I do not consider myself a macho man—the kind of guy whose physical and mental characteristics are rugged, independent, strong and manly in every way. That’s important to know as I lay out the rest of this story….
I am in the middle of treatment for another illness, and trying to figure out whether powering through the ailment and its treatments is a good idea.
I know about power in its many forms—it’s a positive term for me, useful in any situation where self-doubt or weakness might tempt me to think otherwise. I AM powerful, I know that. I also deeply believe that, by myself, I am powerless. Whatever strengths I have are the result of others’ support and love. And at its foundations, my power is an offshoot of God’s power. God’s provident creativity. God’s love.
As I think about the coming weeks of daily treatments, I realize that there’s no good reason to give in to side effects like tiredness or loss of appetite. Rolling over and playing dead isn’t a good way to face anything in life. That attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—the “dead” part—and that’s not the way I think about my life inside of God’s will for the world.
On the other hand, this “powering through” idea might have some merit. As a sports metaphor—especially from weight-lifting—powering through speaks to the value of grit and determination in overcoming obstacles or impossibilities. “Working through the pain” is one way that athletes describe this attitude. If I could just gather together enough energy to keep my emotions positive and my physical self strong, I might just beat this disease and treatment by sheer dint of will. By exerting power—in all its forms.
That idea loses some of its sheen, though, when I realize that working towards long-term recovery is completely different from gutting it out through a two-hour game, or bench-pressing twice one’s weight with swift motions. Presently available medical miracles will require time to work on my body, mind and spirit. Because this effort can go on for months, an initial spurt of exertive effort isn’t going to work as the primary path to health. (And I absolutely reject the notion that “whatever doesn’t kill you will make you strong.” Whoever came up with that sloppy—manly?—aphorism hadn’t faced chemotherapy, reconstructive surgery, unmanageable pain, crippling injury or spirit-robbing addiction.)
So what’s a non-manly-man of God supposed to do about this idea? Find a middle ground, of course. One that looks something like this: I can acknowledge my responsibility for being part of a successful plan of treatment—naming all the God-given power(s) that lie inside me. I can continue exercising daily, eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep—restoring and fueling whatever power I have. I can rely on the reliable support and care of my doctors, spouse, family and friends—using some of their powerful wisdom. I can refrain from over-thinking the conditions that brought me into this treatment, signs of improvement/deterioration or the infinitesimal intricacies of this illness—this mindset can rob me of power. I can continue to live a normal life around the edges of the treatment schedule—routines have a way of nurturing power. And I can remain steadfast in grateful prayers—there’s power in prayer, whatever it might be and however it might be described.
So yes, surrounded by blessings and assured of God’s love, I will be powering through this latest manifestation of illness.
But not like a manly man….