How I Discovered I’m Not the Boss of the World


SlowDown_800Just over two years ago, strange things started happening to me physically. I was 35 years old and had always been pretty healthy, when my body began to malfunction.

It started when one of my ankles began to swell. There hadn’t been an injury, and my doctor didn’t have an answer as to what was going on. I dealt with it and hobbled around for a few weeks with one ankle about as wide as my knee. I had no reason to believe anything was really wrong and assumed the mysterious swelling would just go away the way it had suddenly appeared. There wasn’t time to worry about it, and so I began wearing flip flops in February to accommodate the swollen foot, took meetings with one leg casually up on a coffee table… and carried on with our very full life.

Then the other ankle blew up, leaving me with two slow, extra large tree-trunk legs to navigate the busyness.

My hands started to retain water. It was suddenly difficult to type properly, blow dry my hair or prepare a meal.

I found my heart racing at odd times and eventually my breathing became laboured.

I finally allowed my husband to drive me to Emergency one afternoon when I couldn’t get a proper breath. I was admitted to the hospital and spent a long week there rooming with a trio of elderly men in a stale cardiology ward.

There were many emotions keeping me company in that hospital bedanxiety, despair, a little anger. But the most overwhelming feeling that wrapped itself around me was shame. I was horrified that my life had taken this detour, because it was a stress on everyone around me. I was embarrassed to be such an inconvenience.

My husband held down the fort at home and he sat with me through a barrage of tests and doctor consultations. Our kids carried on without me around and visited my hospital room with brave smiles. Colleagues covered my workload at church. Friends cooked meals for my family. Someone else cleaned my house. Church and friends carried me in prayer. My parents and sisters did whatever was necessary to keep us all going.

I felt as though life had whacked me at the back of the knees and knocked me out flat, without much warning. Unable to contribute and completely dependent on everyone around me, my pride hurt as much as my body.

After blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, way too many tests, and eventually, a lung biopsy, I was released with a diagnosis (pulmonary sarcoidosis, a sneaky little auto-immune disease that has since quietened down in my system). I was sent home to recover and spent over a month out of commission, in hospital and then on my back at home.

There was a life-altering discovery for me in that period of forced rest: The world carried on without me. Our church thrived in my absence. My family survived. The world kept spinning with zero effort or hustle from Angela Doell. It was intensely humbling. It was also a stunningly beautiful and freeing gift.

God was–is–so faithful. 

I’m not sure when or how I had begun to believe that God was dependent on me to do His thing, but somehow that thought was rooted in my conscience and it had been driving me. I’d wrongly believed that if I were to slow my pace, our home and church would suffer dramatically–until I was forced to the sidelines and found that everything was really just fine.

It makes me smile to think about it now, but perhaps some of us need a full-on body check to see who’s truly calling the shots. (I was shocked to discover it isn’t me… But then sometimes I’m a slow learner.) I’ve learned that while my effort is valuable, I’m not actually in charge here.

I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus–at home and at work, and to whomever I may encounter… But it’s my privilege that He’d choose to move alongside me. He isn’t limited by my availability. When I rest and lean in to hear His voice and seek His perspective, those sabbath days are just as valuable as the long days of meetings and phone calls and meal-making and whatever else I used to think so vitally important.

God has things covered–I’m just here to point to Him.