A Musing Pastor
Updated: Dec 25, 2021
Gettin' old ain't for sissies or so I've been told. For the majority of my years I have been blessed with average or above average health. I count that as a blessing from God and I realize not everyone can say that with great confidence. For those who suffer chronic pain, I offer my prayers and heartfelt love to you.
Full disclosure here as I share that I have had a dislocated middle finger in sixth grade, some stitches in eighth grade, and when I was about 30 a severe bout with a ruptured disc in my lumbar region most likely from the daily jarring of heavy equipment. My right leg has been numb down the back region since that time. Getting away from bulldozers and rock trucks made a profound difference on my condition. Thanks be to God. Oops, almost forgot the two bouts of kidney stones that I swear were going to be the size of a golf ball when they passed except they were fine grains of sand almost invisible. Oh, and the bicep tendon that I handily ripped from its mooring at 37 years old which required surgery to reattach and then the therapy to get my arm 85% back to normal. (Note to self, don't ever....I repeat, don't ever try to catch an 80-90 pound Oxygen tank with one arm once it begins to topple over.)
Thankfully none of these injuries or illnesses were so debilitating that life couldn't go on. Perhaps the loss of my job in heavy equipment operation, though at the time a difficult blow, was a godsend and the point of contact for this call to ministry.
Lately at 61, I have noted some pain and stiffness in my neck and I did the check-up thing with x-rays, and MRI, and ensuing physical therapy. It would have been easy to resist going to get checked out and just tried to self doctor.
I'm in the fourth and final week of therapy and today was one of those days from Hades.
The image reveals some disc stenosis, vertebrae deterioration, and a narrowing on my spinal cord. The prognosis is therapy, then a shot of cortisone if necessary, and the last resort would be fusing of a few vertebrae. Did I mention that gettin' old ain't for sissies? I'm confident some of you reading this have accounts of your health struggles that make mine look like a stubbed toe. Back to the life of a physical therapist.
My stint with therapy back in 1997 was an introduction to therapists who love you but want to annihilate you (Not really but it seems that way). Actually, they have our best health in mind when they lead us or gently persuade us to go to places in our therapy we wouldn't go on our own. The therapist that's worth their weight in gold will want to arrest our ill muscles, joints, tendons, and body and bring us back to health. It's their expertise and passion.
Today, again was a tough place to go and I resisted arrest a little, but in the end I felt the benefit of the work and am grateful. I trust these people like Matt, Emily, Chris, Jacob, Meredith, and others with my life, my health! They are trained professionals who know what we need and they give us good instruction.
I always start with the 'hand bike' on regular cycle for a warm-up and usually blast through with no problem but today it was the finisher and it did its job. It finished me. My therapist must have watched me breeze through all the stretching, weight training, band stretching and decided to throw that off-speed curve ball to me.
The therapist said, let's try iso-training setting on the bike. I said, "Oh, ok. No problem." Here's the thing. Let me just say that 'iso-training' on a hand bike isn't like normal hand bike training. The faster one tries to cycle the bike with your hands the more resistance there is. By design the system is trying to wreck muscle memory and lift the bar for strength and health. Thirty seconds into a five minute exercise I wanted to kick myself for saying, "Oh ok. No problem." then it hit me.
How often as a pastor have I asked people to follow me into theological discussions of confession and repentance, about faith and salvation, and God's grace and justice? How often have I become frustrated when those I seek to help along their journey of faith resist the tutelage? In similar ways, physical therapist, counselors, doctors, and pastors seek to lead people toward health and wellness across physical, emotional, and spiritual realms. We often resist the arrest of our illnesses and fight against change.
Resistance to these places of growth and health after injury or body deterioration is a common theme for many. We think that all that work is too much to handle and or the outcome won't produce the desired result. Or, the pastor and I don't agree on theology and it isn't worth my time to engage the Bible as much as the pastor wants me to do.
How often have you and I heard someone say, "I don't want to go to the doctor because I'm afraid of what I'll hear?
Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon her.
But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did. (Zephanah 3:7, NIV)
God's redemptive nature is always calling us toward places we might not want to entertain. We resist the arrest of a holy God over our life that is ill from sin. The release of our sin will hurt (we think) and or guilt from our sin lies to us and holds us fast in a prison. Exercising our faith and developing a spiritual life that is strong and vibrant produces fruits of ministry and mission. Neglecting our faith and allowing our spiritual life to weaken and atrophy will lead to deterioration and illness spiritually. God wants the best for us and implores us to seek Jesus as the Divine Healer.
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:9-11, NIV)
Pastors worth their weight in gold will challenge people to step forward and grab the Bible and dig in. They will unfold the God emmeshed in the pages of scripture and bring people to spiritual health and vitality. It is how we been trained and our professional passion to lead the flock is how we exercise our call to ministry.
Health is a diverse word and can mean different things to different people. To my therapists (many are church going and God fearing people)