Posted by: Andrew | May 19, 2011

Immobility, Pain and Faith 4

I was invited back to give another thought on Gospel Lounge on BBC Radio WM last week and based it around my recent immobility. The text is below for you.

I’m usually a very active person, I love running around being busy. I’m not really very sporty but I do like being on the go. During the Easter holiday last year our family went to North Wales and the highlight was walking to the top of Mount Snowdon. When I’m at home I’m not very restful I’m always seeing little jobs that need doing, or popping to the shops for something. In my work I often speak to groups of people and I’ve got a bit of a reputation for waving my arms round when I talk and being very visual and active in my presentations.

So it came as quite a shock and when, about 5 weeks ago I got sever sciatica (which is a pain that starts in your back and shoots all down you leg) and could hardly walk. I spent about 4 weeks walking no more than about 100 meters at a time. Sometimes I couldn’t get to the front door without stopping on the way. Now don’t worry I’m not going to spend the next 3 minutes going oooh me back and looking for sympathy. I also realise that compared with many people what I have suffered is nothing compared to the years or life time of disability.

But for an active person like me, or perhaps you, it’s been a frustrating experience being immobile and therefore reliant on other people. My wife and I have had to renegotiate the way we operate round the house. Usually I do most of the child care and we share all the other chores. Now I have to sit and watch whist she works hard, and I hate it. I want to leap up and say’ I’ll do that you have a rest’. But I can’t. I want to be the one who gives who provides. But instead I sit by and have to let others do that for me. I have great friends who have been round and all of them have helped out whilst they been there. I know they want to help but I find it really hard to say, ‘Any chance you could just fix that whilst you’re here?’ But I know if I don’t it isn’t going to get done.

Over these weeks I’ve learnt something new about what Jesus meant when he said it is better to give than receive. This verse tends to get used to encourage reluctant children to give some of their precious pocket money a good cause. But it’s challenged me about my attitude to others. It is better to give than receive, I love giving help to others. But when we receive we offer other people the chance to give and allow them to receive the blessing that flows from that. Being willing to receive it seems to me is a gift in itself, especially when it’s very hard to give back. The ability to go on receiving graciously I’ve come to realise is difficult but is as much a response to Jesus’ command as giving graciously.

I’ve also come to see how immobility needn’t restrict our ability to do good or to live the lives God wants us to. Many characters in the Bible lived in situations where they were restricted either physically or because of the social expectations of the day.St. Paulwas in chains when he dictated his important letter to Philippians, Onesimus was a slave yet did great things for God. In Biblical times women had very few liberties yet Lydia, we read, was able to lead a church. Of course the most extreme example of someone being restricted and immobile was Jesus on the cross. Physically restrained in a brutal way, tormented by those around him, yet the Bible says that even as he hung on the cross he carried on ministering to people. He spoke words of comfort and reassurance to the thief being crucified next to him, he asked God to forgive those executing him and he even arranged for the care of his mother. Physical restriction didn’t seem to slow him down at all. Yet all those things pale into insignificance compared with what the Bible says he achieved by dying on the cross – forgiveness for the sins of all people. When Jesus was most restricted and immobile was they very moment when he was most powerful and fulfilling his ministry.

So immobility needn’t be the place of defeat, but it can be an opportunity for us to live the lives God wants us to. Graciously receiving from others and looking for opportunities to serve, perhaps just through a word as Jesus himself did. Taking time to stop and think has led me to see that God is the God of stillness as well as the God of busyness.

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