Almost two weeks ago I began a process of physiotherapy to reestablish function in my left shoulder. This became necessary as a result of a cycling accident a few weeks ago which resulted in a dislocated shoulder, a badly sprained hand and wrist, and some nasty lacerations and bruises. The lacerations and bruises are now mostly healed and the wrist and hand are coming along (although it is slower than I would like : I still can’t play my guitar, for example). The shoulder has been the slowest to respond. Physiotherapy has been making a difference, and I see progress, but it is taking longer than I would like.
My goal is simply to get the arm and shoulder back to a state in which they can do all the things they used to do. Sounds simple enough, but having been immobilized for over a week following the initial injury, the joint has stiffened and now resists doing the things it was designed to do. Some of the stretching and pulling movements that are part of the therapy feel uncomfortable, and it’s easier not to do them. If I didn’t have a memory of what my shoulder could do before the accident, and a strong desire to regain these abilities, I would probably conclude that I was never supposed to be able to do these things, and give up trying.
Last week while praying and worshipping with some friends it suddenly dawned on me that this process of rehabilitating my shoulder offers some valuable insights into the sometimes painful process of spiritual growth and character development. When we surrender control of our lives to Jesus Christ, we don’t always realize that this is just the beginning of a lifelong process, the purpose of which is to form us in His image – to prepare us to be a suitable bride for Him, one who loves what He loves and does what He does.
Sometimes this process involves stretching us into a new shape – a shape we were intended for, but which we have never experienced because we have never fully known life as it was meant to be lived. True, we have been granted glimpses, occasional foretastes, of this new reality, but we have no consistent memory of being as free and full of life as Jesus Christ, even though it is how we were designed to be. So when he tells us “you can handle this challenge”, in our flesh (fallen nature) we say “no I can’t, that hurts, it can’t be God’s will”. Take the disciples in the boat during the storm. To them, it was terrifying; to Jesus it was no big deal, it was all part of the process of learning to trust and persevere. So we need to get our vision of what we are capable of from what God’s word says about us, not from what we have experienced so far. I have a memory of having a fully functioning shoulder in the context of life on earth, but I don’t have any memory of what it means to be alive according to the full measure of Jesus Christ. That’s what I’m destined for, but I’ll need to keep my eyes on the prize, and be willing to expend some effort and withstand some stretching and pulling to get there. Even though my restoration is by the grace of God, I only get there if I believe that it’s possible, and act on that belief.
Another lesson I am learning from physiotherapy, along with perseverance through pain and discomfort, is the lesson of humility. I am getting help from all kinds of people, and I am having to depend on others for things that I used to be able to do for myself. I can resent this or I can use it as an opportunity to cultivate gratitude … hmmm, which would be the better choice ? You decide 🙂
Abba Father, thank you for stretching me and calling me to do things that I don’t think I can do. Thank you for the lessons of perseverance and humility and gratitude. And thank you also for the complete healing and restoration which I believe Jesus made available to me by the blood of the cross and which I confidently expect to receive in full in your perfect timing.