a step to hope

July 14, 2016

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Biking home this afternoon, I listened to one of the podcasts I usually listen to while running: Chris Fabry Live! The program was about the times when others do something for you that you were unable to do yourself. One of the examples made me pause; ok, so maybe I did not pause altogether: these days my only method of biking is one in which I do everything possible to not have to stop, knowing that my old biking habit involves stopping myself with my right foot . . . an unwise move at the moment! Yes, I’m afraid my foot is still uncooperative. And yes, I’m afraid I still struggle with patience for the healing process. In fact, I am more than just “struggling,” more often than not. This is, in large part, due to the vague diagnosis given to me 2 and a half weeks ago–basically saying that he saw nothing on the x-ray and, since I was having a nearly pain-free afternoon at the time, I should be fine to start running on it again. More than two weeks later of no-running has seen no noticeable improvement and I am, quite frankly, starting to lose hope. It feels silly, though, in the face of all the great turmoil in the world . . . why should my mobility matter to me so much, when others are losing their homes, loved ones, and lives? Shouldn’t I be able to just let it go, and be grateful for what I have? I should . . .
But back to the podcast: what this caller said was that she was in a severely difficult period in her life and, when some friends from church told her she should have hope, she replied that, quite honestly, that idea made it worse for her. She had lost hope, and did not see any way to manufacture it. At that point, her minister said that it was ok; he asked her permission to simply let them have hope for her. It took some time but, eventually, she was able to find hope again. Now she looks back with the belief that it was knowing they were holding hope that allowed her to find it once again.
No doubt I am poorly paraphrasing the way she told the story, as my story-telling memory sometimes gets carried away in the telling; but no matter. In this case, I suspect that I am likely telling my own story more accurately than I am telling hers anyway. So there you have it.
I spent the day hearing updates on the racial tension issues in this country, and getting passionately hopeful when I heard people who seemed to be campaigning for justice in a wise and loving manner, rather than inciting hate in the process. But I could not seem to manufacture the same hope when it came to my own body’s failings. I fear that I shall never walk pain-free again . . . never mind run! My husband has gotten back into his running game this summer, and I watch with bittersweet pride as he increases his mileage and skill. “Run an extra mile for me!,” I say, smiling cheerfully as I kiss him goodbye. A bit too cheerfully.
Tonight we sit together in the living room, mostly quiet with periodic comments. My husband, living without his usual “toy” that is getting repaired, talks about his ideas for techie projects once reunited with his computer. My father-in-law closes his computer, after reading various news updates, and sighs, “Stop the world, Lord, I want to get off!” I sympathize, but in a different vein. Stop the world, Lord: I want to walk, and run . . . I don’t want to just be along for the ride!

*Photo is of the consistent joy I have while visiting my in-laws: the simple routine of greeting the chickens, closing up the coop for the night, and collecting the day’s eggs is, somehow, a hint of hope . . .

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my right foot

July 5, 2016

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Towards the end of his talk, Pastor Rick picked up a leafy branch he had brought in and set on the podium. He held up a pair of clippers and began snipping branches, letting them fall to the ground as he did so. Quietly snipping for a few moments, he then asked, simply, “Are you being pruned?” I gulped. Yes.
So this morning, when leading my small group Bible Study, I followed the intended lesson up to a point and then, convicted, knew I had to say more than the words on the script. The script, based on 1 Peter 1:13-16; 2:11-12 and Romans 12:1-2, was this:

Peter admonishes the resident aliens to:
Prepare their minds for action
Be self-controlled
Stay focused on the hope of God’s eternal purposes
Be obedient
Do not conform
Be holy

As I read this portion, however, I decided to do something slightly different from the intended discussion of each point of the admonishment.
“Let’s camp out for a minute here,” I began. While I read this list of 6 items, I want you to let your heart settle on one of those. Let God speak to you about one of these points. Don’t be afraid to hear His voice to you, as He speaks gently to His children; He will not come after you with a whip and a ‘You better shape up!’ warning; rather, His voice will come as a ‘still, small voice’ of loving refinement, not harsh correction . . .”
Though not necessarily planned beforehand, I realized afterwards that the reason I did this was because I think it can be difficult to take practical action steps when faced with a list of to-dos. Some of us just get overwhelmed too easily to handle more than a couple things at a time! [ok, so maybe some of us can only handle one thing at a time :-)] My hope was that each member of this study would be able to really sit with something that God was speaking to them about in the here and now, and not in some intangible future.
But as so often happens in the world of teaching, be it of the young or the not-so-young, the teacher ends up learning as much, if not more, than the “students.” And as I introduced this exercise, I knew the lesson I was giving was for me.
Stay focused on the hope of God’s eternal purposes
Thanks to the failing of my physical body, I have been focused on about the farthest thing possible from “eternal purposes”; my focus has been squarely resting on my own right foot. Just over a week ago something went wrong in the heel of my foot while I was running: I couldn’t finish the run and had to limp home. After a couple days of this, I went to a doctor who found nothing on the x-ray. At the time of the visit, it was feeling so good that I wondered if it was already better. I congratulated myself on being able to keep from running for 3 days and happily planned the next day’s run when the doctor reassured me that I should be able to run again with no problems. But the next morning it was back to the same level of pain as soon as I attempted to walk, never mind run.
For one in the middle of training for a marathon, with 20 years of running behind me, this present 7-day run of not-running [:-)] is no small thing. I have begun to develop a mopey, and hopeless, mindset of suspecting that I will never again be able to run, that my natural anti-depressant is lost to me, and that I’m being punished for being too reliant on my “earthly” pleasures.
But in this morning’s study, speaking the words, out loud, of my focus, had a cathartic effect. To recognize that I was, in effect, turning my gaze from heaven and directing it straight down to my feet, made me able to laugh at myself in a healing way. Not that I am any less frustrated by my physical frailty, mind you: I am itchy, and impatient, to be able to move as I am accustomed to doing; but the itch is tempered by a realization that my body is out of my hands, and in the hands of the one who created it. Furthermore, this Creator is not someone who is just putting up with my silliness; He loves me. Wow—writing that brings tears. Yes, it is true. He loves His creation: all of us, and all the parts of us . . . whether or not they are performing perfectly.
Tomorrow will bring another day of, most likely, a struggle between my desires and my physical capabilities; but tonight I pray for the ability to redirect that focus, and to draw my eyes away from a foot, and upwards to its Maker.