You can fight back from injury, full of that feeling of the fire in you to fight back against the pain–pain in your body, in your life, in your past over all the chances you weren’t given–and still end up hopeless.
I sit on the deck in the setting sun, pushing back against the self-pity that traps the weak who feel imprisoned by something in life they think they didn’t deserve.
The sad truth is I hurt my ankle in Oct last year. And you might not think a sprained ankle would matter so much. People have lost legs, lost eyes, lost sons. I lost running in the morning and walking without a hobble for a few months–and I even knew it’d be a danger to my equilibrium, my motivation and sense of purpose, not to mention my balance. And it was all that, in more ways than one.
I’d even vowed to keep working out. But time passed and it wasn’t healing, by 6 months later, I’d lost all momentum. My energy, my routine, my stamina, even my motivation–to stay in shape, and to write my book–it all fell flat. And certainly that wasn’t the only reason, but I even faltered at work. All my hope of improving and getting stronger was gone, and everything I used to rely on to empower my writing. Poof!
It sounds ridiculous, I know, to let my physical life influence my mental and emotional, let alone the spiritual aspect. And to let it derail my writing? But it did. Apparently, I’m a big ball of fragile interconnected threads and you pull one and it all gets tangled. I don’t want to believe that’s, but it’s true.
And as I sat watching the light change and listening to the robins call their families home for the night, I felt obligated to believe I could master this though I didn’t know if it was really possible.
I deny the truth and believe I can let some things slide and it won’t affect me. Then, when it inevitably does, I get frustrated and force things, and then get angry when I inevitably slack off, which creates a cycle of dissatisfaction. I know the ease of getting into bad habits, and I’ve begun to resent the taskmaster me.
Even before the ankle, it wasn’t proper responsibility.
As with so many things, the mystery makes it even more beautiful.
I sit on the deck watching it through the high trees. Photographers call it “framing” when the central object is seen through something in the foreground creating a frame around it. An object’s natural beauty is heightened through obstruction.
As Wendell Berry said, “The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
Or as Chesterton said, “Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame.” I’ve had to learn slowly it’s the pain that obstructs and constrains life that makes it meaningful.
And responsibilities are what make freedom possible.
Maybe the key is what Viktor Frankl talks about in Man’s Search for Meaning–the good tension between freedom and responsibility.
The sunset is over so quickly. I hear Ellie playing violin down in the practice room. Every time she comes to the beautiful minor chord in the song, I wish it could last longer, but it never does. Maybe tension also has to continually resolve for it to be beautiful.
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” Emily Dickinson said. “The truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind.” The low sun slants through the clouds and sends its color through the trees and I’m thinking of light bending and rainbows caused by refraction, and how music delights by bending the limits of a song’s established structure.
The devil is opposed to balance and would love to deflate the tension and take me out. But he can’t. It isn’t his call. It’s mine. I’ve been given all authority through Christ.
And if this storytelling life isn’t all about balancing tension and resolve, then I don’t know what it’s about. Don’t I know the freedom that comes in responsibility? When do injured ankles change the truth? With a little pain God brings relief. With a little darkness eventually he brings light. He ordains the contrasts of life to make it rich and meaningful.
To imagine the bland pain-free existence I think I’d prefer…. No injuries to remind me what it means to feel good and strong and healthy. What if instead of complaining next time I’m thrown off by life’s minor chords, I instead partner with God in his process of bringing both good and bad, and believe it’s not so bad when he’s in charge of it?
What else do we have to do to enjoy all of life but to let him be in charge of it all? Like Job, simply to decide to follow him no matter what.
And even now, paying attention to him, I might get out in front of the momentary darkness and feel the light already coming again. …