Today is World AIDS Day. For those of you who are regular readers of our blog, you are already aware that this day has particular meaning for our family. Our dad contracted the virus just over ten years ago. I’d encourage you to read his testimony here, which he wrote last year for our blog. It is the story of man coming to terms with the unthinkable, what had seemed imaginable.
The misinformation that leads to the stigma associated with this disease is astounding. With Charlie Sheen’s recent announcement, I saw so many people condemning him because of his HIV status and hesitancy to tell people. There are plenty of reasons for people to dislike Sheen, but contracting HIV is not one of them – nor is his hesitancy to tell people. You are talking about a disease that many people instantly judge someone as “deserving” as soon as they hear they are HIV positive. You are talking about a disease that immediately transforms the relationship you have with others due to the misinformation and beliefs to which people cling. Let’s stop judging people for their HIV status and/or their process for coming to terms themselves and sharing this deeply personal disease with others.
So, today, tomorrow, this week, take some time to educate yourself (and others). Check your assumptions. Check your bias. Talk about HIV/AIDS for what it actually is, not what people think it is. And get tested!
“Prosperity has its pitfalls. It can make us fat and dull, turning us into people of mediocre faith”
This has always been one of my fears. I’m not sure why because God has always felt perfectly comfortable pouring on the hardships (be it brain surgery, AIDS, financial downfalls, cross country moves, long distance husbands…I could continue).
Yet, while I’m aware of the hard times (and was mildly aware growing up) they’ve never felt that big, or hard, or scary to me.
I think that’s why ‘prosperity’ scares me. Sometimes I feel like surely a ball is going to drop and life is going to get real hard.
Paying no mind to the fact that we’ve failed at juggling years ago.
It’s a testament to my parents faith and love. They are spiritually ambidextrous. Faithful in the good times and bad, love flowing and life living through the easy and hard.
And hard isn’t so hard when you have faith and family.
Hard times come, and come, nothing is ever smooth sailing for our family. Althought that is a common misconception due to all the love.
Then again, maybe its not, because nothing is too big or too hard when you’re not alone.
I’m not praying for hard times, I don’t have to, they will come or I will manage to make them myself.
I do pray for the ability to be spiritually ambidextrous To learn to live in the valley and peaks with unwavering faith and love.
Sometimes I’m ok with the fact that my dad has AIDs. Other times, I’m down right mad.
He didn’t smoke his lungs into oblivion, or drink his liver away, or lay in the sun until his skin was crispy.
He didn’t have an affair, or do drugs, or get tattoos from risky establishments.
He got poked by needle. Shoved in a restroom stall by some miserable, knowing human being.
Life isn’t fair.
I guess that’s the bottom line. People expect blessings and justice from an awesome God.
And yes, He is awesome. And yes, He gives blessings, and, yes, at the end of time, justice will be doled out.
And yes, life isn’t fair and He allows it. And so I come back to the verse “and if not, He is still good”
I picture my dad with high energy, pestering, playing basketball every night. I realize that hasn’t been reality in a long time.
And yet I know one day he’ll be high energy again, pestering holiness, playing basketball gilded in gold.
And that’s our promise. That’s the eternal. That’s what makes an unfair, hard life tolerable. An unbelievable God with a plan that passes our understanding
And maybe the high energy dad is gone for awhile. But he’s still the one who sees me best. Who makes me feel prettiest, who sees through my bravado and wraps me in arms stronger than any hardship I’m having. He’s still the one who can fix any thing broken and answer any question.
And I distinctly remember him turning around the car on work trips, even when I was too old to be acting up, and coming home for one more hug. And he’s still the one who turns around the car because I just need another hug.
And sometimes I’m mad and sad and bewildered at God’s good and right and hard and barely palatable plan.
“…But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
You never considered the One who planned this long ago.”
Isaiah 22: 11b
Let me give you some context – Isaiah is outlining a message he received from God about Jerusalem. In it, he sees the entire city in a “terrible uproar” (verse 2). There is death and destruction everywhere. After describing the state fo the city, he describes the actions of its citizens in response. “You run to the armory…you inspect the breaks…you store up water…” It goes on like this for several verses. They are trying to respond and take care of things. However, the response that should happen, never does.
“But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considerd the One who planned this long ago.”
There is a lot of depth, questions, and answers in this chapter. “The One who did this.” What is the “this?” By my earthly standards and interpretation, it is the devastation of an entire city, a lot of families, a lot of people. Isaiah even says, “Let me cry for my people as I watch them being destroyed.”
We see natural and man made disasters every day. People, cities, countries are being destoryed as I write this, as you read this. “The One who did this.” God allows things to happen. Things that don’t always make sense and seem unfair to us on earth, based on our limited human understanding. One of the hardest things for me to learn after AIDS stormed my life was that God has a plan and I don’t need to know it. The first part was easy to accept, but the second part was not. I think I need to know and control everything. It is typically effective professsionaly, but not in faith. I have to trust that He knows better than I; I have to trust that He has a purpose. I have to hold onto the fact that no matter the devastation, there is hope in “the One who did this” – because, after all, He “planned this long ago.”
There he will remove the cloud of gloom,
the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.
He will swallow up death forever!
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.
He will remove forever all insults and mockery
against his land and people.
The Lord has spoken!
Isaiah 25: 7-8
We can move forward through the devastation with the knowledge that “the Sovereign Lord will wipe away all the tears” for us as He also promised Jerusalem. We don’t know for sure if it will be in this world or heaven for each of us, but we know that He has plans for us for good (Jeremiah 29:11).
So, it is a conscious decision in times of devastation, large and small, to trust in the “One who did this and planned it long ago.” To trust that He allows things to happen that can ultimately work for His good.
There are lots of days that can be celebrated and I started looking up some of them highlighted from a world-wide standpoint…International Day of Pancakes, International Hello Day, International Earth Day…there is a day of Families, Peace and even, Monkeys. No, I am not joking. I have celebrated for many years in the World Day of Prayer which is always held on the first Friday of March.I never, never, expected to recognize World AIDS Day, December 1st – yet here I am.
Perhaps some would say my “life” stopped March 8th, 2011…it certainly changed.My husband of 25+ years, the love of my life, my best-friend, was diagnosed with AIDS.He had actually been infected almost a decade earlier due to what I consider an evil, terrorist attack.How he was infected is almost not important (and I could go on and on about that), but due to the protocol at the time he was misdiagnosed…as in not diagnosed at all.Everyone followed protocol for 3 months, tested him again and declared him “uninfected.”Fast forward to 2011.
By the time he was diagnosed he had full blown AIDS.He was months from death (doctors’ words, not mine.) Yes, he had many symptoms over the years, yet always misdiagnosed and he was never tested for two (2) tests…pregnancy and HIV.He didn’t “fit the protocol”.
From the world view there is much to be angry about. There is much to be bitter about.I can’t though. I just can’t.It requires energy I am unwilling to give evil.Please do not misconceive my message as holier than thou.I spent weeks/months on the Mount of Olives.Literally reading over and over Christ’ words.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV)
How could this be our lot…our life.AIDS?Really?
The question going around our minds was “why me?”Why not me?
Really it is or can be an honor.I have been allowed the privilege of knowing what is really important. We don’t wait for when we retire. We run away from reality for long weekends. My children will never take us for granted.I decided that we would celebrate every day.We use cloth napkins (I do laundry anyways) we use wine glasses (okay from the dollar store so I can throw them in the dishwasher) for milk with dinner ~ DAILY.
Job talking to his wife …He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?” Job 2:10 (MSG)
What we have is not as important as how we spend our time.And really who am I to question to the wisdom of the Creator of the universe?
I do not begin to imply that Dan or I am anything near Christ.We seek to serve him and claim him as our Lord and Savior, but I kept running over and over and over and over in my head; Jesus knew what was coming and he accepted it.He didn’t want it. Would have taken any acceptable way out, but kept walking forward, because that was God’s will.
We were less than a year into our diagnosis (because when two become one Genesis 2:23 it becomes ours) and I literally hit the floor with my knees in tears when I read this because THIS is faith for me:
Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit; though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty,yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation.The Lord God is my strength; he will give me the speed of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. Habakkuk 3:17-19 (TLB)
Over and over and over again God spells out His love for me. I have clung to Jeremiah 29:11 long before we found our lives changed by AIDS, because life is not just one thing. My life is a journey and I can choose to trust that, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you a hope and a future.”
I am all over the place and I completely acknowledge that.What I believe and KNOW to be true in my heart is that God loves me.He loves Dan.He loves our children and even knows and loves our grandchildren….He sees the big picture ~ as in eternity.To Him?This is a means to an end.My job as wife to Dan and mom to his three children is to live out His love in the humanity He sent to earth.My life will NOT be defined by a disease. I choose to trust that He will bring me safely over the mountains and it is here I will live the rest of my days.
I’ve written a lot about my feelings on AIDS and how it has affected me and my family (ok, mostly in my private journals but I’ve still written a lot). Throughout the years what has come out of my pen has changed. A lot.
Like most of my family my initial question was “why us?”
This time the resounding question is: Is it a bad thing or a hard thing?
By definition bad means inaccurate, incorrect, or faulty…
While I don’t believe in luck or circumstance, I do believe in a perfect God, with a perfect plan…which means He is never incorrect or faulty (even if it makes absolutely zero sense to me).
That leaves me with only one answer to my question: it (AIDS) is a hard thing.
Fortunately, that does line up perfectly with my faith.
The Bible never says our road, our life, our walk with God will be easy (or make sense).
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
It specifically says it will be a narrow (i.e. difficult) path; that few will find it and keep to it because it will be hard.
It also says:
“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.”
2 Corinthians 1: 8-10
Notice it doesn’t say God will take away all the pain and explain everything so you understand and it will be easier to handle. The Bible simply says….I will be with you, and when the road gets rough you may have to learn to walk with rocks in your shoes (ok I’m paraphrasing at the end, but I think God agrees).
I can’t possibly list the ways AIDS has changed my family’s lives. It’s affected each one of us very differently. My dad is not living with AIDS, we all are.
Yes, physically his body takes the beating. But every single day we all live with the side effects with him and for him. And every single day is different than it was before.
I firmly believe AIDS is something God allowed to happen to us because He knew we could handle it. He knew we could do more than survive it. We would rally and learn to thrive among a debilitating, stereotyping illness. We would and will leave just as big a mark on AIDS as it has on us.
It’s taken years to come to this conclusion and to be able to say, with a smile on my face and full faith:
AIDS is not a bad thing that’s happened to my family. It is a hard thing.
And when the road gets rough there’s only one thing to do…you’ve got to learn to walk with rocks in your shoes.
I can be eloquent like my father. I can be strong. I can be a rock, a pillar. I can be loving, kind, considerate—cold. I can have a cough, a cold, Ebola, malaria, AIDS. I can be smart, can live everyday like it’s my last. I can drink milk from wine glasses, and a shot of bourbon for nightcaps. I can be political, powerful, poignant with my points. I can care for my fellow man. I can go to church. I can read the Bible. I can quote scripture, a chapter, a verse. I can contemplate the Universe. I can question God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, god, Gandhi, King, Marx, Hitler, Horace, Pope, Swift. I can be eloquent like my father.
But I am not him.
On a side note: Perhaps it is not enough to have a month, to tell recent stories and experiences. Perhaps a reflection on AIDS in the media is also required:
Walker says it:
Family Guys says it:
Team America says it:
Pat says it (about 35 seconds in):
Pat says it…again (at the 1:27 mark):
Perhaps, if the rest of America was more like Texas Walker Ranger and 21st century satire writers then stereotypes would fizzle out. Perhaps, if Christians, like Pat Robertson, weren’t so ignorant and pompous with their power and influence, then the world view of AIDS would change, or, perhaps, most Christians have a relationship with the world that is like my thoughts about my father, and Christians cannot be something they are not.