Maybe it’s just me, but when I decide to dig into something, I want it to be a smooth upward trajectory toward successfully meeting my end goal. I’m not a fan of the bumps along the way… things throwing me off course… old patterns showing their ugly ways. Nope, I want to make that decision and have it all go my way.
I realize how arrogant that sounds as I type it out those words. But, isn’t it true?
I talk about this with my patients daily in my office… I’m a chiropractor and have been treating patients for 15 years. One of my favorite parts of my career is seeing someone through their recovery. I’ll begin caring for someone who has taken the time to come in, wanting (sometimes demanding) immediate relief. They’re often in pain and not at their best. Their daily activities have changed, because of pain. Their exercise routine has changed, because of pain. Their ability to play with their kids has changed, because of pain. Sitting comfortably to watch a movie is long gone, because of pain. I have to gently set the proper expectations for healing… usually something along the lines of: “this didn’t happen overnight and it won’t go away overnight either, but it will get better. You won’t always feel like this!”
It’s so much easier to say that to someone than to hear it for ourslves.
I get it… I want that miracle cure too! Last fall, I had been training for my second full marathon and had progressed to running 17 miles for my long run. I was in the thick of the training, almost to my peak mileage. Two days later, I was leaving work, excited to finish up a bit early that day, when I was in a car accident directly in front of my office… my car was totaled and I had all the signs of a concussion and whiplash. Thank God I was alone, that my daughter wasn’t with me. It was completely surreal to be standing in the middle of the highway looking up at my office, not knowing what to do next. It all happened so quickly, but could’ve been so much worse.
I tried my best (against any advice I would’ve ever given a patient) to dive back into my training. I went out for an 18 mile run, as planned, that ended up being a pitiful walk. I had to accept that my body just couldn’t recover that quickly. This was bigger than sheer will. I would have to allow myself the time and grace to heal… something I’m not well versed in. I wasn’t able to run for weeks and was forced into realizing how much running plays a role in my emotional state. My go-to for stress relief had been running for years. That being stolen from me, and the constant pain, was too much. I fell into a depression and felt like a failure. I begrudgingly took myself out of the marathon so I would have time to get well.
It took months for me to get back to feeling like a runner again and I’m still not at the pace or endurance I’d like to be at. That second marathon still weighs heavy on my spirit. It’s easy for me to feel stuck on not having accomplished that goal, even though it was beyond my control.
What’s always surprising to me is that as people heal and start feeling like themselves, they completely forget how far they’ve come! It’s so much easier to see change in someone else than to see it in myself. I’ll often point out that two weeks ago, they couldn’t get on and off my table without crying out in pain or moving like they were 50 years older. They’ll have completely forgotten how they originally came in! Or they might not notice that they haven’t had headaches in weeks, when they had been constant daily burdens. God designed our bodies for physical healing, but it’s not always smooth. It’s typically two steps forward and one step back. The overall trend is toward recovery, but there are some setbacks along the way. After a bit, they usually get “over the hump” and the healing starts to really gain momentum.
Maybe it’s the same for emotional and spiritual healing.
I’ve often heard that when pain finally outweighs fear, that’s when change can be made. It takes something agonizing to push us to move toward growth. The fear is nothing compared to the heartbreak of living in pain like this for the rest of our lives. But it’s not smooth… not at all. Just because we make the decision to heal those flaws and character defects, they don’t just disappear.
God is the only one who can heal those hurts. Only God can grow tough scars to cover the raw wounds we all carry. The process is excruciating and humbling. Just when you think you’ve gotten over your hangups and can coast, the old patterns and weaknesses surface. It’s a test of patience, of faith, to continue on the path toward recovery. There are no clear guidelines or maps to follow. No GPS directions. Maybe it’s in using those setbacks as ways to help someone else along in their journey. To relate to each other, rather than judging each other. Knowing we all have our issues and though they might be different, but the emotions surrounding them are usually similar. It’s a matter of trying and failing and staying the course. Fixing your eyes on God so that all else falls into place. Finding progress, not perfection.