Can I Get a Little Cheese with that Whine?

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

In the last week I faced a tough question. Is it possible to face another surgery? The immediate public answer is, ‘of course!’ While Gunner (my Black Lab, Shepherd, Chow mix) and I were actively involved visiting patients at the local hospitals, I met a great many heroes. Lots of them are young children and have faced many more surgeries than me and are facing many more. They have an internal fortitude, often a faith, but each I met had a tenacity that was far and above my own. I tried to count the number I have had. It is somewhere around twenty. After breaking my leg (the left fibula just above the ankle) in October, wearing a cast for weeks, undergoing PT then learning that my bone was still as broken as it was on day one; I was scheduled for surgical repair this past February. Two weeks with a special cast then a regular cast and then a boot and finally… this past Wednesday, April 30th set free! The doc said all looked good and I was free to ambulate!

Freedom lasted about five hours until I tripped in my bathroom and twisted the same foot! It is possible I have torn one of the extensor tendons which run the length of the top of the foot. I will know this coming Thursday if it is torn and if it is, it will require surgery. Of course, as summer approaches, my Harley sits longingly in the garage and my bass boat cries out from storage for release. Those things are going to be put on hold yet again! I have been feeling like each recovery has taken some of the fire from my soul. I was all set to talk myself into a truly blue mood.

Then, news came from a dear friend, younger than me, who has been battling cancer and was hopeful that it was annihilated. The cancer remains, however, in a small tumor. It is not devastating news, but it is not the news we wanted. To be very honest, such news makes my entire first two paragraphs seems totally ego-centric and whiny!

Are they? Do we need to measure our hurts, anxieties, and stresses by considering what others bear? Each of us have been there, just not feeling well, being down in our spirit, aching for something we cannot describe and we long to lay it out before our Heavenly Father. Then we hear of a horrific battle being fought by another and we push all our stuff back into the box where we keep those hurts we don’t share with others. We paint a fake smile on our face and keep on going. Is that what God wants us to do or is it what He expects from us?

I think perhaps we have a true, two-sided coin. When we are facing a challenge, it can be an encouragement to us to see how others have battled and won. We can also put our own in a better perspective and it helps us be grateful for our blessings. Both of those are positive and can help us meet our own challenge with a renewed vigor, a fresh outlook and a deeper faith.

Pushing your own feelings back in the box and painting on a face, with an everything is Okay kind of look is what I call the ‘Sunday morning smile.’ We have all seen it and we have all done it. If you are a churchgoing, worship-gathering kind of person, it happens in those quick passes in the hallway with the ‘good morning’ greetings and ‘how ya’ doing’ questions. It is easier to just smile and say, ‘I’m better than a mosquito in a blood bank’ than to look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m having a tough week and could use some prayer.’

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him (God) for he cares for you.” Notice the words… anxiety, your worries and struggles and the adjective ‘all’. Peter does not say, ‘Cast all the care you have that is important enough for God to consider’ or ‘all your care that is greater than everyone else’s care’, he writes all.[i]

Matthew writes, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”[ii]

It appears to be about balance. We need to be encouraged by other’s victories and we need to be mindful we have much for which to be grateful. Gloomy-Gus Christians who can only moan about the burden of life without seeing any positives, feeling any grace or recognizing blessings need to spend some time in introspective prayer and Bible reading. Unbelievers who look toward Christ to bring them from the brink of despair and meet only the Christian so wrapped in their own misery will not find hope in such hopelessness.

Worse, though, are those who feel an obligation to not let anyone know they are struggling. Whether it is pride or their false persona of SUPER CHRISTIAN that keeps them silent, they are in for a rude awakening. For them, a Christian faces every storm and never has a moment of struggle or grief. Anyone who believes a real Christian must not worry and bottles up everything inside, is on a collision course with reality, is going to get hit hard and there is always collateral damage.

I knew such a man. (Spoiler Alert – if you are of delicate sensibilities, you may want to skip this paragraph) He kept up the persona of a great husband and father, community leader, business elite, everything neatly packed in his calf-skin briefcase and his never off-the-rack suits. One day I stood next to him, still in his expensive suit now soaked through with blood. His calf-skin briefcase had fallen open, the contents carried by the wind through the woods where he had walked before sitting at the base of a tree and eating the business end of his shotgun. Not a very pretty picture, is it? No one seemed to have any clue there was a problem brewing beneath his well-protected façade. I have no doubt his family would have gladly accepted a father who told them he was struggling and work with him to find help. It would not have made him less of a great dad. Certainly, the option he chose did not do anything to help his family.       

So, what about this feeling I have that it is getting harder to bounce back from each additional surgery and recovery period? Do I face the possibility of another up-coming surgery with dread and a morose attitude? Do I bottle it up and put on my Sunday morning smile because others truly are much worse off than me? Do I step from the nearest phonebooth[iii] in my tight leotards with my flowing cape and the large C on my chest as SUPER CHRISTIAN who can withstand this, declaring, “HAVE NO FEAR SUPER C IS HERE”?

Perhaps, the best tack may be not worrying about tomorrow because, as Matthew writes, “…tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[iv] There is a good possibility this will be just a bad sprain and I will not even need surgery. If it is a tear, as my mom would have said, be glad the Bible says: ‘It came to pass’ not, it came to stay!

I have an amazing support team! All will be fine. If torn, it is a simple tear and not a life-threatening malady with beau coup complications.

Finally, with every surgery and resulting recovery, God has taught me something about myself and about others. In this too, there shall be a lesson. Will it stink to not be riding my Harley for a while or to have some restrictions on my fishing? Absolutely. I think I can survive.

I should also use this time to be reminded of those facing life-altering medical issues and seek to pray for them, encourage them and be ready to assist should the opportunity present itself.

It is also a great time to count my many blessings and thank my support team for all their awesome love and attention to caring for me even when I am at my most unlovable.


[i] 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

[ii] Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

[iii] Phonebooth a small structure furnished with a payphone and designed for a telephone user’s convenience. (Provided for Millennials and younger!)  

[iv] Matthew 6:34 NIV

Reflections

No matter what else I am designed to do as I shoot across the horizon of my lifetime, the most important job I could ever have is to reflect the Light of the Son.

It was another one of those nights. Winter had been a little longer than necessary, even though it was still only February, a month that should be cold; it was as if this February had gone on for about six weeks too many. I could not remember the last time I had enjoyed a full night of sleep, but then again, after spending most of my law enforcement career working the midnight shift, I still feel pretty comfortable among the wee hours of the morning. There is something about the stillness of those hours that can cause one to truly appreciate some of the finer things in life. Often, on long nights like these, if I am not sequestered in my study working on a writing project or reading something I have been wanting to catch the gist of, I would sit in my overstuffed leather chair that reclines and swivels and is made for a king. We have a matching set, one for the king and one for his queen. Sitting in the king chair in the middle of the night, one of the few sounds I can hear is my queen in the master bedroom gently sawing the kindling for tomorrow’s fire! It is then when melancholy can set in if you let it; but this night it was a feeling of great appreciation for the queen whose throne is next to mine. I hope that we can be like friends of ours and quietly pass the 90 year mark together; if our health holds out to be not too much more debilitated from where we are today!

From my throne, I can look out the French doors which are sided on each end by matching panels, all of glass to allow for the greatest amount of view possible. On this night I could look out across the snow-covered deck and have a great view of the night sky. That is when I saw it… one single very bright light, similar to a star but much brighter. It was moving rapidly across the horizon. Obviously a satellite in high orbit moving NE to SW and quite quickly. I sat there and thought about the night-time sky. It was still enough into the middle of the night that there wasn’t any glimpse of  dawn starting to break. The sun was still far beyond the horizon. I considered the satellite, its bright light shining through the night sky. My grandmother would say that I ‘sat and studied on it for awhile.’ Then I remembered something I had learned, I have no idea when. Satellites do not have lights on them to emit light down to the earth. It is not like someone on the space station left the porch light on. Satellites are covered in a very highly polished metal, as if covered in the shiniest aluminum foil ever. That bright light that I was watching was just like the stars that I see or the light of the moon at night, it was not its own. They have no light source of their own making but simply  reflect the sun; a sun that was a very long way away and on the other side of the globe from my perspective. The satellite was obviously high enough in the heavens to have a direct line of sight back to the sun – incredible. I sat there watching that satellite flash across the sky doing whatever else it was designed to do but at that moment, for me, it was principally reflecting the bright light of the sun.

As the satellite was almost out of my view, the analogy hit me dead on. No matter what else I am designed to do as I shoot across the horizon of my lifetime, the most important job I could ever have is to reflect the Light of the Son. In order for the satellite to reflect like it did several things had to be right. First, it had to be in its proper place. If it were out of its orbit, too low  in its orbit so that it was below the horizon, the earth would have blocked the sun. It had to be where its maker had designed for it to be. The same is true for me and my position. I have to be right where my designer set for me to be in order to be lined up and reflecting His Son’s Light. Second, the satellite had to be covered in that bright aluminum or whatever metal that an earth orbiting hunk of electronics is supposed to be made. I cannot be covered in the filthy rags of my sinful nature and reflect Christ. Paul talked about putting off the old and putting on the new nature and it is the new nature that will allow us to reflect Christ’s love and His nature to those around us. Not for our glory but for His. We need to be where we should be and appropriately clothed in His righteousness in order to reflect Christ’s light in a dark world. I realized that night that as starry as the sky had been earlier, when I noticed the satellite, many of the stars had already made their way across the sky and around the satellite the sky was very dark, which made its reflecting light appear even brighter. As dark as this old world is, Christ’s light can shine  brightly reflected by our actions, our words, our thoughts, the kindness we show others, and the heart we have for the lost or the hurting.

Reflections
Reflections

God has designed us for His special purposes. He has placed us where He would have us to be. Just as the satellite had no power source of its own to put out a bright light, neither do we have such a power. Our role is a reflective one. Christ supplies the bright light of His love and holiness. My prayer is that there will be nothing in my life that would prevent that light from shining its brightest and that I would always stay in God’s will so that I am right where I am supposed to be to catch as much of Christ’s light and do what the old campfire song said, ‘pass it on.’