Diabetes, discipline, and being a pancreas

I’m a type one diabetic.  That’s the insulin kind, the one where the pancreas stops doing its job and the afflicted person must learn to think like a pancreas.  Even though a pancreas doesn’t have a brain of its own, it’s a smart little thing, and I’m not excellent at taking its job.

My life works better if it’s very routine.  If I eat at the same time each day, and I eat about the same foods, and I exercise about the same amount, and  the climate doesn’t shift, and my sleep schedule remains static, and I don’t get sick or experience stress, my sugar levels stay steady, and I feel good.

It probably goes without saying that I struggle to make that happen, and so I don’t always feel good.  My family has to stop sometimes and wait for me to correct a low or bring down a high.  They know sometimes we cut a shopping trip short so I can fix my levels, and sometimes we arrive someplace late because Mom isn’t able to drive when it’s time to leave.  Although I attend church meals–or other social meals–they never go well, so everyone knows to leave Mom alone afterward while she fixes what inevitably makes her feel terrible.

My spiritual life needs discipline, too, just like my physical life.  God doesn’t require me to read his Word daily for a set amount of time.  He doesn’t have strict rules about time spent in prayer or scheduled moments of meditation.  If I miss church one Sunday, I’m not thrown out of the family.  But, routines in my spiritual life make me feel better.  I need to worship and participate in communion to experience his power in my life.  I need to read the Bible and pray to know who God is and how to live the life he meant for me.  I need to meditate on him and avoid things that harm me so I have the resources to deal with anything he puts in my path.

The only way to be prepared for the life God has in store for me is to prepare, to train.  It isn’t exciting, but that means routine.  Physical routine is the best way for me to fight my physical limitation.  Spiritual routine prepares me to fight my spiritual limitations, namely being in sinful body in a sinful world.

Spiritual routine and discipline aren’t about legalism and doing things to make God love me or accept me.  It’s one reason there are no one-size-fits-all disciplines.  It’s why God never said “Open each day with thirty minutes of Bible reading followed by twenty minutes of prayer.”  It’s individual, but it’s important.  It’s how we feed and grow and remain healthy.

I will continue to struggle with diabetes, and I will continue to struggle with spiritual routine, too.  Sometimes I’ll let other things take too much time and attention.  Highs and lows in blood sugar come with symptoms that are hard to ignore, but when I’m spiritually out of balance it’s not always so obvious, so I have to be careful.  I need to watch myself, and it’s a good idea to have others regularly watch with me and help me stay the course.

Because in the end, I’m working toward a feast.  I’ll eat just like everyone else, with no thoughts of being a pancreas.   And then I will also see Jesus, for whom I trained with such discipline, and he will eat and laugh with me.  As I get older that day becomes more exciting, worth any difficulties along the way.  Discipline and routine aren’t always exciting, but my excitement over the rewards to come make it all worth it.

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3 thoughts on “Diabetes, discipline, and being a pancreas

  1. Wow, Jill, I would have taken bets that you couldn’t make a real relevant spiritual lesson from diabetes…………….If I applied the discipline to my spiritual well-being that I apply to managing my diabetes (Type 2 here) and Chronic Respiratory problems, my life would be so much better over-all. Thanks so much for the reminder AND the challenge. I will be sharing this one………….

    Oh, and btw, I pray that you are feeling much better these days. See you in a few hours!

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  2. Great post, Jill. This is my favorite part:

    “Because in the end, I’m working toward a feast. I’ll eat just like everyone else, with no thoughts of being a pancreas. And then I will also see Jesus, for whom I trained with such discipline, and he will eat and laugh with me. As I get older that day becomes more exciting, worth any difficulties along the way. Discipline and routine aren’t always exciting, but my excitement over the rewards to come make it all worth it.”

    Richard Foster puts it like this: “The Disciplines require us to do things, but not for doing’s sake. This doing leads us into being in the presence of God so that we can sense the rhythm of God’s heartbeat underlying the surface rhythms of daily life. And being with God is what shapes us, more and more, into the image of God originally planted within us and redeemed in Christ.”

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  3. Very nice metaphor. I always appreciate a tack that doesn’t boil down to, “Because you’re supposed to!” which too easily becomes, “Because you’ll be in trouble or be a bad person if you don’t!”

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