I have had many injuries in my lifetime. I enjoy playing sports, particularly contact sports, and I enjoy playing hard. Consequently, I tend to get hurt fairly often. I’ve broken many bones, had lots of surgeries, dislocated things…yet I have always been able to continue to play. In fact, in all my years of competitive sports, I have only missed starting one game because of a dislocated hip. It’s an accomplishment that I have always been proud of, being able to play through pain and give all I have to a team.
Then this summer came. I’m not playing sports as often as I am coaching them now, so I tend to get hurt less. So when I went off a rope swing at a friend’s house this summer and broke the middle finger of my left hand, I wasn’t particularly concerned. I mean, it hurt and was going to be somewhat in the way as it was in the middle of our camp ministry and I was playing bass guitar in our band, but I figured, I’ve broken fingers before and they heal quickly.
Then 2 weeks went by, and there was no improvement, then 3 and finally 5 weeks and it was still as painful and swollen as the first week. I was getting frustrated as I was unable to do my favourite things during my favourite time in ministry. I couldn’t play sports, I couldn’t even swim for awhile, I couldn’t kayak, couldn’t play baseball, I could play bass (with my thumb), but I couldn’t play my acoustic guitar. And then there was the fact that I couldn’t do even simple, normal things. For five weeks I could not put my hair up in a pony tail, I had to get help to do the easiest tasks and I hate asking for help.
I couldn’t understand what on earth was going on. Why was the Lord taking so long to heal such a simple thing? I was getting frustrated and upset until a friend finally asked me, what was it that God was trying to teach me in all this? I honestly didn’t know for awhile.
I spent quite a bit of time in prayer over it, perhaps more than I should have now that I look back, it seems rather obvious to me. The Lord had some really simple, yet important lessons for me to learn. The first was that I didn’t have to do it all. In fact, there were a lot of things I had to not do because I just couldn’t. That was a source of frustration (particularly when they were fun things that I wanted to do) but the Lord was pointing out the fact that, there are a lot of needs out there, and there are a lot of things I could be doing, but I’m not supposed to be doing all of them. In fact, sometimes in doing so much, I miss the things I should be doing, or the opportunities that He lays before me that I don’t take time to see. Through not being able to do some of what I would normally, it forced me to get involved in other things, or sometimes just to stop altogether.
Secondly I had to learn to ask for help. This was a major step for me. I hate it. I feel that I am incapable and incompetent when I have to ask for help; that I’m not good enough if I can’t do it by myself. And should someone be even better than me at something, it’s that much more difficult. Yet, every day I had to ask one of my best friends to put my hair up for me, to open a bottle, to tape my splint on… and so often I would try and do it on my own and usually hurt myself further because I didn’t want to ask, didn’t want to feel like I was a burden or bothering my friend. And every time she’d tell me how ridiculous it was and that she didn’t mind at all and would do anything for me, but I just couldn’t believe it for the longest time.
What did that come down to? Just my pride. How many times do I not go to God first? I try it on my own, I think I can prove my competence to Him or maybe my worth; show Him that I can do this Lord, I got this… and usually, ends up with me being hurt in some way. Why can’t I just believe that He wants me to ask? Why can’t I learn that apart from Him I truly can do nothing? It takes having Him break my bones for me to come to that place of dependance, to stop trying and start leaning solely on Him. So many Psalms talk about our bones being broken BY GOD! (Ps 42) He breaks me so that He can heal me, so that I can have a contrite heart before Him, and not think ‘too highly of myself’ (Phil 2) Maybe I should have let Him break more than a finger.
But the last lesson He’s taught me in this is probably the most difficult one and the one that has taken me the longest to understand, or even recognize…yet it’s also the one I need more than anything else in my life… and I am pretty sure that I still don’t have it down yet.
It’s funny, in fact, because I have actually taught this idea in a Bible Study. I have told so many people that we need to have open hands and let go of the things that are in the way of our relationship with Him so that God doesn’t have to force us to get our priorities straight The reason I broke my finger, was that when I started to slip on the rope, rather than just letting go and falling into the water, I tried to save my jump and hold on. This caused my finger to be crushed against the knots on the rope and fractured off the side of my knuckle. If I had just let go, wouldn’t have had a problem, expect maybe looking silly falling into the pond.
Imagine if I learned to let go of the people and things that I cling so tightly to? I will admit, I am not good with change, I will fight against it, I will come up with reasons why we should keep doing the same thing, or people should stay the same… because in my mind it’s safer. I know it, I’m used to it… even if I know the alternative is better, it’s unknown and that scares me. So I hold on. This summer was me holding on to some things, people, situations because I’m scared of the future, of what it might look like, of what it might feel like… so God pulled my fingers back and had to break one to make me let go. That’s one of the most frustrating things, I can’t grip things, still 7 weeks later, I drop things all the time with that hand. He’s forced me to have an open hand, physically and spiritually. There are things happening in my life and ministry that I can’t help but let go. There is no way to hold on to the way things were, He’s pulled my hand free.
The sad part is, I so wish that I had let go first. I wish that I could say He didn’t have to break me. But He did. And in fact, He might have to do it again. And I can very easily get myself down and upset about my failure, about my inability, even needing to ask others to pray for me and help me. But praise God He tells me that He dwells in the broken and contrite heart (Is 66:2). He knows I’m weak, and in that He is strong (1 Cor 9:12). He breaks me to heal me.
They say when a broken bone heals it is so much stronger than before. Funny that it’s taking me so long to heal this time, but I am praying that afterwards, my heart will also be that much stronger, and my grip will be that much better… it will just be holding on to the right thing.