By paths as yet unknown...

They were not the words I expected to hear.

“You have Parkinson’s Disease.”

After two hours of extensive and exhaustive examination: trying to stand on one foot, to walk a straight line, to not fall over when pushed, to run quickly down a hallway, flunking a cognitive perception test, Dave and I were growing concerned. My hand tremor was the least of my worries. I had come in to the neurologist expecting a diagnosis of Essential Tremor, a nuisance but not devastating condition. Now, the symptoms were all too clear. Something else.

“You have Parkinson’s.” A path altogether unwelcome and unknown.

I am about six weeks out now, from this diagnosis. I’ve had a brain MRI (good news: I have one!) and all kinds of blood tests. I’ve been going to physical therapy twice a week, am joining a support group, and have been exercising as if my life depended on it. Because, in many ways, it does.

God and I have had a little (big) chat about this. I spend time reading and praying the Psalms. I believe Jesus when he says, “I have come that you have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) And I am at peace. Which is not to say altogether calm, or without grief. In fact, I cycle through all of Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief every day. I cried while writing this first paragraph. It was a shock. In some respects, I just can’t believe it yet.
There is no cure. The progression of the disease is different with every person. I’m taking the gold standard medication and have a great doctor and treatment team. And a lot is up to me, to keep moving and not resign myself to the forces of rigidity.

Rigidity. That is the enemy.

And that is how it is for all of us. For our spirits, our souls. Rigidity is the enemy. Dynamism is the gift and the goal. This disease makes it clearer than anything I’ve encountered so far the truism that growth is the only evidence of life. There are so many threats to dynamism, to continuing growth. We get stuck, in patterns, hurts, apathy, bad habits. Faithlessness.

Jesus always calls us to be on the move. To go out. To test, to try, to push, to expand our limits, our ideas. God’s Grace Community Church has helped all of us to move out, to extend hospitality and love, life itself to those beyond our boundaries. I love that!

I have been so deeply blessed by the communion of saints in these weeks. Hundreds of friends and people I don’t even know are praying for me. I feel that physically as strength and as a calming effect.
It is a real test of faith and a real test of courage, to trust the unknown future. I will do everything I can to fight this disease. To fight against rigidity. Of body, of spirit. The prayers all help!

I rest only in this grace, using the words of a favorite prayer. I invite you to pray it for yourself, about your unknowns, your situation, your experiences, and entrust yourself to the One who IS grace and mercy.

“Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

Jan Erickson-Pearson

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