Broken - Lesson #1
Broken = fractured or damaged – no longer in working order…
That’s me. Or at least that’s my shoulder. The happy thing is that my shoulder is only one of 360 joints in my body. I’m not sure about the math, but I’m guessing that I could say at least 95% of my body is in tiptop, pain-free working order! And I could be happy with 95% if this were a math test. (I don’t think I’ll be getting 95% on a Math test anytime soon! J)
The unfortunate thing is that this math has to do with my body. For the last month 5% of this body has been screaming at the other 95% - literally bossing it around, telling it to sit down, stop moving, and pay attention to it! It is like a whining, selfish brat, in full-on tantrum mode vying for my complete attention. How did I get here?
One of my Christmas presents was a snappy Jawbone UP activity monitor bracelet, which I just knew would be the trigger to getting me out the door (and around the block) more often. I was full of glee at the thought of whipping myself into tip-top health. So on December 30th, I went out to pound me some pavement! Armed (oh the puns) with my UP bracelet, my mind had already turned the corner into 2016.
I’m one of those “early adopters.” When change is coming down the road, I start moving my feet. Literally! Energized by the freshness of the year ahead and the prospect of gaining ground in several areas of life, I think I attempted to put every New Year’s resolution into practice simultaneously. God & I were going to make things happen!! Oh the lure of plans and progress! And I tell you I was putting serious energy into that plan! (And please note it wasn’t even 2016 yet!) I was charging forward when…
I tripped right over this dastardly piece of pavement and pound it I did! I sprawled flat out - hands, face, knees and SHOULDER becoming one with the cement. In order for you to appreciate the drama of the moment, you need to know that I spent several of the previous months in physical therapy for this very shoulder. Very. Painful. Physical Therapy. I have a love/hate relationship with these perpetrators of therapy. I call them my Physical Terrorists. I do love them, but that hasn’t stopped me from threatening to call Homeland Security to report them as a terrorist cell. I thought I had successfully escaped their clutches….
All those plans, all that progress…all that pain!!
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Do you have a Word for the Year*? Mine is LISTEN. And yes, I chose it before Dec 30th! God was way out ahead of me. If pain is God’s megaphone, and the word “LISTEN” already has my attention, I am sure to be doing some serious listening in 2016! Since pain is to be my companion for the foreseeable future, I don’t want to miss “one word” or lesson to be learned in this process.
I don’t think for a moment that God tripped me to teach me a lesson. But I believe that he sovereignly uses every big and little thing to lovingly teach me more about him. He is a redeemer. So while pain of any kind – emotional, mental, physical – is never pleasant, it can be purposeful. (Romans 8:28). And that gives me great encouragement that God will use this for my good.
So in between pain pills, naps and atrophying muscles, I’ve had some time to tune my heart to listen.
Lesson #1: it’s not about my effort, but about his mercy and grace.
While I was zealously making progress on good goals, I’m sensing that something in my heart was a bit skewed. Was there an itsy bitsy, teensy tiny bit of self-effort expanding in my soul? So while that doesn’t seem critical in the realm of exercise, it is of incredible importance to the health of my heart!
Like yeast expands to affect dough, SELF is an incredibly devious creature. Depending on self-effort is like drinking from broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2). Even the tiniest bit of reliance on self-dependence can lead to religious self-effort. Jesus reminds us to remain in him, the vine (John 15) because apart from him we can do nothing.
This shoulder journey has turned my "To Do List" into a "How-do-I-get-this-done List" God is focusing my attention on actions like "Rejoice always! Count it all joy! Be anxious for nothing!" (even physical therapy, Lord??) over the action points on my list.
And He's giving me plenty of time to think, time to pray, time to LISTEN ... and the question on my heart is: have I tripped over my own effort to produce? Maybe the action point that most pleases the Lord is resting... actively resting?
I love the counter intuitiveness of God's plan - usually!. Hebrews 4:11 beautifully captures living out this tension between effort and rest: “make every effort to enter his rest.” It captures the idea of living out of what God has already done. It is living actively passive before the Lord.
Simple to write, hard to get right! I have a hunch there is a lot more ground to cover on this path!