Tag Archive: grace


Back Pain – Blech

Last week was tough. A year and a half ago, near enough, I got injured at work. The patient didn’t mean to hurt me. He had been seriously shorted sleep, which does bad things for a person’s cognitive capacity. I think he mistook me for a piece of furniture. He tugged and pulled and leaned on me, which gave me a nice case of lumbar strain or something. I’ve spend so much time at doctor (MD) and physical therapy (PT) appointments since.

At this point, it looks like I’ve probably plateaued. PT absolutely helped. I am in less pain, and I’m stronger than I was about a year ago. I’m better, for sure, but I’m not perfect, and it doesn’t really look like I’m going to be, darn it. My MD thinks that the pain I’ve got is probably about where I’m going to live, and that it will occasionally flare and act crankier than that baseline.

I think my MD is probably right, based on my last round of PT. I saw some improvement, but it didn’t seem to help as much as it did before, and last week was definitely a flare. My back acted quite the brat and pulled obnoxious stunts like waking me up almost every night. I was too tired to think straight. That would be why there was no post last week. I wasn’t that organized. 😛

While I’m grateful for how much my back has improved (it’s crazy to think how much trouble it was causing me at first), I’d be lying if I said I was not disappointed. In fact, I could probably even claim to feel a bit depressed over it. Chronic pain is NOT fun. Obviously, it hurts. It causes fatigue thanks to sleepless nights. I have to spend time and energy managing it, and the super annoying thing about that is oftentimes I have no idea what causes flares of pain. The pain doesn’t necessarily correlate well with whatever it is I’ve been doing. For instance, this past week I spent some time out digging up blackberry roots and tossing them over a fence to a burn pile. You’d think that my back would hate that, but, no, no, seemed fine. I could tell I’d exercised, but had no spasm flares. The flare from the previous week was (probably, I think) from driving my mom’s van to pick her up at the airport. There’s something about those seats. I don’t really know that, though. It’s just my best guess. That random, unpredictable nature bothers me. It sucks to hurt and not know what caused it.

So in all of this, what am I to do? Where’s God? Where’s my faith? What does growth and trust look like here? I’m not quite sure. I’ve never been quite exactly *here* before. Some things don’t change – God is still good, I’m still loved, and all that – but a new situation has a tendency to freshen hard questions, such as, “Wow, this is hard! I don’t like it, God. Are You sure You still love me?” Besides that, my goals are shifting. I have been focused on improvement. Now I need to look at endurance. That’s harder for me. I like to fix things and make them better. I’m pretty good at fixing things, too, and I’m pretty happy with fixing things. Enduring? Waiting? Not so much, not really my favorite, thanks, anyway. But… that’s what I’ve got – a disappointment, something hard, and God still loves me. His grace is still supposed to be sufficient. It’s also changed how I feel about myself. I feel older, less resilient, like I’ve aged. That’s not necessarily an easy thing to handle.

So, yeah, what am I to do? Wait, pray, take the tricky and heavy questions to God and see what He’s got to say. That’s one of the things that doesn’t change. Questions, hard questions about life and identity that can gnaw guts out if held, should always go to God. He always provides. Guess if I wait around, I’ll get to see how.

It’s All In How You See It

Wednesday morning, I woke up at 6am confused. “Why am I awake?” I wondered. “I didn’t hear my alarm.” I checked my clock. It definitely wasn’t my alarm that had woken me. I’d messed up and set it for PM, not AM. Argh! Nonetheless, I was supposed to be at work by 7am, so up out of bed I got to quickly ready myself for the day and drive off for work.

I didn’t even get a mile before I had to smash on my brakes. In the early morning light, I rounded a corner to see a deer lackadaisically trying to decide if it should cross the road or not. It decided that meandering out in smack in front of my car would be a fantastic decision! As I frantically tried to avoid hitting the brainless mammal looming larger and larger, I thought, “What part of, ‘My car is doing 35 – 40 mph and is a lot bigger than you!’ is not triggering  your survival/flight instincts, stupid deer?!?” Scared me good, that encounter did.

In fact, both of these situations triggered feelings of alarm and fright and uncertainty. “I’m going to be late!” “I’m going to hit the deer!” “What if I’m late?” “Do I have everything?” Augh!

And you know what my next emotional step was? I felt condemned. I felt ashamed. I felt worthless. If my inner emotional dialogue was put to words, it would sound something like this: “I should have double checked my alarm. That was stupid! It’s easy to set it for PM instead of AM. I’ve only had the clock for 20 years or so. I should know better. How dumb can I be? Maybe if I’d been more careful and woken up to my alarm, I’d have been paying more attention and not gotten so close to that deer. Stupid deer! It is going to make me late. I’m going to be late and get into trouble at work. What am I going to do if that happens? How…” and on, and on, and so it goes. Dumb, stupid, irresponsible, trouble – these are all lovely words of condemnation and shame, and that could have been my whole day. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed can do that to ya’!

Fortunately, I have a choice. There is no condemnation, right? I don’t have to capitulate to those nasty feelings and let them run and therefore ruin my day. The truth is that I woke up in time, through no fault of my own, to get to work by 7am, and I didn’t hit that deer. Yes, I had some failures in there, but what I also had was grace and provision. God met my need to get to work safely and on time through no effort of my own. How awesome is that?!?

Perspective

Years ago, when digital cameras were still an expensive toy not yet capable of producing the photo quality that even a cheap camera loaded with 35mm or 110 film could, I was asked to shoot pictures at a wedding reception. The bride wanted lots of photos, so in addition to recruiting me, she set out several disposable cameras on each table. Remember those? Generally, they had about two controls. One was for the shutter, to snap the picture, and the other was a dial to advance the film. Sometimes they’d be unusually fancy, and there would be a flash, or maybe they were waterproofed! You’d shoot until you were finished and then take the whole camera, instead of just the film, to the developer of your choice. They were great for people who didn’t like to mess about with loading film, or for kids to take to camp, or for events like wedding receptions.

At the reception, there were shutters snapping everywhere. Any more, that’s pretty common. I’ve been asked to shoot some events and had trouble doing so, because it’s so crowded. Everybody and their brother and their brother’s fat, old cats named Snookums are right there with their digital cameras, phones, or other devices madly snapping away. Ten or fifteen years ago, I didn’t run into that so much, which meant shutters snapping everywhere was something of a novelty. The kids were the worst. They were really having a good time.

A couple of weeks later, we got the pictures back from the developers. I was fascinated by them. Now, what I should explain is that I am not typically fascinated by snapshots. Frequently, they irritate me, because, frequently, the photo is technically deficient. It’s overexposed, underexposed, too much flash, too dark, huge glare where the flash mostly hit a window, not in focus at all, blurred due to movement, so on, so forth. That’s not even touching composition issues! I was like this, by the way, before I even started taking pictures. That annoyance is in fact what got me started and helped prompt me to refine my own ability. Anyway, these pictures were an exception to my normal lack of fascination, even though many of them were technically deficient. Shoot, many of them were taken by small, two-legged camera bandits who popped out from behind chairs and under tables to “get” you. Of course those photos weren’t of fantastic quality!

But I was still fascinated. You see, I’d shot this event. I had a hundred or so photos of my own to look through showing what I’d seen of the reception. I could put them together and show a portrait of the reception as I’d experienced it with all of the officially significant moments, like the cutting of the cake, and the candid shots of people there. The other photos, from all those disposable cameras – I realized that I was seeing so many different perspectives on the reception. All those photos showed various individuals’ differing interests and priorities. People made a point of shooting certain things that were important to them, and you could tell sometimes that one person had shot most of the pictures from that roll due to style or subject. A roll devoted to one family was something of a tip-off, after all.

Perhaps even more fascinating to me than what people were shooting was the where they were shooting from. Height can make an incredible difference in what a picture looks like. There were obviously some tall people using those cameras. Those pictures were full of the tops of heads. Face shots often began at foreheads, because the photographer was looking down at the subject. Those photos didn’t look much like my photos. I’m short. Thanks to having to look up, I was more likely to capture nose hair than a forehead. It was the shots taken by kids, however, that really hammered this home for me. Out of the mouths of babes, right? One picture was full of this big, green thing and what might have been an elbow. Identifying it was difficult, thanks in part to the shot not being in focus, and then I realized the green thing was my butt! It filled the whole print. It looked huge, much bigger that it really was. I wanna say it was Stephers who took that fantastic (haha) picture. She was just about the right height, and she was definitely one of the camera bandits. She got in a little too close (which is why the picture wasn’t in focus – those cameras certainly didn’t have a macro setting) and snapped the shot, giving me a great look from her perspective. Honestly, I feel a bit sorry for kids. How would you like to run around a world where your head is about level with most people’s rear ends?

I learned a lot about perspective from this, about what a person can see and will see from where that person is standing. Everyone has a perspective unique to them, and I think it’s all too easy to not be conscious of that in dealing and relating with others. I mean, think about it. Just stop for a moment and think about this: no matter how much in common you and I might have, no matter how similar our opinions, background, height, education, desires, religion, whatever might be, I can’t see things from exactly the same place in exactly the same way at exactly the same time with exactly the same priorities as you do. It’s incredible!

Off the top of my head, I can think of two things I gained. One was an understanding or perhaps awareness that it is ridiculously unreasonable of me to ever expect anybody to see things the way that I do. It is even possible that they aren’t not able to. No matter how willing a person is, there are some things about themselves that they can’t control, and I do no favors to anyone when I relate to those around me without that awareness. The second is that I learned to appreciate people more as individuals. Every one of us has something to offer that nobody else does, has, or ever will. I do others (and myself, for that matter) a disservice when I fail to recognize and honor that about them.

One more thing about perspective – it changes. Move a little, shift a bit, and the view will, too. Given that life is a journey, I think it prudent to assume that over time, my perspective will change. I’ll think and believe and feel differently about some things in the future. Chances are good, I’d say, that other folks will, too.