It was invisible at first • 8 min read
On first glance at my physical self, you wouldn't notice it. I looked pretty healthy and active, with many years ahead.
In my words, you may not have noticed it. If you asked me how I was doing, I'd almost immediately say, "I'm good" as I muster up a half-baked smile and scurry to find something positive to talk about.
In my work ethic, you may not have noticed it. I dove into being a hard, hard worker. I tried very hard to be the best programmer or best designer I could be, as well as a loving teammate.
From the outside, I was a healthy, high-achieving team player. Yet all the while, I battled an invisible illness.
While you wouldn't have seen the illness in my physique, words, or actions, there was one place that I could not hide from the outside: the story deep within my eyes.
The eyes are the window to the soul
Akin to the idea of what goes up must come down, what's inside cannot be hidden for long before it reveals itself in ways unexpected. What is in the dark will one day be brought before the light.
Growing up, I wanted to please everybody, even strangers. I absolutely loved peacemaking and drowned in sorrow when peace and equilibrium was challenged. When everyone felt heard and seen, I felt happy.
Somehow over time, the innocence of advocating for peace got skewed, and I began to believe in a lie: if I did good, I was good. The converse meant that if I did bad, or somehow messed up, I was bad.
I fell into the lie of perfectionism. I felt like I had to be perfect to be loved, a product of traumas.
That lie manifested as being a very hard worker and servant of others. On the outside those actions got praise. And if praise was my fuel, I was going to keep burning on that fuel …until one day I didn't get praise and got other feedback about my performance. It hurt me, a lot.
I would push, push, and push to prove myself — to prove I was enough. Well my friend, you can only push, push, push so far until you find yourself running on fumes and eventually in a wreck.
It all caught up to me pretty quickly. I'd be coding and then start to feel intense dizziness, aches and pains all up and down my spine, and panic overwhelm me. Health problem after another began to appear and inhibit me from doing work, inhibiting me from proving myself.
Eventually I found myself in the ER just wondering what in the world was happening to me, but all the doctor could say was that I looked healthy.
And in December of 2019, I was diagnosed with a true invisible illness, an autoimmune disease called spondylitis. What was inside eventually manifested on the outside.
Ever since the diagnosis, God has been leading me on a journey of radical healing.
Sometimes you have to first hit rock bottom
…and it hurts when you strike the pavement. In the thick of it, I began to wonder how I got to that point. What could have prevented that in the first place, or was it inevitable?
I hit rock bottom because I was stubborn and afraid. I was afraid of truly being known, because I was afraid of being rejected.
The illness was that I did not allow myself to feel feelings, to be known and to know, and to share my burdens. My actions made it seem like I was trying to be my own savior, because I guess I wasn't convinced of the reality and beauty of Jesus. I looked to people to validate me.
Little did I know that I was living in what we call chronic stress. I honestly thought that that feeling of intensity and panic was normal and expected in college and eventually in the workplace. And, chronic stress over a long period of time leads the body into survival mode, which caused my body to attack itself.
The truth is strong and lies are weak.
I believed in the lie that I was not enough. On the outside, I over compensated in everything and put up this mask to appear well and put together, showing no signs of weakness. On the inside, I felt weak, inferior, and honestly alone at times.
My physical body knew something was wrong. There was something inside me that didn't belong, and so my body began to attack that very thing. My body saw the inadequacy and weakness and declared war, because it deeply knew God's identity for me. My body knew that I had been giving a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind, not fear. That I was saved by grace, not by works. That I was beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God, not inadequate or inferior.
That is why what goes on inside must be brought into the light. I remember praying in 2020 just begging God to take the pain away from me. I had faith, knowing he could heal me in a single utterance of a word. And deep in my soul, I felt Him say, "Cameron, if I healed you now, you would worry yourself back to the same place." Amen, lol.
It is because of this that I am convinced of why Jesus forgave the lame man's sins before he healed his body. No, I am not saying his sins caused that ailment. Albeit, I am declaring that there is a deeper healing offered by Jesus that doesn't always align with our wants.
Jesus meets the inner need, not the want
I wanted physical healing instantly, but Jesus had something better. He sent me Himself through people. He tangibly showed His love through His people. Yes, I was deeply encouraged by His word, but even more, I encountered Him through his people.
Through humbling myself and being honest with Hannah, my team, and my LifeGroup, and through counseling, God began to reveal and heal the lie that I wasn't enough. He shattered the lie with the truth that each member of the body matters so much and has a special function, and even more than that, we need one another.
I remember the weight beginning to lift off of my shoulders as I told my boss how bad I was struggling with inadequacy and trying to prove myself. He told me the truth. I didn't slip through the cracks, no. God knew me, loved me, and prepared a place for me to step into my identity. I was enough, even before I could try to prove it. In fact, I didn't need to prove anything. It was while we were still sinners that Jesus died for us — for me.
Over more and more time of meeting with Jesus through His people and in the secret place (quiet times), I began to heal from the inside out.
In present times
I am no longer battling that invisible illness, because Jesus kept this promise:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
Because I allowed myself to mourn, God brought the comfort through His Word and His people. Because I stopped hiding behind fig leaves, God clothed me in freedom. Because allowed what was going on inside to reveal on the outside, my body began to heal day after day.
To this day I still battle the after-effects of running my body to the ground. I still have an auto-immune disease attacking my body. But to this day I have something I never had before any of this: peace of heart and mind and the ability to say "it is well with my soul" (and actually mean it).
I battled with an invisible illness, and you may be too
What's that thing inside that you're afraid of people to know? What's going on beneath your eyes?
Take 30 seconds to consider.
Don't let that mold over in the darkness. Instead, allow the light to shine inside. The dark cannot handle the light and bolts away. Allow the light of Jesus through His Word and His people to shine the light inside, because that is where freedom is found. That is where shackles release and joy invisible begins.
This post came out of listening to the song Joy Invisible from Switchfoot. In a beautiful melody, it speaks to my story and God's redeeming power:
was the song the pain couldn't destroy
You're my joy invincible
Joy invincible, joy
I allow myself to know and to be known fully, because life in the Kingdom of God meets that with grace and truth that's healing beyond words.
— from Cam Pak, enough, known, and loved
P.S. While I battle chronic health issues, I am so thankful to be doing it alongside some of the coolest people in the world. I'm thankful for my wife who's walked every step of the way with me holding my hand, for my LifeGroup who's been nothing but a salve to the wounds I brought in, to my family, friends, counselors, doctors, pastors, etc. who has had a hand in helping me find peace of heart and mind in today. God is enough for today. He will give me enough strength for today. 😌
P.P.S. If you found yourself reading this, feel free to share it to a friend or email me! I hope this encourages you