Today we have a guest post from my sister, Ana Harris, over at Ana Harris Writes!
When I was 19, I fell desperately ill and was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I became bed bound and experienced intense chronic pain along with debilitating neurological and psychiatric symptoms.
I would have episodes of feeling completely disconnected from the physical world. I would look at my hands and wonder how they could be a part of me when they didn’t feel like they were. I would stare into the mirror dumbfounded that the person I saw there was supposed to be me. I felt like I wasn’t really inside my body. I would look around my sickroom, and objects that had been there for months suddenly looked foreign and confusing.
I had frequent episodes of panic that lasted for hours. I would hide in the closet afraid of my own husband and family. I would scream and hyperventilate even though I had no idea what was so terrifying. My brain was sick and I was losing touch with reality. I was losing touch with who I was.
It was in the middle of this nightmare that my father-in-law, Gregg, came to New York for a speaking engagement. I was tucked away in my sick bed, too sensitive to light and sound to visit with him and my family. But before it was time for him to leave, he came into my room quietly to greet me. Knowing what I was dealing with, he said something I will never forget.
He said that he believed God kept a backup of my true personality, of who I really was, in heaven that could never be lost. So even though I was quite literally losing my mind and life, I wasn’t losing my identity. Not permanently. God knew who I really was and no amount of mental suffering could destroy that person.
I wasn’t very responsive at the time but it impacted me deeply. I didn’t have to let the illness consume me. I felt like I was losing my identity, but my present state was not the definition of who I was.
Several years later, my experience confirmed that what my father-in-law told me was really true. As I began to heal from my illness, I slowly realized that the real Ana was still there, even though she had been hidden under all the mental suffering. Not only that, she was even better at being Ana than she had been before.
My father-in-law was right, even an illness that completely destroys your personality and takes away all your abilities doesn’t have the final say. God is able to turn that evil on its head. When the suffering falls away, whether in this life or in heaven, your true identity will shine through more than ever before. All the things that were never really part of your identity will fall away and all of the things that were truly you will be restored. The suffering you thought was destroying you becomes the tool that shaped you into who you were always meant to be.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Take courage friends! Our identity as children of God who bear his image and are destined for glory is secure. We don’t need to be troubled by changes that threaten to destroy us. God knows who we really are, even if we don’t, and he is orchestrating all of our circumstances and opportunities to make us into that beautiful and unique person.
Ana Harris is the happy wife of Brett Harris and a joyful follower of Jesus Christ. She is currently waging an intense battle with Mold Illness, but when healthy she loves to worship God through ballet ministry. She has a passion for writing and evangelism.