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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Enduring the Ordeal (3 weeks in)

Tomorrow will end the third week since I went airborne from the truck and tore my quadraceps tendon upon landing. The days since have not been full of excruciating pain, although my knee has hurt substantially, especially early on. My recovery process due to God's grace in response to prayer I believe, has actually been rather remarkable. For that I am very grateful and in no way want to sound sniveling by what I am about write.

First a few definitions:

ORDEAL: difficult or painful experience, especially one that tests patience or endurance.

ENDURE: to carry through despite hardships, to suffer patiently without yielding; to bear with tolerance; to toughen.

STEADFAST: unswerving; steady; unwavering; unshakable.

The words above frame for me what my experience has been, what it requires, and what is to be gained by moving through it well, especially in terms of my fit for launching imagine/northampton in a tough place, and through tough times. I need to be toughened in spirit without being hardened in heart.

To explain, I chose the word ordeal because I think it describes my knee injury experience thus far. . . . with one reservation. I realize there are degrees of ordeal involving the intensity of suffering, the duration, and the consequences resulting from having to go through it. From 1-10, I think mine is a 5.

Still, the whole thing has been a painful experience which tests my patience and ability to endure well--by that I mean with integrity, graciousness, humility, faith and courage. I realize unless a person has suffered a substantial injury to the lower back, hips, knees or ankles, he or she cannot deeply appreciate how much we take for granted the ability we have to move about freely with little thought given. With such an injury all routine movements are harder due to pain, crutches, braces and just the need to be careful about doing the most ordinary of movements such as getting dressed, taking a shower, or walking through the house from one place to the next. It all hurts or takes more time and effort.

So there is much to be endured whether I like it or not. My freedom is limited. I must be cared for in the most routine of needs. I have to live with all the extra work Tricia has to do for me above and beyond everything else she has to do in our lives. I can't drive, play drums, sit for long periods (my leg is locked in extension by the brace), or help with the chores I normally do. I must bear all of it with tolerance, suffer patiently, and "carry on through despite the hardships" caused by me, and affecting Tricia. Enduring this injury well is enduring it with grace, flexibility, and laughing at it all sometimes, even when frustrated or tired.

In the end, the outcome I desire to see from enduring this mini-ordeal is my faith and resolve is unwavering and unshakable. I want to be steady toward the vision and mission God has called us to even if the cost is great and the setbacks are frequent. I want to be unswerving, keeping my eyes and heart on the True North that Jesus has called us to. I never want to let adversity tag me as a quitter when the going stays tough. "A long obedience in the same direction," is what I seek to hold fast to, no matter.

Having said the above, I need to finish by documenting 3 tormenters that have constantly tried to poke at me during this ordeal, especially at night or when I fall tired. They come as thoughts seeking to abide in my mind and create unbelief. They lie and distort, looking for an assent of my will and a giving in to fear. Ultimately, they want me to pack it all in, abandon my post, and retreat.

The first is FRUSTRATION. I don't like that I am having to go through any of this. I abhor the physical limits I must submit to until I am well. I feel trapped and blocked at times. Often, I wake up in the morning and the reality of being injured soon reminds me that none of it is going away soon. I must endure it. Also, I have to work through the frustration of having a counseling ministry in disarray right now. I have to start scheduling people in the midst of Physical Therapy appointments and I can't drive myself to any of it--more difficulty. I feel hemmed in and stymied because in a number of ways I am these days. FRUSTRATION seeks to wear me down in irritation and anger. It invites me to the worst kind of self-absorption: entitlement. I should be free to do as I please, when and how I please. Don't slow me down!!!

The second is FEAR. The thoughts begin to whisper to me: If I don't get back to work soon, there will be no money coming in. We'll default on everything. Where will we live? What will we do? People are counting on me to pull my weight. Pretty soon they are joined by reinforcements: The economy is tanking. There's nothing you can do about it. What a lousy time to launch a church! The rest of the team is not even up here and they are struggling as well. What did you get everybody into? What were you thinking? Soon the heavy-hitters come in for the kill: It's too late. Nothing's going to change. You are going to lose everything. You have failed everyone.

Finally, if I am paying attention to the first two, DISCOURAGEMENT drapes its sluggish, bloated body over me, and whines: Oh well, you're too old for this anyway. Your hope just isn't going to work out. Things are going to continue falling apart. Too bad. Nothing ever works out for you, does it? On and on it drones. If I don't wrest my thoughts away at this point I can slip toward depression which I must avoid at all costs. Discouragement wants me to go there so I disappear.

Ultimately, there are all sorts of treasures to learn from this unwanted interruption and I want to learn them all so when the day of full recovery arrives I am toughened in my character for the many challenges that still lie ahead. My injury is a part of this toughening and I submit to it.





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