Each time I suffer an injury I learn. I can’t say it’s my favorite way to learn, but truthfully, it’s usually the most impactful. Over the past couple of weeks a minor shoulder problem has become increasingly bothersome; moving from a nuisance to a hindrance. While a nuisance seems manageable, a hindrance feels overwhelming. And as I got to thinking about it, I realized what seems so overwhelming is that fact that I can’t do what I set out to do, what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to pole vault. But this injury began to limit, and as of Tuesday stripped me of, my ability to pole vault. Even if it’s temporary, it’s distressing.
What will fix it? How long will it be? What will I lose in the meantime? Do I rest? Do I rehab? How much rest? How much rehab?
I need answers. Or at least attempts at answers. I need a plan.
The thing is I tried to answer it on my own. Having been an athlete for 25 years, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on preventing and tending to minor injuries. I’ve got knowledge and experience of what to apply when “such and such” happens because I’ve been there before and I know what works. But after attempting every known solution, I found myself stuck in growing pain with no direction. Maybe this injury that I thought was minor is actually significant. This is the point at which I know I must reach out. Not only for a plan, but for physical intervention in healing. I simply am unable to do it on my own this time.
Have you ever felt this way?
I think of our Christian life and what we set out to do, what we are supposed to do… We are supposed to love God with all our heart. We are supposed to love our neighbor like ourself. We are supposed to make disciples. But injury happens. Sometimes that injury is a minor nuisance like a bit of bad theology, a fight with a friend, or a few less-than-holy thoughts. We recognize it, we tend to it, we move on from it; getting back to business. The longer we walk the Christian road, the more tools and experiences we develop to deal with those little wounds. But sometimes the injury is more extensive than we originally thought and we find ourselves in growing pain with no direction. And still other times the initial blow of injury straight wipes us out. Cancer. Loss of a child. Financial fallout. Divorce. This is when we must reach out. This is why God has designed the Christian life to be done in community.
The hard part is we’re all human and sometimes, even when we reach out, the answers don’t come. Or worse, maybe an answer comes flippantly, without any direction to go along with it or a heart behind it to step in and help, leaving you feeling more helpless than when you first asked. I’ll be the first to admit, when that happens I shut down, leaving fear and shame in the wake; fear of asking for further direction and shame for having to ask in the first place. But in pole vault as well as in my Christian walk I’ve learned to move past those, not only because I want to, but because I need to. Maybe the person I asked was having a bad day themselves, maybe they didn’t want to help, or maybe they just don’t have the capacity to help. All of those factors don’t change the fact that I am in a position which needs help. I must move past my fear of rejection and try again. And try again. And try again. Until I find someone who is willing and capable.
I used to be prideful. I don’t want help. I can heal it all on my own.
I used to be fearful. No one will want to help. I will have to heal it all on my own.
I used to be shame filled. When will I be past needing help? I certainly should be able to heal it all on my own.
One of the ways God often uses injury is to expose the deeper pride, fear, and shame which sit undetected in our heart; stripping us of our old nature and developing in us a new nature – His nature. Moreover injury often helps us recognize that His work cannot be done on our own strength. And still more, injury allows others the opportunity to join the journey of what He is accomplishing in and through our lives.
The beautiful thing about injury is the healing that comes on the other side. Maybe it’s in a week. Maybe it’s in a year. Maybe it’s not until we meet Jesus face to face. We are refined through the process of healing and those around us are given their own opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness as they invest in our restoration, all the while those watching from the outside see a tangible picture of who Jesus is and how His sacrificial love changes us. I don’t say all this because I believe injury is the only way God is glorified in our lives or that we aren’t supposed to acknowledge the difficulty of the situation, but I say all this so that when injury comes hope can remain.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, […] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:3-7