I wondered when it would happen, when the pain and weakness from post-polio, exacerbated by hip arthritis, would set me up for a fall. And now I know. The other day I took a tumble.
I forgot to have my husband put my walker in the back of my mini-van. At some point this year I discovered that leaning on a cane for stability wasn’t enough, and I need a walker for literally every step. But this level of loss and disability is still new to me; sometimes I forget that my “new normal” demands things like taking a walker with me. When I got to my destination, all I had was my cane, and I thought, “It’s okay, I’ll have the cane in my right hand and I can lean on the car with my left to make my way to the back of the van to get my scooter.”
But it was a drizzly day, and when I leaned hard on the bumper my hand slipped, and I went down HARD. Fortunately, it was also a cold day and my padded coat helped cushion my shoulder and hip as I hit the ground. I instantly had a new appreciation for that old commercial, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Yep. That was me.
My cell phone was in my pocket, praise God, and I was able to call for help. It took two aides to lift me to a vertical position and then get my scooter out of the van, shaken and feeling very fragile but basically okay.
The doctor I was there to see also came out, and when she spoke I knew it was the Lord’s voice through her: “Sue, you’re trying to do too much on your own.” Yep. That was me too.
I’ve thought a lot about how things have changed for me in the past couple of years as I’ve lost so much of my mobility and ability to do even the simplest things around the house. And since there is often a strong correlation between the physical world and spiritual reality, each one teaching us something about the other, I’ve become especially aware of my dependence on my walker and my scooter.
So it deeply blessed me when a friend dealing with stage-four renal cancer was featured in a video where she quoted from J.I. Packer in Joni Eareckson Tada’s book A Lifetime of Wisdom:
“God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your ‘thorn’ uncomplainingly – that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak – is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace.”
The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. Whoa.
“Leaning hard” is the opposite of our American, self-sufficient, can-do independence. But it’s the secret to spiritual vitality and power because “leaning hard” means we access Christ’s strength instead of our own puny efforts.
“Leaning hard” is my new way of understanding “abiding.” And abiding is where stability comes from, just as I am far more stable when I’m “leaning hard” on my walker when I have to walk and on my scooter when I get to ride.
The memory of leaning hard on my slippery car bumper, only to discover it was not a reliable place to support myself so I landed hard on the ground, was also a powerful lesson in the futility of leaning hard on myself or anything other than Jesus Christ Himself. I now have a kinesthetic memory of that spiritual truth!
It stinks to fall, of course, but I sure do love the insight that came from it.
This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/leaning_hard on December 27, 2016.