Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Knees Hurt

     My knees hurt.  It’s a new sensation, one that I don’t particularly look forward to having for any sustainable period of time.  I’m familiar with pain, but of a different origin.  Having been a dancer for many years, I’ve had more than my share of muscles that were shaking from fatigue, having been pushed to the limit after hours of dance class followed by grueling rehearsals.  But the pain in my knees is different.  Rather than being a sign of muscles that have been healthily, intentionally pushed so that they may strengthen, this pain issues a sign of warning.  A sign of weakness.  A problem.

My first instinct is to stop.  I don’t like pain, and I certainly don’t like the prospect of taking another step down the road toward irreversible damage, reduced daily activity, or even surgery.  I could simply revert back to a mode of excercise with which I’m familiar and comfortable.  One that is safe and dependable.  One that won’t make my knees hurt.

Running is a relatively new experience for me.  In the past months, I have pushed my body in new ways, which has put demands on previously weak and unused muscles.  A friend of mine, who happens to be a personal trainer, casually mentioned that it would be wise to take the time to strengthen the ligaments around my knees.  Rather than ignore the pain, or quit running, there is another alternative.  I need to take from the pain a greater good that it offered:  a signal that I should take time and give attention to strengthen that which is weak and therefore vulnerable

The Lord is so good in the economy of the Kingdom.  Nothing is wasted.  Not sorrows, heartache, lost jobs, declining retirement plans, rebellious children, struggling marriages, nor painful knees.  The day after my conversation with my friend, I happened to read:

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and week knees.  Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”  Heb 12:11-13

Hmmm.  Sounded familiar.  Painfully so.  Three things struck me as I re-read those ancient words.  First, I was reminded that in order to enjoy the benefits of the harvest of righteousness and peace, I must submit to the training.  As I come out of one of “those” weeks in training my children, I’m acutely aware that regardless of the wisdom that I attempt to impart upon them, our home is more of a battleground than a “harvest of righteousness and peace” unless they choose to listen and respond out of an obedient spirit.   Rather than existing in an environment of struggle and friction where they are intent on “bucking the system”, their choosing a change of heart allows us to relax and enjoy each other.  And so it is with my heavenly father.  “Bucking the system” for me can take many forms.  I can ignore the Lord’s instruction, complain that life isn’t fair, soak in self-pity, or commit all of my resources to overcome whatever is making my life less than happy.  It is not until I submit to His training that I’ve come under the master teacher and am ready to learn what He has to teach me.

Second, my attention needs to be turned to whatever is weak and feeble.  This is where the pain becomes helpful.  Without the pain, I would be unaware that the weakness was present.  The Lord, in His patient and gracious desire to grow me to be more like His son, allows the pain so that I might be aware of my need.  If I allow Him to shed the light of his truth on my soul, I find that my weaknesses are very specific.  They show up in the way I live my life, plan my day, talk with my friends, and relate to my husband and children.  As I allow the Lord to search my heart and expose my sin, I can begin to call those weaknesses by name and allow Him to step in and begin His mighty work.  There must first be diagnosis (rather than denial).  If my sin has become deeply ingrained in the  thought and behavior patterns of my life, I must make myself ready for painful, yet necessary surgery.  The Lord must remove the bad which has caused infection and weakness before I can be healed and made strong.   

Lastly, I am aware that the Lord allows my response to be my choice.  I could choose denial, ignore the pain, and manipulate my world in such a way that I don’t feel it any longer.  I could choose anger, resentment, despair.  If possible, I could avoid the source of my pain.  I could simply stop running.  But that doesn’t strengthen my knees, it only allows the pain to go away for a period of time.  So, I choose to allow him to strengthen the weak ligaments of my soul.  “To make level paths for my feet.” To live in such a way that I am honest before God and others, and to live every day asking the question “What does repentance look like lived out in my life today?”.   This, so that “the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

So as I tie my new running shoes and head out for softer trails, I’m deeply grateful that my knees are feeling better.  And I’m even more grateful that the Lord wants me to be not only healed, but stronger.  That he takes time to teach us through the every day, and that He is the Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals.  I wait for the next ache or pain to surface to reveal a glimpse of what He wants next for me, and pray for the courage and integrity to allow Him access to my heart to do whatever is needed.  But for now, I’ll enjoy the first sights and smells of spring, the warm rays of the sun making their annual debut, and the sound of my feet moving forward…

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