Following the release of the movie Ghostbusters in the 1980s, Hi-C marketed the green-boxed orange-flavored drink, “Ecto-cooler.” I’m pretty sure that the drink was originally called the “Ecto-plasm-cooler,” but Google and I have agreed to disagree.
The drink-box was disgusting, yet for us in elementary school, it was the coveted food item in all of our metal lunch boxes. One day in first grade, I wasn’t feeling well, so, in an effort to calm my stomach, I had one of those huge, gas station pickles accompanied by the aforementioned Hi-C. Shocker: my stomachache got much worse. I was sent to the nurse, who was apparently only certified to discover lice among elementary-aged kids. I told her I needed to go home. She took my temperature to figure out whether or not my stomach actually hurt and sent me back to my class. I walked in the door and threw up Ecto-plasm Hi-C and pickle all over the boy on the front row.
This ended my relationship with Hi-C.
And my trust in school nurses.
It’s funny what we do in an attempt to feel better when we’re sick—sometimes we make it worse through what we eat, we push ourselves when we should rest, or we put our hope in the myth that Advil fixes everything.
It’s even worse when we’re soul sick. We often have horrible ideas on how to fix what’s broken. We hide the problem or look to others to validate our pain. We keep going as if nothing is wrong, or we use thermometers to prove our hearts aren’t injured. We want to walk it off or power through. We try to band-aid or medicate or numb ourselves till the feelings subside. But when we’re hurting, when we’re broken, these solutions just won’t work.
You can’t run when you’re nauseous. You can’t walk on a broken leg. No matter how much willpower you have, you can’t help but be weighed down by fatigue when you’re not well.
What, then, are we supposed to do? How do we fix soul injuries? What do we do when our hearts hurt and our spirits feel smashed?
What happens when acting healthy or trying with our own willpower doesn’t make us better?
Hiding, pretending or going solo to fix ourselves won’t work anymore than a Hi-C and a pickle will ease a sick stomach.
We can’t fight our broken spirits or broken hearts through mind-power. Sometimes we don’t always know what we need. Sometimes we don’t know what needs to be fixed or how to do it.
When it comes to being soul-sick, we can’t fix it on our own. This is the concept of powerlessness.
Being powerless can be a threatening concept—it means that I can’t always pull myself out of pain, and I can’t always make a check-list in order to get better.
But when we can admit that our soul needs healing, we are most open to real recovery—the kind that invites new life, freedom, love and grace.
This recovery asks that we trust in a God of our understanding.
When we try to fix ourselves, we’re operating with very limited resources. When we let our Higher Power come in and heal, we’re opening ourselves up to limitless power, love and possibilities.
Yes, surrender is hard. We want to believe we can get better through our own efforts. But we were made to heal through connection—through a Higher Power who loves us whether we’re sick and broken or healthy and thriving.
We weren’t made to heal our deep hurts by ourselves. We weren’t made to fight addiction alone in our closets. It’s not about being strong enough or determined enough—we need a better solution than our own willpower.
Recovery means admitting we need more than we can give ourselves. Instead, we have the opportunity to let a God of love bring us into deep healing.
Without healing, our sickness won’t just go away. That kind of pain has to come out. We may not projectile vomit, but keeping it in is a time bomb. We’ll collapse or erupt or shut down even if no one ever sees it.
Powerlessness is the gift freeing us from the impossible task of fixing ourselves. Instead, learn to rest. Stop pretending you’re not sick. Go home from school, no matter what the nurse tells you. Let yourself be loved. Open up to the infinite possibilities that come from faith, and let healing begin.
-Chris Gibson, MDiv