Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. 


Help explorefaith when you purchase DAYS OF GRACE or any other item from Church Publishing, Inc., our Partner in Ministry.

Also available at


Day Eleven

What Holds You Captive

Written By Mary C. Earle

Practice Note

Meditation: <listen>

You have gone up on high and led captivity captive.
—Psalm 68:18

What holds you captive?  I could say, quite truly, that pancreatitis has held me captive. It is true that since 1995 the condition has been a formative force in my life.  Because of chronic pancreatitis I took a medical retirement at age 55. Because of pancreatitis I haven’t had butter, bacon or a glass of wine in 13 years.

Yet living with illness has led me to discover various other captivities. For instance, I am one of many Americans who succumbed to collapsing my identity into work. I was certainly captive to the script, “I am what I do.” I also noticed a captivity to my own assumptions of middle-class privilege. I, for example, have decent health insurance and a disability retirement plan. While those are great mercies for me, I realized I was captive to being so self-focused I was not mindful of the needs of others—all those others who have no health care coverage or disability insurance. All those others for whom the costs of prescriptions and hospitalization are prohibitive.

The captivity of an illness may lead captivity captive. It may, in time, release us from our blindness to the lack of services to others in our communities, our nations and in the world. Living with illness and the consequent limitations may offer us the freeing grace of compassion and kindness. The strange truth is that the illness may be the agent of liberation from selfishness and from being blind to others.

Gracious God, through this illness may You lead my captivities captive.  May You release me into the freedom of being deeply mindful of my neighbor.  May You use this illness to lead me into compassion and generosity, remembering that You are always leading us out of slavery into freedom.  Amen.

Practice: <listen>

The next time you are waiting in a doctor’s office, take the time to notice the other persons who are there.  Silently pray, “The Christ in me bless the Christ  in you,” as you behold each face.  Allow yourself to notice other patients, lab  techs, nurses, receptionists, bookkeepers, doctors.  Gently, silently, sustain the  prayer. If you are so inclined, let this become your prayer practice in every waiting room—a quiet, reflective offering, hid with Christ in the midst of the activity of the clinic, treatment center or lab facility.

Reference Note: All  psalms are taken from the psalter in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.