The physical therapist looked at me and said, "Your strength is great! Your arm is really strong!"
I smiled confidently, just as he turned to the intern and matter-of-factly stated, "So, her shoulder joint is completely shredded. But, as you can see, her strength is really good!"
My heart sank. I thought, for sure, if my shoulder was strong - if my strength was enough to garner a compliment from this physical therapist who worked with shoulder injuries all the time - that great progress had been made!
But my strength - and even my ability to push through pain - did not change the condition of my shoulder joint.
the back story.
Over the past two years, my shoulder has been dislocated four times. Each time, I self-reduced - which simply means, I put it back where it belonged on my own. The incidents in which the dislocations occurred required my continued presence. There was not the option of going to the hospital for anesthesia (as is apparently the preferred method by most people!), and I knew I couldn't leave it out and take care of my tribe. So, each time (twice with help!), I shoved it back in with gritted teeth and gritted faith. When I woke up in December, a week and a half after the most recent dislocation, unable to move my arm, I made an appointment. It was the first time I sought medical attention.
PSA: I KNOW that when you're in the trenches it is HARD to find time for taking care of yourself. But learn from my mistake. Go to the doctor the first time - not the fourth. Reality is, my dislocations involved situations that would have still happened - but I may have been able to strengthen my arm sooner and decrease the likelihood of subsequent injuries. Taking care of our people requires us taking care of ourselves.
I was discharged from PT last week, because there's not much more that can be done. The prognosis? Avoiding a dislocation for several years would be miraculous... and surgery? Well, it's really a game of how long can I hold out in constant pain. My shoulder ligaments have been stretched, damaged, and torn.
We measure strength in so many ways. Physical, emotional, spiritual, mental. We assess people's ability to endure and overcome odds. We emphasize the ability to hold things together under great weight.
We believe if we - or others - can make it through without breaking down, there is no brokenness.
We use strength as a gauge to determine overall health and success. But as God so often does, He's using this less than desirable circumstance to teach me something. Something of eternal value.
Much like my shoulder, the condition of a person's heart cannot always be determined by their strength.
Just because someone is holding up under incredible weight, does not mean their heart isn't shredded.
Could it be, friends, that sometimes we even strive to prove our strength to hide the shredded condition of our heart??
I know I have. Maybe you have, too. Maybe you are right now.
And to you - you who are bearing up under weight that is shredding your heart, I just want to remind you:
I was texting a dear friend tonight about her son, and God clearly reminded me of the story of Lazarus. The one where Jesus wept.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked.
Jesus wept. He wept, because He dearly loved His friends. He felt the weight they were struggling under - the weight of sickness and grief and loss and overwhelm with change. He empathized to the point of brokenness.
But He was not without hope. Because before He had arrived, He had declared what He was about to do. He knew this was not the end of Lazarus' story - rather it was the beginning of the most remarkable part.
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” He said.
You see, Jesus knew Lazarus was going to rise. Lazarus' strength was gone, but his condition was being miraculously restored by the Giver of Life! Jesus wept, and then He called forth LIFE from the grave.
He is waiting to do the same for us. When our condition is faltering - our hearts shredded under the weight of sickness, grief, loss, or the overwhelm of change - He weeps with us. But then, as is true to His nature, He calls forth LIFE.
And instead of powering through the trenches with strength others may admire - we feel the mending of our heart condition. The repair of things that have been stretched, damaged, and torn. We begin to be restored, so that instead of pushing through the pain, it begins to lessen. We find the freedom and beauty of living out of healing, instead of just strength.
This life is hard, friends.
Jesus told us it would be.
I am in no way saying your heart will be instantaneously healed if you'll just go to Jesus. I wish it were that simple.
But these recovering, redeeming, restoring things take time.
While we wait, we strengthen ourselves with His Word - with prayer - with praise. We confide in friends who will simultaneously encourage and hold us accountable. We stand firm on His promises, and trust that even when our faith falters, He is faithful.
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In closing, may we be compelled to extend grace and kindness to those around us. To the ones who are strong, but shredded. To the ones who perhaps we've admired from afar, without realizing the weight of the reality they are living every single day.
What is the condition of your heart today? Do you attempt to hide a shredded heart with strength? Do your circumstances simply demand strength, without regard to your heart condition? Is there a friend who is strong but shredded who you can reach out to today?
Here you will find the musings of a homeschooling, work from home, adoptive Momma of 6! Adventures in faith, family, adoption, and training up a tribe of little people to follow hard after Jesus are spilled into these posts --- most often written with a cup of coffee in hand. I hope you'll stick around a while and find something - more likely SOMEONE! - that brings you hope!
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