Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trust the Physician

A few years back I tore my achilles tendon playing church softball. I've heard it said that church athletics are the most dangerous activity known to man:  washed-up athletes trying to relive their glory, and often times imagined glory at that. It sometimes doesn’t end well and it didn't for me that warm summer Friday night as I chased down a ball from my position at second base.  I heard the snap, fell to my face, and limped my way through the rest of the game.  That's right, I finished the game.  It's one of the proudest moments of my life.  I guess I was in denial because it took me several weeks to eventually go to the doctor when the MRI determined I indeed had a tear.  Surgery was scheduled.

The surgery went well but that was just the beginning of the healing process. The initial cast would have to be replaced every couple of weeks and my ankle repositioned to stretch out the repaired tendon.  I'll never forget that first follow-up appointment.

The first cast was removed (what a relief for my leg to breathe again) and I was told by my doctor to lay face down on the treatment table and raise my injured leg to a 90 degree angle.  He then started to stretch out the repaired tendon.  As he put pressure on the bottom of my foot I remember that the pain was almost as intense as the injury itself, and I actually feared that he was going to tear the tendon all over again.  I told him that and his reply was less than encouraging.  "If I tear it I'll repair it again for free," he said.  Not the words I was hoping to hear.  I really wanted him to stop hurting me, but he didn't.

Part of me wanted to jump off the table escaping this torture and limp my way through the rest of my life. But I stayed.  I allowed the pain.  I risked being reinjured.  Why?  I trusted my doctor. If anyone else were to throw me to the ground and do to my leg what my doctor was doing I would do all I could to escape.  But I believed my doctor knew what he was doing, so I endured the pain. I believed that this pain would lead to healing and wholeness.

Discipleship requires us to make some tough decisions.   There are times when we hear God calling us to self-denial, and pain, and cross-bearing.  Jesus himself wrestled with tough decisions, just like we do.  In the Garden Of Gethsemane he anguished over the upcoming pain of the cross and, as painful as that decision was, he decided to pursue the will of God over his own will.  He, like you and me, was tempted to jump off the table of discipleship but he stayed.  He stayed because he trusted.  He endured the pain knowing that it would lead to healing and wholeness, not just for himself but for all of us.

My tendon is healed now.  I walk with no limp.  I can run and jump.  I am whole again because I trusted my doctor. I allowed him to inflict pain on me believing this pain would lead to wholeness. 

The path to healing often goes through the valley of pain.  Wholeness and maturity come at the expense of sacrifice and self-denial, and too many times we bypass that expense and go on the rest of our lives limping. If we fail to trust the Physician we will not experience healing. But when we do - when we trust him through the pain - we will be well.  Our feeble legs will be strengthened and we will once again run and jump.