Just a couple weeks ago, my arm cast was removed after the broken bones in my wrist healed. Back in November, while rebounding for my son, I stumbled and crashed to the ground. My seventeen-year-old, who likely was embarrassed by his mother plopping to the floor, chastised me: “Mom, just sit down; I don’t need your help!”
Faith and Family
This comment had little to do with the chance I could get injured. More likely, he was horrified by the fact that others may witness again the scene of his middle aged mother dropping onto the basketball court. The whole thing was rather dumb, so being a stubborn soul, I followed dumb with being dumber. I quickly got up and insisted that I chase balls for him again. In a matter of minutes, as my son anticipated, I fell a second time. I think it was flop two that ultimately did in my wrist bones, but who could be sure?
I can often, reflectively, see how God is alive in all areas of creation and certainly in my life. Even in a situation like breaking my wrist bones, I could see how God graciously provided an invitation to improve my relationship with him. I consider this recent incident when my arm was immobilized to be preparation for the upcoming Easter.
To live out this time of year thoroughly, I think approaching Lent with a heart of gratitude is essential. Before my little gym escapade, I honestly believed that I had a grasp of how fortunate I am and how others suffer. I thought I was appreciative of what I had and what I could do. Well, I was mostly wrong.
With these little bitty broken bones causing some minor inconvenience, I was quickly drawn to notice others who can’t change their circumstances. I found myself more deeply moved that their burdens remain with them the rest of their lives while mine was just temporary.
With my messed-up wrist, everyday tasks like zipping my coat, putting earrings in my ear, slipping a note in an envelope, and washing dishes became a huge hassle. It now brings a more profound pause when seeing others who constantly lived “hurdle” lives. My challenges became bummers and theirs significant, appreciated, and honored.
I understand a mature, empathetic person likely already has this sort of realization, but I needed to feel it and not just know it. God gifted this situation to stir my heart. Lent should stir our hearts, and God’s generosity has given me a broader, more outward perspective to take on this Lenten season.
Up until this time, one of my few claims to fame was that I had never broken a bone. I don’t know why I thought it mattered, but it did to me. One thing I quickly learned is that broken bones hurt. Well, everyone knows injuries like these are painful. However, until you feel that kind of pain you may not completely understand. I didn’t.
Once I met with the orthopedic hand doctor, and she determined the degree of breakage, the offer of pain meds quickly followed. Because of some misguided fear, I refused the prescription. Although I am somewhat convinced I would not get addicted to this sort of medication, I decided that due to the significant prescription crisis, I would abstain. I am well aware that my decision was not rational and probably lacked good science, but I made the decision, nonetheless.
The discomfort was more challenging than anticipated, affecting things like sleep and everyday tasks for a few days. I did, however, realize on about the second day that I could use this suffering as a way to offer the pain up for the sake of others. This decision immediately changed my perspective, and the situation became transformational. I sensed there was a use for the pain, creating in me a broader purpose and an opportunity to deepen spiritually. I was granted this realization through this recent event, allowing me to grow in ways I hadn’t before.
In a certain sense, fasting could now have the same sort of goal during Lent. When determining what I chose to do this year, I sought out opportunities that would frequently gnaw at me, create a generous amount of discomfort so that I would be reminded to offer the sacrifice up for others but more importantly for Christ this holy season. In the past, I gave things up because it would directly make me better. Hopefully, this Lent my sacrifices will lead me away from myself and focus outwardly. I firmly believe God planted that idea in me as early as the moment I thumped to that gym floor.
I continue to see how God remained with me even when my cast was removed. I foolishly assumed that at the last stage, when you no longer have to wear the splint anymore, the wrist is healed. Well, the bones are better, but full use of your wrist is not possible. It will take time, daily exercise, and some dedication to get my wrist to where it was before. I think, in a way, God uses this same message about Lent. I have always let Lent be just 40 days for me, but I now see that to indeed gain what I seek during Lent, I must use this time as only a starting period. The “cast” of Lent may be removed before Easter day, but to be transformed into the goodness we were created for and continue the spiritual path I seek, those changes must go past the Easter season.
Some might say I should have listened to my son that morning when he told me to sit down. I, however, see everything about this time as God using my lack of judgment as an opportunity to show he continually works in my life. His invitations are ever-present and always inviting, as long as I am willing to respond.
With that said, you can expect to see me again in the neighborhood gym rebounding basketballs for my children. Going forward I am not sure of exactly what lesson God has in store for me, but I remain hopeful that I answer when he is inviting me to learn.
Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.