I've always wanted to be a tough guy. I don't know that I am, and I'm not going to start counting scars or sharing stories to determine for myself or you if I am. I mean, I've got scars and stories, but they prove I've survived; they don't really tell how I fared or feared in the middle of the trouble.
You just can't look at a fossil and tell if the flower smelled good or not. That's a rabbit that I want to chase, but I've got an elephant to eat, so let me move on...
I'm out of shape. Anyone who knows me knows that. That's not revelatory to anyone. Some of those scars are directly related to that fact, too.
You can't tell it now, but I wasn't always out of shape. I used to run, regular and far (but never very fast).
I'm not copping out. Much of this is still in my hands (or, more geographically correct, around my waist). I've got to work and there's work I can do. Don't get hung up in this, or you'll miss the reason for my writing today.
I've got bad knees. Really bad knees. I've got feel-like-I'm-always-grinding-corn kind of knees. The right one is shot, as the saying goes. When I was 35 the doc told me he'd be surprised if I didn't get a knee replacement before 40. I dislocated my knee for the 40-teenth a few days ago. To say it swelled is an understatement. It ballooned. I knew a visit to the orthopedic doc was necessary, so I resigned myself to it and went.
Today, he said I need a knee replacement. It's been 7 years (or maybe 8 -- maybe I was 34 ... ????).
"What's the other option, doc?"
According to him, keep on keeping on; expect bad days and worse days and bad weeks and long stretches of recovering from constant issues. Or get a knee replacement (expensive) and another in 20 years (expensive). Knee replacement or more of the same, except worse?
So, I say, "Oh, so just keep living like I've been living for years?"
Well, there's the good news! It's the exact same as it's been for years, except worse. (I can't find the emoticon for this blog, so I'll just say "smiley face" and "winky face" and "LOL".)
Or, maybe not...
I really cannot remember how many orthopedic surgeries I've had; I don't recall all the broken bones; I lost count of ER visits and braces and I don't know how many sets of crutches I've owned. I'd say it's been a ride, but that would be a lie; it's been a limp. I've never felt like quitting. I've never felt like giving in to the injuries and the surgeries and the physical rehab. One time, I came back from a totally ruptured ACL faster than Jerry Rice (you know, that kinda thing is one for the annals and whoever reads those boring things knows my name).
Today, I kind of felt like quitting...
Today, I felt punched in the stomach. Okay, not really. It was worse, and not in the "lower" sense, but in the higher sense. I felt punched in the heart.
It was an unusual feeling for me. I'm no quitter. I'm no down-in-the-mouth kinda cat. I come up swinging.
I limped to my car, started it, turned on some Jesus music, adjusted the A/C and stared blankly for a few moments. Then in machine gun fashion, my thoughts roared so fast that statements where yells and questions had no time for answers:
"I'm never going to feel like walking more than a few hundred yards again."
"I'm too young for this junk."
"I think I'll quit."
"How can I get on disability?"
"Shut up, idiot."
"Buck up. Be a man. Get your game up."
"I'm going to be fat forever."
Thank God, He loves me. Thank God, He intervened on my self conversation. Self conversations aren't always good, and my self-derision can get pretty brutal. So, yes, thank God He intervened.
I began to drive. I'm a do-the-next-needed-thing kind of guy, and the next thing was a needed trip to the grocery store, so I headed that way.
Under Spirit-led compulsion, I pulled over; I knew God was communicating something to my spirit. I didn't try to disguise it (who can trick God anyway?), so I'm sure my frustration bubbled out, or up in this case...
"What, Lord? I'm listening."
"Tim," (that's what He calls me, or sometimes, "boy"), "Remember My joy. Rejoice in Me. None of this diminishes Me. Get your head right. Look in my word. Rejoice."
I sat and read all of the letter to the Church at Philippi.
And, I began to pray...
Great Physician knows best. I set my mind on things above. I rejoiced in my Redeemer. I remembered that I can limp to heaven and run when I enter in. Then, as the Holy Spirit is so faithful in doing, I began to hear Andrae Crouch's voice in a song that is drilled into my heart and became re-convinced of how through it all I've learned to trust in Jesus and I've learned to trust in God. I began to thank God for the "storms He's brought me through." I've learned to "depend upon His word." He's good. He's true. He's right.
Pretty soon, Lynda Randle's voice invaded my space, remembering a special song I love to hear her sing. The words came to me: "Life is easy when you're up on the mountain..." The tune began to stir in me: "For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley. When things go wrong, He'll make them right. And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times. The God of the day is still God in the night." That woman can sing! I can't, but I did.
So, yes, my knee is the exact same, except worse. But, my heart is better.
That's the point of this.
God is faithful...
...and I love Him more today after "bad" news than I did before.
Did He fix my knee?
I can't say, but He knows these bones will live.
But, my heart is so much better. My head, too.
I needed this word, and not just for knees; for my whole life...
"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV)
I can strain forward in a limp. I sure can.
I walked into the grocery store singing Tom Petty.
I know, I know... it's not Christian. Still, it's my song for today: "No, I won't back down. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down. No, I'll stand my ground, won't be turned around, and I'll keep this world from dragging me down. I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down. Hey, baby, there ain't no easy way out..."
After all, if God is for me -- and more important for today, WITH ME -- what have I to fear?
Yep, after 7 or 8 years, the knee is the exact same, except worse.
But, the man, after those same years, well, I'm not the exact same, but I'm still depending on the exact same God.