My walking has slowed of late. I was on a pace that would take me to St. Louis (see The Power of Monotony), but the last few day I've been like the cowboy pulling back on his reins -- "Whoa boy! Not so fast."
What has put the halt to my hikes? It is my hips! No joke. Not a blister on my heel or a bum knee or a turned ankle -- my hips! What's up with that?! My mom was ninety-six when her hip went bad, but it took a fall to sideline her. I might as well have been standing still because for the life of me I can't figure out the cause.
I'm way too young for this, but these hips don't lie. While both joints are making some funky noises it is the right hip that is the real culprit. Last night I said to Shannan, "Babe, listen to this." She grimaced when she heard the sound. It is somewhere between a cricket and a castanet.
This is serious. These days I'm dropping into my GTO with all the care and finesse of a guy who who just got out of traction. When I move the wrong way, I feel the pain. Still, I am taking pleasure from the fact that it is my right hip that is the problem. Pressing the gas pedal exerts a lot less pressure on my right hip than what I am asking of my left since it contributes to mashing down the clutch pedal. My car has six gears -- that is a lot of mashing.
So what is the point of all this? Yesterday in my Sunday sermon I was addressing the issue of fear, specifically, how our fears grow smaller when God looms larger in our lives. We traveled to Psalm 118 where the Psalmist opened and closed his song with these words:
God's steadfast love is his loving kindness, his fierce loyalty to his covenant. Honestly, it is hard to think of God as fiercely loyal when things are "not going my way" . . .
- When there is a hiccup with a hip.
- When my prayers seemingly go unanswered.
- When I know God is present, but don't feel His presence.
- When people I love face tough times.
My challenges fly in the face of my preaching. I was, after all, the guy who pointed out to our church how BIG God is:
- God’s love is big — "His steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 118:1-4, 29)
- God’s presence is big — "The LORD is on my side" (Psalm 118:5-7)
- God’s power is big — "In the name of the LORD I cut them off" (Psalm 118:10-13)
- God’s rescue is big — "Save us, we pray, O LORD" (Psalm 118:14-27)
I am still learning that while my circumstances change, they do not change the character and nature of God. He is the same. My challenge is remembering that. My challenge is to let my gaze rest on God and not my problems. No matter how big they appear to me, he IS bigger.
To gaze at God is not to ignore my problems. God never tells me to do that. Gazing at God is readjusting my focus to settle and stay settled on the One who is bigger than the fear or challenge that seems so menacing.
To that end I encouraged our church to remember God, to run to him, to rest in him, and then to re-engage our world. And that is what I am attempting to do this morning.
Some time ago, Paul Brand and Philip Yancey wrote a book entitled, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. More recently it has been republished under the title, The Gift of Pain. If neither title makes it first up on your reading list, I understand. They write,
Pain is not the enemy, but the loyal scout announcing the enemy....Pain truly is the gift nobody wants....On my travels I have observed an ironic law of reversal at work: as a society gains the ability to limit suffering, it loses the ability to cope with what suffering remains....The average Indian villager knows suffering well, expects it, and accepts it as an unavoidable challenge of life. In a remarkable way the people of India have learned to control pain at the level of the mind and spirit, and have developed endurance that we in the West find hard to understand. Westerners, in contrast, tend to view suffering as an injustice or failure, an infringement on their guaranteed right to happiness. Pages 187-188
In some respects my ailing hip has infringed on my happiness. It has slowed me down. It has been inconvenient. It is to date a mystery. But ailing hips need not bruise my faith. In fact, they are a part of the work of God. To borrow from C.S. Lewis, they are his megaphone to rouse me, to awaken my senses and readjust my focus:
- To see the beauty and complexity of my body.
- To remember that life is not about my comfort.
- To re-discover the grace of the people of God as they encourage and help.
- To find his peace apart from my circumstances.
- To remember that he has come through in the past and will come through again.
No, these hips don't lie, but neither does God. His loving kindness does endure forever. Because of that I can sing with the Psalmist:
Thanks to Kristin's Reviews in Goodreads for pointing out Brand/Yancey's words that I shared. You can see her full review by clicking here.