That summer I was 21, going on 22, and I had found an opportunity to serve as a program leader and summer camp counselor at a Christian camp just outside of Allentown, PA.
I didn’t know a whole lot about Lyme disease at the time but I knew it was caused by tick bites and that it had been spreading a lot in the area. So I was cautious: I stayed on the paths, I didn’t go walking through underbrush or sit in tall grasses, and directed the kiddos (and myself) to regularly check for ticks.
My fellow camp counselors found my caution to be insufferable. They regularly jabbed me with platitudes about needing to “trust God” more and finally, they got to me. One weekend afternoon after the camp was empty of children for the week, everyone wanted to play hide-and-seek in the woods. The desire to fit in with the other staff my age was too loud. I decided that they were right, I probably should just “trust God” with this whole Lyme disease thing and live a little.
I laid down in the underbrush and leaves to hide. I did a good job — after a half hour, no one had found me.
The next day I felt feverish. I had a weird rash of clustered dots all over my legs. The camp nurse said it wasn’t anything she had seen before and certainly wasn’t Lyme disease. In the days that followed, I started feeling super exhausted. I slept 8 hours a night and felt like I hadn’t slept at all. I couldn’t do my job. On the weekend, I couldn’t hang out with anyone and be part of the gang. My neck was sore. I started getting unrelenting frontal headaches not solved by any amount of prayer, rebuking the enemy, or ultimately even any amount of Tylenol. I thought of going to the doctor but I was sure I was just experiencing some attack of the enemy. And I had come to the conclusion that doctors were for people who didn’t have faith. I wasn’t sure God even would allow me to go to a doctor; I was sure He wanted me to turn to Him instead.
One day I was taking a shower and realized my leg was hot and itchy. I looked down and saw this huge red puffy area on my leg. I got an even better look and discovered it was a circular round red puffy area the size of my hand, with a purple center. I wondered if it could possibly be Lyme disease and this is hard to describe but I will try: I felt this overwhelming glowing peace envelope me from within and without. I thought then about going to the doctor and the light and peace now glowing all through me seemed to smile at me. I knew this was God’s presence and I was shocked that He seemed to agree I should go to the doctor. I thought about getting a blood test and the glowing peaceful agreement continued.
Sure enough, I had Lyme disease. And being enboldened by my Holy Spirit encounter, I was able to break with my earlier condemnation about medical science and actually take the month of doxycycline antibiotic that was prescribed to me.
It turned out I could trust God — as He broke through my religious ideas and instead assured me that medical care was a good idea. But my earlier, wrong-headed “trusting God” to keep me from getting bit by a tick or contracting a lifelong disease, that had turned into what could have been a huge disaster. He did not protect me from the immediate ramifications of failing to protect myself. A tick had bit me and given me its diseased payload. But because He was merciful to me in my foolishness, thankfully I was able to tackle the acute phase appropriately and quickly, even though I still had years of low-level chronic remaining issues to resolve. Still, Lyme left untreated in the first phase can turn into a completely debilitating illness for years and years and I was mercifully somehow spared that.
This was the second time I learned that trusting God didn’t mean what I thought it did. It didn’t mean failing to recognize real dangers in the world and avoiding the knowledge and usefulness of medical science. In both cases, trusting God meant overcoming the fake “faith” offered by my legalistic mindset, and coming to a real faith in God who wasn’t being as “magical” as I wanted him to be about my problems, but who wanted me to deal in down-to-Earth terms with real life material-world issues and material solutions. God as I was encountering Him seemed concerned directly about how the universe and the natural world actually work.
There are more stories. Stay tuned. Here’s the previous one.