You read that right- my neurologist. I have one because I live with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was diagnosed in 2006 and though the beginning was rough (with symptoms that gave me crushing fatigue and a delay on my left side, significant enough that I couldn’t keep my balance), I stabilized. Through conventional and complementary modalities, my body’s immune system calmed down. I’ve been in complete remission for 17 years which qualifies on the MS spectrum as extraordinary.
But here I was this spring in an appointment with my neurologist who informed me that I was experiencing a recurrence. This was not a new attack: Rather, new symptoms were coming out of damage in my spine that had not bothered me before. These symptoms were real, hindering me from being able to jog for more than a minute consecutively, creating neuropathy in my feet and making me feel like I couldn’t properly grip in my right hand. I fell into a place of deep despair.
By nature, I am a huge fan of honesty and openness and I didn’t want to hide what was happening, so I posted this development on social media. What I didn’t do is put myself on the prayer list, despite the fact there is no one, with the exception of my communications wingman Brian Snow, who has better access to it than me. To do that felt terrifying.
I’ve been trying to articulate an answer for months and all I can only come up with this: There is an element of surrender that comes with prayer, and that by praying, I was surrendering: To the power of God and to those who tap into this spiritual way. I’ve always felt the vulnerability that comes with prayer but by embracing it, a heartfelt conversation with the Divine comes into play. It feels deeper than mere quick one off requests.
I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person, but I usually talk in terms of the universe, or a higher power. Pure, unadulterated prayer feels a whole other level of spirituality. In Star Wars speak, it’s going deep into the light side of the Force and, seemingly out of nowhere, an RCB congregant named Marlene Small became my Yoda.
Diminutive in stature and huge in heart, Marlene found me in the hallway of the church one Saturday morning as I was going out and she was coming in. We had both participated in the Coming Home program a few years back. We are also Facebook friends and she had read the news about my MS. She came up to me and told me how affected she was by the news. As she spoke, she teared up, but her voice stayed strong. Seamlessly, her small hands circled mine as she stared right into my eyes, continuing to tell me how she felt. Her words became rhythmic and she ended with a blessing (of which I can’t recall), all while keeping my gaze with full intention. I was moved in a way that I had not experienced from any of my loving friends and family. In that moment, she directly fed me the healing power of her faith. Big time. And it changed me spiritually, if not physically.
I spent months this spring working to figure out what was wrong. I’m pretty sure that Marlene and this church are beginning to show me what is right.