I’m afraid today’s column may be a bit short. I’ve got a bum wing.
I’m left-handed, and rely on that hand/arm to do the majority of work, but I still appreciate my right arm, especially since so much of the world has create and lives out of a right-handed perspective. For the last couple of weeks, however, my right shoulder has been giving me the business. It’s ok if I move it toward the left side of my body, and if I make sure not to raise my arm above my shoulder, but – for instance – this morning as I mindlessly reached up with my right hand to get something high down, it was as if I heard a thousand little muscle fibers in my right shoulder scream all at the same time. Then I realized it was just me screaming a little bit, as I dropped my right arm in pain and let it hang loose at my side.
It reminded me of watching a mother bird, when a predator bird is swooping into the nest, how she will drop to the ground, and drag one wing behind her to make it appear that she is injured and can’t fly, in order to draw the predator away from the nest. Pretty smart. My trouble, of course, is that I nothing to chase away, and it all happened before I even got my first cup of coffee.
It’s miserable to wake up in pain, or to have it greet you moments after you get up. I took a long lasting pain killer (supposedly) to drop down whatever inflammation there was, and my beloved wife used her strong little hands to grind on the offending shoulder as I moaned in agony. She’s a nurse practitioner, so I trust what she does, but holy cow – it hurt. A lot. She then went and got an automatic neck massager that she draped around the shoulder, and started it up. It ground into the shoulder as well, as my rising hope was that it would either break something loose, or I would pass out from the pain. I kept thinking of those dolls my sisters had when we were little, and if you yanked on the arm hard enough, the little elastic band that held it in place and let you raise the arm up and down would break, and you would be left holding a doll and an arm, as you observed both tears and furious anger arising in your little sister. They lost a lot of dolls that way.
So, I am walking around with a wounded joint. There have been whispers in the house of things like “rotator cuff,” or “arthritis,” or “bone spur” – none of which are terms I want to have connected to any part of my body. I’m hoping it’s just a nice old strain, and with enough heat and massage and pills, it might dissipate through the day.
The trouble is, I’ve grown very used to using two hands to type, which also include two arms and two shoulders. Normally, they all work together like a happy society, but today, I have to say there is a bit of fighting going on. Left hand is ready to rock and roll with the typing, but Right hand gives one sentence at a time to the work, and then automatically drops into my lap, to gain both its strength and give away the rising pain.
Now – I’m not a baby. Really, I’m not, but this thing stings and aches and, well you know what it’s like when you have pain somewhere… it captures the attention of the entire body, kind of like a crying 3 month old in the middle of the night. The rest of the body won’t just say, “Oh, it’ll be alright sooner or later – let’s just forge on.”
Nope – it really is like what Paul writes about, when he talks about the Body of Christ. No one part is greater than the others, and when one part suffers – like a stinging, aching shoulder – everyone is on for the ride, and suffers along side of it. For me to get theological on this gray, foggy Sunday, I would then ask what parts of our own churches are hurting today? What parts of our community are in pain and trouble? What areas of our own lives, or those of our family members are stinging and aching, so we hear constant complaining, even though they are doing the best they can?
I’m afraid pain is part of our existence. If we are blessed, we are born into this world crying and fussing because what was at one time a wonderful warm and cozy place no longer wants us. We have so much that is joyful and wonderful in each of our lives, but it’s also true that part of our living carries with it some aching, some sadness, some hurt, and some great disappointment.
You know what I’m going to say, right? With all that part of our lives, it’s just a fact that it’s not what happens to us that matters – even a bum wing. It’s what we do with what happens to us. That may mean we start of whining and fussing and complaining about how much something hurts – whatever it is – but we don’t stay there. Our lives are about abundance, and God’s care and trust, and that should be the song on our lips, even through the crummy times when we can’t even reach to get something off the top shelf.
I hope you are feeling well today. I hope I feel better tomorrow. For now, I guess I’ll just thank God for my left arm, and ask if anything can be done about my right one…
Word for the day: gift. You know how to pronounce it, but sometimes the simplest and most used of words need to be re-claimed. It comes from the Middle English, gift, which meant a consideration, or a dowry, or just giving. The Scandinavian root was gipt, which means “good luck.” Every culture and language has a word like gift, and many sound just like it. Our purest definition is “something given voluntarily, without charge.” That means when you hear or see something that is “free with purchase of…” it’s not free, and it’s not a gift. The best word that becomes a holy word is that we receive “favor.” We enter into someone else’s generosity, and so we receive with no intent or need to “pay back.” By the way, it also means a talent given, bestowed, granted to someone, like the gift of song, or music, or some other “thing” that you realize you do very well. You have worked on the skills to make the “gift” more noticeable, but in the end… it’s a gift, and that’s something to always remember.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.