In the 1940’s Dr. Theodore Woodward coined the term “zebra” for any rare medical condition. I first shared about this in the article, Confession of a Zebra. Last week, I sat across another zebra and for the first time, I knew someone truly understood me.
Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis affects one per 100,000 people. It is isolating and lonely to possess a disease so rare that no one around me understands the paralysis, the pain, the impaired cognitive functioning, and sudden muscle weakness.
When I discovered a Texas zebra was attending a meeting in my area, we scheduled an afternoon together before her return flight home. Over the past year, we have texted and spoken via phone, but I savored this rare moment to spend face time with her.
As she spoke, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast our lives. She, a Texas zebra, whose diagnosis of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, was confirmed at the young age of six. There was no need for extensive genetic testing, since her father and her sister already possessed this rare neuromuscular disease. Texas zebra is around my age and our daughters are the same age too. Unfortunately, her daughter (and nephew) was diagnosed this summer.
On the other hand, I was clinically diagnosed at age forty, based on my extensive journaling of symptoms and the adverse effect of certain foods, exercise, stress, etc. Unlike, Texas zebra, I am waiting on the results of genetic testing.
Texas zebra grew up with the rare condition and has assimilated well into adulthood; I was diagnosed as an adult.
I feel like Dorothy, who woke up in Oz, desperately clicking my red heels together to go back home to my previous life.
The morning after our meeting, I read these words “Jonathan went to David [in the desert] and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). David was a man on the run, hiding out from the insane King Saul. Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s best friend, came to him in the desert to provide encouragement and strength in God.
This Texas zebra was the Jonathan to my David. She met me in my desert place and provided my weary heart with encouragement and strength in God. We are relational people, not created to live in isolation. This was on Paul’s mind when he wrote, “that you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).
So often, we want to fix other people’s problems and if their problem is too big, we feel overwhelmed by their need. God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them. Notice, Jonathan did not remove David from the desert; rather he spent time with him there and provided strength in God.
Are you in a desert place? God sees you and He cares for you. Seek refuge in Him and find comfort in the words penned by David (perhaps when he was in the desert), “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).
Have you been through the desert? I challenge you to reach out to someone in a desert place. Be their Jonathan and provide encouragement and strength in the Lord during this dry and weary season.
~April Dawn White
© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved
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