I had a debilitating stroke 2 1/2 years ago, leaving my left hand mostly useless. I had to relearn to walk which took about eight months although my gait is awkward to watch and no one is calling me sir speedy! 250 steps is about the best I can do. I have set a goal to walk from the train station to the Mickey Mouse statue in Disneyland sometime in the next year.
I have another blog that chronicles my experience with chronic pain, https://faithanddoubtlife.wordpress.com. It is widely disclosed there that I am in ministry. I had not made that disclosure in this blog so I wanted to do so now. You will see faith weaved in and out in the other writings. I encourage you to read them especially if you have dealt with or know someone dealing with chronic pain or stroke. That said, here is today’s Sunday story.
I have taken falling to a new level; in fact, I believe I have perfected it. Luckily, over the past few years, I have always fallen to the left. If I had fallen to the right, I’m sure I would’ve broken my arm more than once. I am sure that most of you have attributed the falls to the stroke, and that would be true. The reality is, at times, I cannot put my left foot firmly and flatly on the ground. The more stressed I become, the more exaggerated the curvature becomes.
I am off balance.
If you disregard my ugly toenails, you can see that my foot naturally wants to land on the left edge of my foot. I once had a 5’2” petite woman, Sandra Price, catch me as I began to fall, only to find myself struggling to stand afterward because I could not put my foot down. It is more than frustrating; it is dangerous.
Muscle relaxants or a glass of wine (never together, I tried that once and wound up in an ambulance) can ease some of the tension. It is challenging to live life under the influence of those drugs (although people try). There are many stroke patients and people who face chronic pain who simply give up. I am not courageous. I am just too stubborn.
I have used the sermon illustration many times in speaking with students of a person who is walking the fence between the things that are tempting and the things of God. Most of us would consider walking that fence a very good thing. But I proposed that the kids should be firmly on the side of Jesus and not trying to walk the fence. Spiritually, that is true. But we need to have balance in our lives. We can’t let the physical outweigh the other aspects that God has given to us. If we do, we are out of balance.
For nearly 3 years now, I have been out of balance. I’ve been frustrated, upset, non-visibly mad, and sad. I’ve had people ask me why God I hasn’t healed me? I wish I had a great answer, but I don’t. My response is always, bodies break down, but I still feel somewhat abandoned at times in my soul. In my human self I want to shake my fist and ask, “why, after all this time of serving you, is this continuing? Do I deserve this? How is this fair?” No answers come, just an embrace. I often want to cry over the situation, but really haven’t since the first night in the hospital, unless I make myself.
This second round in the hospital, I watched the movie The Shack (it may have replaced It’s a Wonderful Life and Field of Dreams as my go-to cry movie.) I started bawling at the very beginning and did not stop until the credits. Everything Mac was going through was dealing with forgiveness. I felt I was doing that as well, not only to God but also to those I perceive have wronged me in the last month. It was cleansing.
In the last month, I have lashed out in many ways, and have cried out to God. This is not how I perceived the end of my ministerial career to be, but just like my current condition and the one who allowed it, I will try to trust in him. Will I be successful? Sometimes. Will I fail? At times. Will I try? Yes. Will I frustrate those who love me along the way? No doubt, (sorry about that!). Successful or not, I will attempt to stay on the balance beam and keep everything in line.
Jesus brings balance to creation.