It has been quite a year physically for me. It began with cataract surgery in the spring. Continuing in the summer and Fall with the hip replacement and recuperation. Then foot and knee problems arising, abating and rising once again. And just before Christmas a fall down the basement stairs resulting in damage to my rotator cuff. My New Year has started off with surgery on my right shoulder which put my right arm out of commission for at least six weeks. (And yes, I am right handed.)
All of this recuperative downtime has taken a toll on my sense of self, my patience, and on my wife. And yet it is also been a blessing. St. Paul writing to the Corinthians says that three times he asked God to take away from him his malady. God’s response, he wrote, was “my power is made perfect in weakness”. Having read that passage a number of times over many years I never really understood it. Or, more correctly, I never understood that it had anything to do with me.
In this past year I have become quite aware of the kindness, the love, the commitment to community, of members of St. Paul’s, of my colleagues, of my friends as well as of my wife. They have reached out in so many ways and offered to do so much to help me, to be there for me, to uphold me in love and prayer. Those who know me know I am an independent cuss. The only block or problem in this offering of others is my own independence and reluctance to accept the assistance offered. I now recognize I have often used as an excuse that “I don’t want to be a bother” or that I really “can do that myself”. But that is my pride getting in the way of someone else’s expression of genuine love and care. So beyond coping with the discomfort of healing, my hardest job right now is to try to get me out of the way so that I can accept, value, and deeply appreciate the gifts others wish to offer.
It has been a year… I do not blame God for this rash of physical problems. I cannot claim to have been kind or attentive to myself physically over the years. And parts do wear out and break.
I also really do know that God has used this last year for all sorts of teaching moments. God got my attention to help me understand the blessings that already surround me; the gifts already offered; the love already there. It is now up to me to get beyond my own stubbornness, my own reluctance, my own pride. It is up to me to recognize, to embrace, and receive the blessings that are offered so freely by others. To be vulnerable, to be able to graciously receive is a gift I can give. A gift more costly (and more rare) than mindless independence.