So today began better than yesterday…until I felt the sharpest and longest-lasting pain of 2013 shoot through my arm.
I was wide awake, talking with friends, in a good mood, and in good health (besides an obnoxious problem I have been dealing with every day for 18 months — don’t ask!). I climbed onto the morning bus and sat in the seat behind my friends. I came down hard against the wall and jammed my elbow squarely into the corner of the window sill. I don’t know how I kept completely silent, but instantly my entire arm surged with pain, with my elbow as the epicenter.
The sensation persisted or increased for a full minute, until I began to feel pain or sickness (can’t recall) in my stomach! Minute 2 plateaued at that pain level, and only at Minute 3 did it start to subside. I am sure of the times, because I take the three-minute bus ride every day.
All of that was before 7 a.m. Now it is 2:30 p.m. I’ve had ice on my elbow for two hours today, and took a couple of pain killers. It still hurts. No blood, no black-and-blue, no bone sticking out, and I can type freely when I keep my arm steady. But I cannot pick up heavy things with my left hand, or move my arm suddenly. I can’t raise my arm over my head unless I want to reenact Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” and I can’t sign my name. (I am a proud South Paw…and I have a great pick-off move on the pitcher’s mound!)
Oh well. I’m alive. So is my family. I won’t do my pushups tonight, and I hope it feels better by tomorrow. But no matter what, God is good.
This was NOT my attitude for much of yesterday morning, even though at that time my elbow was as happy as a crowbar destroying a bus window sill.
Yesterday I woke up later than I had planned, could not get a bad dream out of my head, discovered a small hatch of flying ants in the bathroom, had a high-pressure project at work, fielded more questions than I cared to answer, still couldn’t discard the bad dream, and had a janitor from a culture that is not my own berate me for flushing dirty TP down the toilet!
After that, I tried to calm myself down. Nothing that had happened was really that bad — even when adding it all up. I simply had lowered my guard and ignored my Commander’s gentle, patient orders. Some prayers and Bible verses later, things were looking up and I had a splendid date with my beautiful bride last night.
My father-in-law is terribly fond of Psalm 131 — God calls us humble ourselves, quiet our souls before Him, and trust in His compassion, power, and faithfulness. I ponder those three short verses now, but yesterday I recalled Deuteronomy 7 and 9, in which God says He does not love or provide for His people because they are mighty or good. In fact, we are weak and “stiff-necked.” Instead, He loves us because He wants to and because He keeps His promises. Also, I reflected on Romans 5, which talks about God loving us “while we were still sinners” and “when we were enemies” with God.
My self-imposed burden began to lift. Fifteen years ago (Wow! I really, truly cannot believe it!), I received an award at one of the top summer youth camps in America: K2, at Kanakuk Kamp in southern Missouri. I won the “I’m Third Award” — God first, others second, I’m third. I don’t know if I deserved the award back then, and I’d be even more wary of getting it now. But I can testify that many of my life’s best moments have been my “I’m third” moments. When I live that way, “one of those days” (hard, bitter, selfish, fearful, boring, angry) can quickly metamorphose into “one of those days” (full of life, joy, hope, truth, generosity, and love).
Joshua 24 gives us a simple choice: “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” By God’s grace and for His glory, I want one of those days!