What a difference a week makes. This time last week I was headed into hip replacement surgery. I was desperately ready for it after a spring and summer of growing pain and decreasing mobility. Through the hard summer God kept teaching me and showing me all the lessons in the pain. Last week I shared some of those insights of the art of waiting. I’m still incredibly grateful that the surgery happened in spite the growing Covid numbers and that the entire medical team did a great job keeping us all safe through it.
In the last blog and through the summer I grieved so many subtractions created by my worsening chronic condition. Those losses were on top of all the losses we’ve all had through these Covid years, many are still happening now.
I was sad about giving up my early morning sunrise watching soul walk with my dog. I was sad about giving up full yoga classes. I was sad about the weddings, speaking engagements and funerals I was physically unable to do. I gave up good sleep. I gave up walking unassisted. I mourned seeing my daughter-in-law-to-be in her just-found wedding dress because I could not get up the stairs to the bridal dress venue. The list goes on and on.
I’ve written much in my ministry about grief. I always say we have to name our losses. We have to name the ones that are big, normal and culturally accepted, such as the death of a loved one. And, we have to name the weird losses as well…the ones no one speaks about and the ones that don’t matter to anyone but us. Subtractions hurt. Giving up something, someone, habits we treasure are like giving up pieces of ourselves. Grieving losses in real time, as we feel them, is important.
Today, though, one week after this surgery, I want to talk about a different spiritual math concept. The beauty of addition. It is good to name what we add to our lives as well.
This list may be short because my new hip doesn’t love sitting still too long. I’m trying to honor her wishes because she’s new around here and truly the youngest part of me.
This week I’ve learned the power of adding new brief friends. I’ve met probably a hundred new friends this week. Some of them I only knew for a minute or a brief encounter, that doesn’t matter. They came in to start an IV, or take my lunch order. They cleaned my hospital room and helped me to the bathroom in the middle of the night. They helped me over the phone with my urgent needs on a holiday weekend. I tried to add my new friends’ names to my foggy brain. Each of them had a story, a part of their past that intersected with mine. I realized I was just a part of a normal work day for some. Thank you Ruby for sharing with me in the middle of the night about your son, your culture, your pain philosophy. Thank you Kristen, Army nurse trained. You helped me through the worst pain episode of my life and told me you’d seen it before in wounded soldiers. Be still my heart. Thank you, James, live person who called me back on a holiday weekend and solved three problems for me. Sorry about that tearful overly dramatic message about me rationing medication. I didn’t mean to end it with the sobbing. Thank you for later laughing with me. Thank you nutrition worker John for letting me change my order from your specialty, salmon, to a cheeseburger. Sometimes you just need a cheeseburger. When going through hard things, watch for your new friends. Learn their names. Cherish who they are to you in that minute. You both may be a gift to each other.
I added more humility. I guess I needed lots of this. Maybe we all do. Maybe we just need to get over ourselves and ask for help to the bathroom. Maybe we need to let go of the dignity we thought we were owed. Maybe we need to accept in this life we aren’t going to make it on our own with out humbling ourselves.
I gratefully added in the joy of small acts I had previously given up. I can feed my dog again. Some parts of my body frozen by surgery started working again. I can gently step away from the walker on my new hip and not feel pain. I unloaded the dishwasher. I added back sleep without pain. I gave God thanks for each addition. (I also celebrated getting to decide again whether I will add everything back in, maybe not. I get to choose again in this season).
I added more humor. When pain subsides, even for a bit, humor comes out to play. I found myself really funny on pain meds. I don’t know if anyone else did, but I decided to just enjoy my funny self. A friend sent a literal raw steak on stick as a post surgery gift. She knows, for Keto people, this is all it takes to make us happy. Google Tomahawk Steak to see this. Her card said, You gave up a bone this week, here’s one back. The humor, joy and deliciousness this gift and bone brought us will become legendary in our family. Is life hard? Add humor.
I added acceptance. I’m not good at accepting help or even gifts. When you are in a rough season, this stitch by stitch of kindnesses is how God weaves a blanket of comfort over you. Every card, every text, every meal, every flower matters. Yours matters. Don’t refrain from sending your text because you think the person is busy or hurting. They are. They will receive it when they can and it will be the stitch by stitch grace of God they need for that moment…absolutely perfectly delivered in God’s time.
I’m reading a book, Unoffendable by Brant Hansen (get this book). He points out that life and people, by default, are pretty disappointing. Jesus, though, was never offended by that. He just kept watching for good. He kept forgiving. Small acts of kindness and love give us goosebumps because we know they aren’t normal. Look at those, Hansen says. See them as the glimpses of the kingdom of heaven that they are. See those acts. Accept them. It will lead you straight to gratitude which cannot hold space with anger. You get to choose what you gaze at.
I added in detailed prayer. A friend once told me that, for a pastor, I sure was terrible at letting people pray for me. Don’t you love honest friends? She said I was too buttoned up and closed off and that I needed to be more open, vulnerable and transparent about what I needed. She was right, of course, and also unaware of how hard it is to be a public leader of any kind and let people in because they will absolutely crucify you over one of those vulnerabilities or even over an untruth or over something they have no way to know the truth about. Ask Jesus. Ask any leader you know in any setting. Just saying….
But, sometimes, especially when we are already knocked down, we need to let someone in. I entrusted a couple of people this past week with some detailed prayers. They were not pleasant or pretty prayers. They were specific. Those pray-ers did not let me down. Neither did God. A couple of the detailed prayers were answered with in minutes of me asking someone else to pray with me over something. Are you going through something hard? Add in detailed prayer requests.
What a difference a week makes. Maybe that’s actually the teaching here. Whatever you are going through, maybe you need to wait a week and see how it looks 7 days later? Things can and will change.
My new hip: she’s here. She works. We are happy to have her. She may end up liking to write. She’s whining a bit now so, I will honor her. This body needs her to be happy. She is the result of the combination of God’s mysterious creation of a body that can heal and the wonder, pure genius of science and medical technology. I’m grateful to have added her too.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mosa to Keller, Pace and River and owner to an exciting new body part. To read more blogs or sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle extra monthly email go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com.