Can I tell you a secret and trust you not to share it with anyone else? Because it’s kind of embarrassing and I’m only telling you because I really think it will help to get it off of my chest…
I get hives.
There you go. I admitted it. But not the normal hives. Not hives that you get because you ate food that you’re allergic to or that appear after swiping up against an unfamiliar plant in the woods… No, that’s not it at all. My hives start to show up when I’m overly anxious or worked up about something. The phenomenon first started when I was twenty-three years old, living in my first real apartment across town from my parents. The apartment I rented with a friend from camp who, to this day (unless she’s reading this), doesn’t know that I get hives.
I was going through my first real health issue, a complication of the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome I had been diagnosed with before college, and I was a basket-case. My parents lovingly answered phone call after phone call of symptoms, talked me through urgent care center visits, and attempted to soothe my fears. Until the evening I noticed the left side of my upper lip was swelling.
I called my mom.
Honey, you’re fine. It’s probably nothing. Just try to calm down, watch some TV, and go to bed.
She didn’t believe me? I used my handy dandy smartphone to send a picture.
My mom called back pretty quickly.
It looks like a hive. Did you eat anything out of the ordinary?
No! Of course I didn’t! If I had, I would have told her. As my nervous rambling picked up, she tried to comfort me again, but I answered with the most logical response I could come up with.
“Mom, I’m dying.” (Have I mentioned that sometimes I have a tendency to assume the worst?)
When she invited me to spend the night at their house, I quickly agreed, packed a bag full of work clothes – on the off chance I survived to the next morning – and drove across town to be tucked into my childhood bed, kissed goodnight, and wished sweet dreams. I asked my mother to check on me when she woke in the morning to make sure I was still breathing. She seemed hesitant, but she agreed. Before I drifted off, I prayed frantically that God would let me live to see one more day.
The next morning, I woke up and realized my life had been spared…and my lip was almost back to its normal size. Life easily continued on – working and laughing and occasionally reaching up to check that the hive was still at bay with the tips of my fingers. I got the singular hive a few more times in the coming years, but now the situation has escalated. In fact, just the other day as I curled up in my bed, I was plagued by several hives across my cheeks and jawline with a lovely red rash.
Sure enough, a dose of Benadryl and a good night of sleep later, the hives had disappeared once more.
And while I could let these odd cases of the hives get me worked up and even more anxious, I could let them barricade me in my childhood bedroom with the door tightly shut and my parents to monitor my breathing… that reaction would leave me in a rather hopeless situation.
You see, I firmly believe Satan knows when I’m most vulnerable and he adds another hive to the growing collection, ripping the carpet from under me and leaving me wondering what’s real and what’s just my fear creeping up, unable to discern the difference between reality and anxiety. But my hope doesn’t lie in what’s right in front of me or what I can touch and see. It doesn’t rely on the day in and day out emotions I feel.
My hope lies in the faith of the promise of new life that was secured through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
It is a hope that is seen and felt in the little things – watching baby chicks grow into real chickens, laughing at a children’s message where a five-year-old has no filter as they answer, quality time with your best friends and family. Hope that exists because God loves us enough to let light overcome darkness.
I don’t know what gives you hives in your life (and I certainly hope your hives are metaphorical, unlike mine). I won’t pretend to have all of the answers for them, either. I don’t even have the answers for what cause mine and I always keep Benadryl cream in my bathroom to ward them off when they start… but I do know that these hives don’t last forever.
And because of that, I remain steadfast in hope. For that hope, I give thanks.
“ You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”