When my left knee went out I was figure skating. I was setting up for a jump, and then twist and down, hard onto the cold smooth ice. It went out other times before then, but that time was bad. We went to the doctor and then to the knee surgeon. When they told me I needed surgery, I cried. I was scared of the knife, scared of the pain, scared of the recovery, scared to be off the ice and what that would mean for the future of what I then thought would be a reasonable future daydream, to be an ice skating coach.

My eyes filled with tears, and the doctor told me that without the surgery I would most likely be looking at not wondering if I could skate, but wondering how long I could walk on it. It was a necessity, a must do, so get on the treadmill and begin strengthening before surgery and fortify yourself to do the work of recovery afterwards.

Also, I was 15. If a doctor told me then to cut off my nose and could convince my mom to sign the paperwork, I would likely have gone along with it.

Generally when I remember that experience I am discussing the effects that Demerol has on me, which is a little silly mixed with a little scary, but I don’t spend much time thinking on that experience. I do remember some things well, hallucinations coming through the IV and visitors through the door, the way the gauze stuck to the incision and the smell of it the first time I cleaned it. I remember that another kid I went to school with but was much cooler than me was at the same physical therapist and when our appointments took place at the same time we’d joke and talk some, but he never spoke to me outside of that building. Years later on a bus at JMU, he joked with me and I blew him off, still sensitive to the snub three years before.  It was during my time at JMU that I remember thinking on surgery as an analogy for something deeper, using that experience to teach myself about the theology of suffering.

The other night I had a moment, a small moment that turned larger than I could hold on my own very quickly. I had the wind knocked out of me, metaphorically, of course. I tend to steer clear of activity that could literally do that to me. Hurt that I had felt beyond struck me every bit as hard as if I’d been slapped across the face. I was winded and tired afterwards and went to sleep ready for the darkness and quiet that rest allows.

The next morning I talked with a dear friend who reminded me a lot of things that I knew to be true, one of which was essentially something I used to say in college. Satan doesn’t come up against someone who doesn’t matter.

The past week or so I have revisited in my mind the stress and hurt I’d felt in the fall and winter before I left my last job and wondered on it. My mom at one point said “God had to do something really big to get you out of there. You were so deeply entrenched in that place.” She was so right.

The same way hearing about the surgery on my knee brought tears to my eyes, fearing the pain of the knife and the uncertainty of the future, walking out of that position gave me the same emotion. This separation will hurt. The impact of this decision will be large, both on me and others who’ve depended on me. This is going to hurt.

But I signed the papers saying I was all in with being all out and I let God pick up the knife and cut me from that place. It stung and it was messy. If the fallout could have been seen and felt and smelt and touched, no one would have denied that the extraction was bloody. However, it was a necessity, a must do, so get on the treadmill and begin strengthening before surgery and fortify myself to do the work of recovery afterwards.

There are cancers in our lives, broken bones and festering sores. We have to be willing to let those things go and to realize that the extraction might be painful, but that pain is for our betterment. It is so natural to fight against pain, but we must fight the urge to avoid pain to our own destructive ends. Had I refused to have that knee surgery, wound up in a wheelchair at this point in my life, in constant pain, would I be happy with my choice? Of course not.

So choose healthy healing pain and allow that in your life. It will be the pain of healing that will make the future something great.

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