Life on Crutches

I sort of assumed that you’d have to do something pretty extreme to tear your achilles tendon. Apparently hopping up and down in excitement over a friend’s good news is more than enough to hobble you for a few months. (Note: if you’re going to celebrate by hopping up and down, stretch first). Now I find myself in crutches, inconveniencing the people closest to me, and having to rethink the most basic parts of my life. For example, how to get a glass of water across the room. Also, how to preach when you can’t stand. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve narrowed it down to sitting on a stool or going full flamingo.

Now this is the part where there is usually a quick turn to the spiritual: “You know, spiritually we’re all on crutches.” True enough, but right now that sounds like something people who used to be on crutches say. At the moment I don’t have a lot of spiritual meditation going on. I’m vacillating between regret that I didn’t celebrate with a happy dance instead of a happy hop, a frustration that this is going to take quite a while to heal, and a “glass is half full” determination to keep trucking right through this thing. I also need to figure out doctors appointments and, like, how to go to the store and parent my kids. And how most of this stuff will fall hardest on my wife, while I sit and watch her struggle. I’m writing this less than 24 hours after it happened, so the more reflective stuff might come along later.  But right now I’m in the flurry of adjusting to a life that isn’t in my control.

This is one upshot of life in the world: in the moment, the spiritual lessons are not always as pretty as we’d like. There is a kind of lesson in all this, even in the flurry. But it’s not sanitized or theoretical. It’s the lesson that God is a part of the flurry as much as he is a part of the life that goes as planned. My devotional times have been scattered across the day, my thoughts about God tied up in thoughts about how often I’ll have to explain my injury and how long it will be until I can take a step without crutches. (Read: how long it will be until my wife can get a break). When I’m frustrated, overwhelmed, or determined, God is there—just not in the clean-cut way I typically think about God “being there.”

But there he is, nonetheless. He sits alongside the processing I do about how long this might take, he’s there when I get determined to become a ninja on crutches and will my way to fast healing, he’s around when I’m watching my wife carry groceries into the house and can’t help. The temptation is to table all thoughts about God until life is a little more clean, a little more organized. Until I feel on top of the doctor’s appointments and have worked through the craziness and feel a bit more comfortable. And it’s very possible to let the flurry trump all thoughts of God until you’ve worked things through on your own a little bit. But if you do that, what you’re really saying is that God’s presence is only for the times when you aren’t in the thick of it.

Jesus tells his followers to abide in him, and while we could fill books on what that means, I am confident that it means more than tabling God until we feel more in control. I am also confident that it means more than tabling the flurry while we talk to God. To abide in Jesus means to be connected to him in the flurry as much as in moments of calm. To pull from the Old Testament, we are to be trees that are connected to God both in season and out of season (Psalm 1:3), that trust in Him in the heat and drought of summer as well as the cool of spring (Jeremiah 17:8). These images show us that God is not only involved when things are clean, but when they (and we) are messy. God is not a chemical that you add to the flurry to make it disappear, nor is the flurry in our lives a kind of oil to God’s water, pushing God away until we’ve removed it. God and the flurry mix, and abiding in Christ happens in that mixture as much as it does in times of calm. Bearing fruit doesn’t just happen in the greenhouse. It happens out in the wild, too.

It’s in this way—not the “Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul” sort of way—that all of life really is lived on crutches. There’s almost always a flurry, sometimes punctuated by a short respite, and then more flurry. It can be large or small, including torn Achilles and unexpected traffic and a coworker who interrupts you when you’re busy. There are category 5 storms like cancer; there are brief rainstorms like having to find a new roommate with short notice. In all of it, God is there. You have the option to table God until the flurry is over—read your Bible when it’s calm in the early morning, or late in the evening if you feel peaceful enough. But the flurry rarely ends. One usually gives way to another. The better way is to abide in Christ throughout it all. Pray short prayers, read short Bible verses, exchange the spiritual version of a “knowing look” with God as you experience the flurry of life and remember that he sits next to you when you are overwhelmed.

We shouldn’t forget that the Son of God had plenty of his own flurries. It would be a shame not to connect with him over the shared experience of life in the world. Especially given what he did with his for us.