A sacred pause can refresh and restore us when we’re weary. But what about when we’re forced to take an unexpected pause not of our own choosing? Can God use even that? My friend, Tina, shares her story below as a guest post this week.
Over New Year’s, I decided to host a small party and introduce my new friend, John, to a few of my long-time friends with whom I have a sacred history of over twenty years. By then, I’d been home from Chile for about six months but still felt skittish and overwhelmed by large crowds. People wanted to know what had gone wrong in my life, what had happened to devastate my marriage, and I wasn’t prepared to answer. I’m still not completely prepared to answer. Sometimes we need time to find ways to explain and bring forth honest answers concerning the terrible losses in our lives, especially answers that honour everyone involved.
However, I did feel ready to see a few friends and host a small gathering. My friend, Katie, was home from Africa, and my friend, Andrea, was home from Oregon. My kids were with their dad, so it felt like an appropriate time to bring my world together, and let the night unfold. It ended up being a fun evening of laughter, food, wine, prayer, and worship.
After everyone left, I walked down the stairs, didn’t see the last step in the semi-dark room, and stumbled over my left foot. Excruciating pain stunned me speechless. Tears welled. I couldn’t breathe, move, or see straight. Eventually, I hobbled over to a chair, and waited a few minutes for the pain to subside. Because it was so late at night, I assumed my foot hurt more because I was tired. I did my best to minimize the damage. I took ibuprofen, put ice on it, and went to bed.
I hobbled around on a black and blue foot for a week, trying to convince myself nothing was wrong that a little time wouldn’t fix. Until the bruising had spread far enough across and under my foot that I knew I couldn’t push through it on my own.
I went into the doctor’s office, they x-rayed me and told me I needed to see a specialist. My foot was broken, and twisted. This was going to take some time to heal. No weight on my foot for at least six weeks.
There was no way I could put my life on pause. I had no time or space for a time out. Not even in order to heal.
I’m a single mom and was right in the trenches of going through a divorce. My life was scheduled to the brink with carpooling my kids around, getting to important meetings, making them dinner, doing laundry, and trying to be a contributing addition in the communal house where I live. I was already exhausted and had to add crutches to the long list of difficulties.
The worse part was the doctor wanted to do surgery to set the bone. The thought of surgery was more than I could bear. I asked her if there was any way we could avoid it. She thought about it for a few moments, shrugged, and then said it was completely up to me. I could have the surgery and she’d set the bone, or I could avoid the surgery and try to let it heal on its own, which would mean it was even more important to take the time to rest and no weight-bearing on my foot at all.
Honestly, after quite a bit of thought, I decided surgery was more than I could handle. My children’s dad was out of the country and if anything happened to me, there’d be no parent to help them. So I set out to rest and let my foot heal without the intervention of a surgery.
Over the next six weeks, I hobbled, I wheeled around on a knee scooter, and I sat, elevating and icing my dear little foot. I also became quite adept at crawling up and scooting down the stairs without the crutches.
I learned once again how to let other people step in and help me. My children helped carry my crutches upstairs, my friend John helped me grocery shop and went to my doctor appointments with me, my colleagues opened doors and fetched my students. I settled into my discomfort, and let it settle into me. I realized again that it’s not always a choice to rest, sometimes it’s a necessity and while it made me uncomfortable, it also made it possible for my foot to heal.
Last Tuesday I went in for my final doctor appointment. She laughed at my x-ray. “Well, it’s healed. But it healed a little crooked.”
“Crooked? Is it always going to be crooked?” I asked.
“Yes. Sometimes things go that way,” she said. “Our bodies heal, but the injury changes their shape. They never go back the same way.”
That’s also true for us, isn’t it? We break, we bruise, we go through experiences, through difficulty and trials that demand we stop, that force us to pause, take stock of what is and what we now need, and ask us to accept the loving care of those around us.
And we heal but we don’t always heal the same way. Our heartbreaks shatter our lives and even though the heart heals, it heals differently. It changes us.
My foot still hurts sometimes. Especially if it rains or I walk too long on it. It’s still a little swollen and the doctor says the bone will always look a little funky. “It’s your special bone now,” she said, with a wink.
It’s just like that with our lives, too. Just like how my bone is now unique and different than it once was, the breaks and fractures in our lives also have the power and the capacity to become the very birthplace of our authenticity, of our particular originality. They become the places where we find some of the deepest meaning. But not if we’re unwilling to pause and stop, to let our hearts heal, to let the devastation of particular seasons of our lives take their toll and reshape us into more compassionate and insightful human beings.
God, in his wisdom, let’s nothing go to waste. God uses it all. And God’s ways are mysterious. There is nothing that has happened in our story that can’t be redeemed and used, but I wonder what would have happened if I had refused to go to the doctor and have it x-rayed? I might have hobbled around indefinitely. Now, I walk fine. I run. I can even jump, but my bone is uniquely different from before.
May it be like that for us, for our hearts, for our souls and lives. May we trust that when we take time to let God heal us, when we pause and let God’s sacred grace do its work, he will restore, and redeem those areas we tried to hobble around on and ignore. May they become the bedrock of our unique story of encountering a good God, and may we learn anew that his grace is always sufficient and always more than enough.
Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015. You can read more about Tina and her writing at www.tinaosterhouse.com. You’ll also find her frequently hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.
For Reflection and Writing: Have you ever been forced to take a pause not of your own choosing? How did God use that time in your life?
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