When I was in college, I had my whole life mapped out. I knew exactly what I wanted. I was going to graduate with a teaching degree, teach high school English, eventually marry some wonderful man, have children, serve my local church, and go on mission trips. My life was going to proceed at a calm, sedate pace that ended in a troop of great-grandchildren surrounding my deathbed as I took my final breath. I had it ALL planned out. Then carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace blew my nice, orderly plans to bits. I almost died. The furnace was replaced, but rather than getting better, my health went into a tailspin. The poison had triggered Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and I became horribly ill when exposed to perfumes, detergents, and other chemicals. Eventually, things became so bad that I was quarantined in my home.
Just saying that word gives me the shivers. I thought my removal from society would only last a few months, but it lasted for seven years. Those years gave me a lot of time to think. A lot of time to question. I felt completely destroyed. I felt as if there was nothing left of my former life—nothing left of the “Danele” I had once been. I couldn’t understand why God didn’t just heal me. I didn’t know why He didn’t give me a smooth, easy road. The one thing I did know was that God knew EXACTLY what was going on. I knew that although He didn’t poison me, He ALLOWED it to happen.
I struggled with that knowledge. Why would a loving God allow me to be hurt? Why didn’t He take the pain away before it came? For years, I struggled with questions and sought answers, and I finally decided that it all boils down to one thing: Eternity.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says that our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. It says that we should fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
As horrible as my illness was, and as soul-crushing as quarantine proved to be, it was temporary. Seven years is a long time, but it’s only a speck of dust on the scales of eternity.
I’ve come to learn a few things during my illness, and perhaps one of the biggest lessons I learned is to view things from an eternal perspective rather than a temporal one. Life hurts. Pain happens. But pain ALWAYS gives way to joy as time passes. Nothing ever stays bad forever. There were times when I was writhing in bed with my body full pain, and I would breathe deeply and remind myself that no matter how bad today felt, tomorrow would be better. And if tomorrow wasn’t better, then next week or next year would be better. Nothing remains bad forever. Nothing. That knowledge gave me hope.
Now, was God being mean when He let my life unfold the way that it did? I considered that question too. In fact, for quite a while I kept God at a distance, convinced that if I let Him get too close, He would hurt me. But again, an eternal perspective changed things. What I didn’t realize at the beginning of my illness was that God was using what I was going through to unfold a new type of life for me. I planned on being a teacher, and a mother, and a mission’s worker. God planned for me to be an author. Would I have ever found the time to write my books if I hadn’t been in quarantine? I’m not sure. And even if I had written my books, they wouldn’t be the same books that I wrote after experiencing soul-crushing pain, loneliness, and heartache. They would probably have been sugary, sweet books where nice little Christians did nice little things and never questioned God or got into trouble. In other words, they wouldn’t have done anyone a lick of good—least of all me.
My second year of quarantine, I would have given anything just to have my old life back. Now, I shudder to think about it. I’m not the same person that I was before my illness. I used to be naive, a touch impatient, and a bit of a goodie-goodie. I was a nice person, but in a lot of ways, I was superficial. I thought I had God all figured out, and I thought I had lots of spiritual wisdom. In reality, I was pretty stupid. I know now that I don’t know ANYTHING. I also know that without God, I truly am nothing. There is a peace that comes when you hit rock bottom and don’t break. In a way, I think it is a gift. Pain always produces beauty in the end if you allow the beauty to unfold without getting bitter.
My life hasn’t turned out how I envisioned it at all, but I’ve written six books. The first of which, Time Tsunami, was just released. I put a lot of myself in my books, and underneath all of the wrappings and bows, there is the silent cry of a woman who went through something unbelievably painful and survived. There is the knowledge that after all of the questions are asked, a truth is revealed—God is faithful in spite of heartache.
God took me down an uncharted road. It wasn’t a road I was even aware existed, and it wasn’t a road I felt prepared to face. But as I walked it, I learned more about God’s love and faithfulness than if I had walked the straight, smooth road I planned to take.
Each of us is on a journey, and occasionally, an uncharted road crops up in our lives. If that is happening to you today, I want to speak to your heart and let you know that you don’t need to be afraid. God will be with you every step of the way. Embrace the uncharted road, remembering that unexpected roads are the ones that are the most profitable, the most beneficial, and the most beautiful. After all, the Israelites didn’t expect to walk through the Red Sea—but their uncharted road eventually led to the Promise Land. Joseph didn’t plan on being sold into slavery or thrown in prison–but his uncharted road helped him save countless lives. And I didn’t expect to be quarantined, but my uncharted road led to the publication of my books. Uncharted roads are scary, but in the end, they are the best. They lead you to your destiny.
Blogs where I am being featured this week:
Website & Host: Victoria Pitts-Caine http://victoriapitts-caine.blogspot.com/2016/01/time-tsunami-danele-j-rotharmel.html
Website: Living Our Faith Out Loud — Host: Lisa Lickel http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com/2016/01/danele-rotharmel-debut-fantasy-sci-fi.html
Website: Musings About the Writing Life — Host: Linda Carroll Bradd http://blog.lindacarroll-bradd.com/interview/guest-interview-danele-rotharmel/
Website: Books and Babies — Host: Emily Paige Skeen, Christian Author http://emilypaige-author.blogspot.com/2016/01/interview-with-danele-rotharmel-author.html?spref=fb