Two weeks ago I tweaked my back. It was some combination of trying to exercise like I was 20 years younger and getting in a car accident that totaled our van. Apparently, that was the one-two punch that sent me in a bit of a tailspin. Over the last two weeks, I’ve been to the chiropractor more than I’ve been to Panera and Starbucks combined. If you’re keeping track at home that’s a lot. I wanted to share with you what God has been teaching me during the sleepless nights and long stretches of discomfort.
Life changes quickly. Two weeks ago I was watching the Crossfit Games on ESPN while thinking to myself, “If I was younger I wonder if I could compete?” The answer to that question is, “Are you certifiably nuts!? A million times No!” Nevertheless, I still asked the question. Three days later I wondered if I could put my socks on all by myself. My boys actually looked at some of the competitors on tv and asked with a straight face, “Dad, could you beat him?” The other day my son told me I looked like Grandpa Stan. He’s 93 and walks around hunched over with a back brace. Life changes quickly.
I have a different level of empathy for people who suffer from chronic pain. There were a few nights early on when I would have done just about anything legal or illegal to make the pain go away. I wish I could say I was grateful for the moments of sweet fellowship with Jesus at 2am rolling around the floor trying to make the pain stop, but what I really wanted was just for the pain to stop. I thought, “James, people you know and love live with chronic pain every single day. They have not been given a 6-8 week recovery window. In fact, their season of suffering isn’t a season. It’s a way of life.” This has caused me to remember them in prayer more frequently and pray that God would give them His grace and mercy in their discomfort and despair.
I’m not a fan of my own weakness and I’m not a fan of people seeing my weakness. Nevertheless, I’d rather have everyone know I’m hurt than to actually have them think I’m just weak. The only thing worse than being weak is having other people know you’re weak. I’m finding myself wanting to explain to people why I can’t stand up for any long periods of time. It’s not that I want people to feel sorry for me, it’s just that I don’t want them to see me as I am—weak. I found this to be true the other week during our Feed the Hunger event. I couldn’t stand without feeling intense pain. I had to sit on the bleachers to seek relief for my back. Yet, I found myself feeling incredibly insecure about being unproductive. Everyone else was working. I was watching. I wanted people to know that I really wanted to work, but just couldn’t. I wanted people to know that I wasn’t trying to coast, or take it easy, or be lazy. It didn’t matter that I had a good excuse. People needed to know my excuse because it would crush me to know that people were actually thinking I wasn’t pulling my weight. Where does this come from? Why is that so important to me? If I were being honest I would say that it comes from my inability to believe in the moment that people’s opinions don’t define me—even if they are true! I too suffer from gospel amnesia. I worry about my own reputation and the opinions of others more than I care to admit.