and now I find that gratitude which I should have been expressing in small amounts spread out over a long time I must fit all at once into one comment. That compression is not really possible, of course, but thank you for everything you’ve done and the spirit in which you have done it.

    (The smallest is that you kindly backed the Kickstarter campaign for the 2nd edition of my book; I owe you a treeware copy now, and you are welcome to one, but I hope and guess that you have better ways to spend your time!)

    Take care,

  2. Agree with Karl; you always write well and even if I don’t agree, never in an inflammatory or illogical way.

    Following you and wishing you well.

    Just wanted to say that even if you are concerned about committing a sin of pride, you are HUMAN and we tend to easily forget that we were meant to be interdependent rather than independent, especially in “first world” countries where independence is so highly prized (but honestly why and for what?). I feel like you are just being the human in the culture within which you were raised and have lived all these years. I guess you don’t seem to be self-flagellating too much about it, though, so…

    In any case, I hope you can get plenty more visits or activities where you feel “normal” without suffering much. Been reading the listserv, too…this is a hard time for you all and you all deserve plenty of gentle loving and care. I used to work in hospice where people as young as 11 died from cancer while I worked there and now work in cancer care (the past 6.5 years) and it’s never easier to watch someone wrestle with their remaining days. I feel like you are doing it with the utmost grace, which does not surprise me one bit, based on our visits with you those 12 years ago! :)

  3. The reason I’m not self-flagellating about it is not because I don’t consider it serious, but because I’ve been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and forgiven :-) Living God’s way in God’s world is what makes us truly human; anything else is second best, at best.

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