November 21, 2012
What Happens in a Crash
I pride myself on always being able to see the silver lining. I am the first to point out a hidden benefit to what appears to be a burden. I remain quite calm in crisis. I can and have cleaned diaper droppings, vomit, and snotty noses of my own daughters, children sitting near me in church, random kids on the bus, and--back in my pre-missionary, physical therapy days--the occasional bodily fluid from an elderly person in whatever nursing home I was working in that day. I don't scare easily and don't tend toward panic. Well, I didn't, anyway.
I have had the skin ripped off my sometimes prideful self-assessment, to reveal that I'm not as stable as I think I am. I crash and burn without warning at times. I could blame it on mid-life (in ten years, I'll be there...), on the stresses of being a missionary, on parenting teen daughters, on the crazy things that have happened to us in the past couple of years, but my guess is that it wouldn't come out if it wasn't in there in the first place.
I tried to keep my attitude in check. I even felt good about how well I was holding my head up.
When I felt frustration for how much hassle it was to do simple things like getting in and out of the shower, I thanked God that it was my leg that was damaged and not my arm, so that I could at least still handle my personal care.
When I got tired of crying every time some jogger or cyclist passed me, I started kayaking and found I was really enjoying the quiet time on the water.
When I began freaking out about the mounting medical bills, I thanked God that they were less than what they'd be in the States, and that the guy who hit me said he'd help out.
When I felt insane for having to sit with my leg propped up all the time, I armed myself with the Bible, devotionals, books, a journal, and some study courses. And I got purposeful about quiet time in the hammock, just sitting with the Lord.
When I recognized the post-traumatic stress symptoms of nightmares and big-time fear of being in a vehicle, I dug in deep and hit that stuff head-on, riding in the front seat with Ken driving throughout the streets of Asuncion. (You'll only understand that if you've lived it.) And I thanked God I wasn't forced to depend on a motorcycle as my only way of transportation, like so many here are.
When those perky praise songs that incite me to jump caused me instead to burst into tears at my lack of jump-ability, I thanked God I could at least clap my hands, and I decided to come up with a new worship plan. I dug out the flute I'd abandoned 25 years ago and started running through the scales, then found a bench by the river that the neighbors now refer to as my bench, where I could make music.
I felt pretty good in my ability to bounce back. To make lemonade out of lemons. To clean that snotty nose and keep going.
Then things got worse, and my true colors came out.
Now my left arm is in a cast. The free hand that wasn't busy using the cane, is pretty useless. I'm fumbling with the shampoo bottle in the shower and can't reach all the parts of my body. I've relegated dish and cooking duty back to Ken and the girls. I'm staring at my flute in its case and my kayak in its bag, wondering when I'll be able to use them again. I'm patting my hand against my leg to sorta feel like I'm clapping in song service. I'm constantly fielding calls about the lawsuit from the guy who hit me, who decided rather than help with my medical costs, he'd sue me for the damages to his truck and his mental well-being. And I just don't feel much like making lemonade.
So do I still believe the stuff I read?
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2)
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance (Romans 5:3)I believe I should rejoice in this, but I find I can't yet. No matter how many people say, "Put your big girl panties on," or "Cowboy up," or "Well, it could be worse!" or whatever phrase you use in your part of the planet, I can't do it.