With my 7th lifetime surgery now behind me, the 4th in the last 5 years, I turn my attention toward physical therapy in hopes to be back to normal – only better. I love my physical therapists, but am annoyed at the inconvenience it is to stop everything multiple times a week and go. I don’t say anything out loud, because I am grateful for healthcare and that I am on the other side of surgery, but inside I throw a fit at how laborious and irrelevant this process feels.
Today, I schlepped in as always, with a smile, and breathed a big “here we go again” breath. I made a point not to complain to the therapists because I am certain they’ve heard it all before. Yet, perhaps it’s the gray skies or drizzly rain or unusually cool temps that set me up, and for the first time I did complain. Lying on my back on the hard, pleather table, staring at into the awful, harsh fluorescent lights above, while working out the exercises I was instructed to do, I said, “I just want the pain to finally stop. I mean, I’ve been living with this pain in my shoulder for years and finally did something about it. However now that the surgery is over, this p/t is making it hurt worse than ever. I just want the pain to finally be gone.”
The therapist smiled and agreed in a nice way, though I’m sure I’m not the first or last to voice my frustration.
Then I began to think about this whole process and found a gap. I asked her, “Why is it that when I am at home, I am able to do almost everything I could before – only a week out of surgery – and feel very little pain, but when I come here and do the exercises you instruct it really hurts? I mean, I’m doing laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, making the bed, walking the dog, able to wash my own hair, etc. I thought these were pretty good home therapy measures. Don’t they count?”
Her answer was simple, but it explained a lot. She said, “When you are doing your normal life at home, you stay in middle range of motion.” She demonstrated some chores to show me that none of them require me to stretch my limits, literally. They all stay within a pain-free zone, if you will. “What we want is to push you to your limit. That’s what’s going to give you full range of motion again. What you are doing at home is fine, but you need these exercises to push you to your max to complete the healing.”
While I completed the circuit of exercises, I thought about what she said. It made so much sense from a physical standpoint, but also from a spiritual one.
When something in our lives is injured, broken or hurting, either by someone else’s (un)intentional injury or our own emotionally degenerative heart, we approach the Master Healer for help. What we are really asking for is a cure without any cost. We want a broken heart mended, to have more patience, see our obvious purpose revealed, receive guidance and grow wiser – all without cost or discomfort to us. We think that as long as we admit there is a problem and want God’s help, poof!, it will be done and we get to move on with our lives.
Or, we don’t seek God’s help and try to go straight from hurting to healed in one fail swoop. We think that what we are doing on our own is enough, when in reality we aren’t able to bring ourselves to where we need to be to be healed – because we simply can’t inflict pain on ourselves – even if it means it will make us better. We stay stuck in the mid-range, comfortable zone.
Either scenario is not a prescription for ultimate healing. If we allow God to work in our lives, we must be willing to count the cost of it being inconvenient; take longer than we’d like it to; pull us away from what we’d rather be doing in our flesh to where we need to be in our spirit; and be willing to be pushed to limits we didn’t know we had because we are so used to our mid-range comfort zone.
Trying to heal our hearts and lives on our own leaves scars, pain and unfinished business. Trust me, after a very bad fall on our street in 2010, but seeking no medical help, my knee has an obvious scar and there is now (compliments of a recent xray – too little too late) a piece of my wrist bone floating in tissue that broke off in the fall that painfully catches my muscles and nerves. I’ll always wonder what could’ve been a better outcome if I had just been humble enough to seek help.
I read today that a beautiful woman inside and out, full of potential, committed suicide in her quest to find love and attention. I am so sad for her family and friends, and sad for her that she gave up trying to fix herself. If only she could’ve sought healing through Jesus Christ who bore our afflictions, illnesses and failures for us on the cross.
He is right there, holding out His own scarred hand, offering us help. He knows what we need and when we need it. He is on our side.
Will I still grumble about having to make the next months of my life centered around p/t appointments? Probably. But, I will now go with a fresh perspective of a heart check, not just a shoulder check by asking myself these questions:
* Can I acknowledge there is something wrong?
* Am I willing to admit I need His help?
* Am I avoiding the work God wants to do in my life?
* Will I count the cost of my time, energy and emotions to allow God room to work?
* Will I not quit even if it is painful?
* Will I listen to God and follow His instructions?
* Can I accept the help He is trying to give me through prayer, His Word, or others?
The physical therapist is right on all counts. I need her. I need her to hold me accountable for showing up and putting forth the effort; to show me ways that I can work my shoulder back to its best; and accept her encouragement along the way.
The heart is much more involved. The process is layered. Sticky. Complicated. If we run away and hide, we hurt ourselves. If we ignore the problem it will only get worse. If we treat it halfway we will never know what our best could be. If we let God in, daring Him with the deepest places of pain (like when the therapist stretches the joint that is healing in my shoulder), He will always work in our best interest. His Word, the Bible, tells us so. We can trust God because God is love.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love…
1 John 4:16
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, be we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in out time of need.
Trust in the LORD with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.
This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way it, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
~ Jesus, John 10:10