The Gift of Suffering – A Christmas Story

I should have known I was in trouble right away.  It didn’t hurt, and it was supposed to.  I had stepped on something while walking the dogs, and it wasn’t the dogs.  I thought it might be a rock or just the edge of the curve, until I started wondering if I had also stepped in a puddle.  The male macho gene in me decided to finish walking the dogs because that is what pseudo macho old guys do to prove to themselves that they are still tough.  When I reached home, I realized that the water in my shoe was actually blood, and I had stepped upon a glass bottle that had shattered and punctured my shoe and foot. Thus began this 4 month (and counting) pursuit of healing. My office visits to Wound Care initially began with the doctor asking me, “Shall we look at your foot and see if it’s healed yet?” Now they ask me, “Shall we look at your foot? Let’s hope it’s not any worse today.”

The last time I was in the doctor’s office, he took his scalpel and began to prod my foot. I don’t know about you, but I found that sticking a knife into the bottom of my foot is a singularly annoying activity. As I was clenching the sides of the chair, trying not to say anything that is included in the “Head of Christian School Forbidden Vocabulary Words List”, the doctor noticed that I was in some “discomfort.”  “Does this hurt?” he asked, as he prodded the sensitive area with his scalpel. “Yes it does…very much.”

The doctor looked quizzically at his nurse and finally asked “Did you put the anesthetic on?”  “No,” replied the nurse. “I didn’t see it on your orders.” “ Well, you need to do everything I need done, even if it’s not on the orders.” As I pondered the consequences of that last statement, the doctor asked me if I was still in pain. “Yes,” I replied, presuming that the nurse would now put on the anesthetic.

“I know, pain sure does hurt,” interjected the nurse.  At first I thought she was joking, but then I realized she was sincerely trying to empathize with me. Before I could say anything else the doctor said, “Well, I’m almost done, so you can handle it for another minute, right Rick?”

Okay, I know a dare when I hear one, and I even know a double dare. But this was an “are you going to be a man or a wimp” kind of dare. “Of course. Not a problem.” Although I made it, I am convinced that this is the kind of enhanced interrogation technique that could easily replace waterboarding if necessary. After re-wrapping my foot and putting on my fashionable black orthopedic shoe, the doctor left me with instructions: “I know you are going to Florida to visit your Father tomorrow. Please be certain you walk as little as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for a wheelchair at the airport. You could really hurt yourself and this foot if you don’t.” I thought I sensed a bit of a dare in his voice.

I, of course, did not ask for the wheelchair, because I am congenitally incapable of using my adult common sense. I also looked at the 3 elderly ladies using a wheelchair, and my ego informed me that I did not need that kind of help. I defiantly began walking (limping, actually) down the jetway leading to the plane when I saw it: the railing I was holding onto in a white knuckled frenzy ended well before the entrance to the plane. When I arrived at that spot, I slowed down and reached for the wall. Unfortunately, the wall was too far away and the crowd behind me did not slow down.  I have also now learned there is a height difference between the carpeted area I was walking on and the area right along the wall. My injured foot, very unstable as it was, caught the floor ledge and twisted badly as I went down hard on my knee, followed very closely by the carry-on bag that I had slung over my shoulder, acting as a pendulum before it hit my head.  All I could think of was that pride goeth before a fall. I thanked God for restating the obvious to me, got up and hobbled to my seat. I tried not to listen to the chorus of “Is he alright?”

As I sat down in my luxurious, comfortable and spacious passenger seat  (please note the dripping sarcasm) the hostess brought me a bag of ice.  It was good to know that the entire plane was now discussing the guy who fell in the Jetway. I finally got the ice to balance on my knee when the passenger in front of me decided to put his seat back. Given that my knees were already touching the seat, he didn’t get far before he slammed into my knees…repeatedly. For the next couple of hours the ice melted through my pants, and we were stuck in our seats due to turbulence. By the time the plane landed in Florida, I was in a decidedly un-Christmas mood, not to mention looking as if I had forgotten to use the bathroom.

Lee Ann and I were going to Florida to celebrate my parents’ 62nd Anniversary, my Dad’s 84th birthday and to spend time with him as he continues to fight the rheumatoid arthritis that has attacked him for the last 50 years. He’s the bravest man I know. My Mom has survived breast cancer and a stroke with unending fortitude. My wife has courageously battled her loss of her leg. I, on the other hand, was being laid low by a cut on the bottom of my foot.

As we de-boarded the plane, I asked the flight attendant how far it was to baggage claim. She said it was around the corner and straight ahead. She was correct. It was around the corner and straight ahead for approximately 2 miles. My mood, and pain in my leg, worsened. We retrieved our bags, which had apparently been repacked with 50 pounds of rocks apiece, and walked across the street to the rental car agency. We had reserved a compact car because neither Lee Ann nor I like to drive large vehicles anymore. They told me it was my lucky day because they were all out of compact cars, and they were upgrading me to a minivan. I told them I didn’t want a minivan, and I would take any level of car instead. They told me they had nothing…I repeat no car of any kind except minivans. I found it hard to believe that a company in the business of renting cars had none to rent and told the attendant so. Apparently I stated my opinion in a slightly elevated tone of voice, and the Manager came over to tell me that it was a minivan or nothing. I took the minivan under protest and declined the additional insurance as I had never had an accident in a rental car and was too talented a driver to need it. I got in and turned it around to go to the exit.  There were yellow poles in the ground everywhere to “help guide” me. I quickly learned that the minivan had a turning radius somewhere between a fire engine and a large dump truck. An attendant yelled and waved me to an exit booth. As I was trying to make the turn I scraped up against one of the yellow poles and added some bright yellow paint to the exterior of the vehicle. The attendant told me it would be okay because the additional insurance would pay for it. I told her I had declined the additional insurance. She looked at my face and realized Mount Vesuvius was ready to explode. “Don’t worry sir, I will fill out the paperwork. You just get going.” I drove out into the pouring rain hoping some minivan would challenge me and my minivan to a drag race in the parking lot, but apparently the other minivans were being driven by rational, adult human beings. Lee Ann informed me it was time to grow up. I didn’t want to.

Even though it never stopped raining for the 5 days we were there, it didn’t matter. I spent many hours visiting with my Father in his bedroom. We remembered family history, all the cars we owned, mile stones in our lives and trips we had taken. I realized over and over again how blessed I have been to have such a courageous, faithful and insightful man as a Father. Arthritis has slowed his body, but nothing can diminish his spirit. Dad has taken the circumstances he’s been given and found his voice and purpose in those circumstances. And I know that God is pleased. I, on the other hand, was being beaten by a cut on my foot.  I thought God might be slightly less impressed with my response to adversity.

As we spoke I began to think of Joseph, the Father of Jesus. Imagine the circumstances he was given. His bride to be told him she was pregnant, but still a virgin. I am sure Joseph’s initial thought was “Is that the story you are going with? Really?”  However, in the midst of what was about to become a shameful public issue, Joseph thought only of Mary and how to minimize her embarrassment. Then an angel came to him in a dream and told him he still must marry this woman. I am sure that he questioned whether an alleged supernatural pregnancy and a nighttime vision were enough to risk his friendships, family ties, community standing and perception of sanity. But his faith, his integrity and his obvious love for Mary overcame his trepidation. I believe it is one of the most underrated acts of humility in the entire Bible. Now we remember Joseph as Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly Father and think it must have been an easy job bringing up a perfect child. Yet I am certain the whispers never stopped and the gossip never ended. However, Joseph accepted those difficulties and succeeded in bringing up the Man who would change the world.

Have you considered what you may need to accept about your circumstances that might allow God to work more fully and effectively through you? Maybe you are angry or despondent. Perhaps you are embarrassed or limited by some event, or maybe you are just too proud to let go of something cluttering your heart. God works through brokenness, just like He worked through that broken country of Israel and that man named Joseph who was willing to swallow his pride and marry his pregnant fiancé, and just as He has worked through the lives of my father, mother and wife. Just as He would like to work through me and my annoying cut.

In case you are wondering, I got out of the plane at our stopover in Dallas on the return trip and realized we were 2 terminals away from our next gate. I knew I would have to get a wheelchair and swallow several gallons of pride. Just then one of those driving carts came by and stopped by Lee Ann and me. The smiling driver looked at my foot encased in its ever stylish orthopedic boot and said in a joyous African accent, “Come my brother, you need a lift, and I am going to give it to you.” And he did, in more ways than one.”

 

Have a blessed and joyous Christmas. Let God accomplish through you what you cannot do on your own.

 


Who We Are in the Christian School Community:
Heritage Christian Academy is a Pre-K through 12th grade Christian school with campuses in both Olathe and Overland Park, Kansas. We realize that there are many good options in Olathe/Overland Park for Christian school education. But, as the above post articulates, our passion is teaching our students from a Christian worldview. We have been given the greatest gift of mankind in the person of Jesus and want to share that with our children.

If you are interested in learning more about our school and teachers who are passionate about making sure our students know “the Reason for the Season,” please visit our website www.whyswitch2hca.com. There you will find further information, videos and facts that enable you to make an educated decision about whether our Christian school is right for you.

To visit our full school site, go to www.hcakc.org.

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