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Life on Purpose
Recuperation teaches us the lessons of humility and patience

I think of myself as a pretty easygoing person. I take time to appreciate life and take difficulties in stride, trying to find the good in every situation. But when that stride slows to a crawl, I found that I am not as patient as I supposed myself to be.

In my last column, I shared how I was learning a valuable lesson about the challenges people with physical disabilities face, especially my daughter, Johanna, as I limped around on crutches recovering from a fractured leg and injury to my knee.

I knew that God would use everything for good and I was learning to appreciate life from another’s point of view and slow down. However, I’m finding I am not very good at asking for and/or waiting for help. I’ve discovered there’s an ugly, prideful side of self-reliance which borders on a need to control others and situations.

It was my self-reliant streak that motivated me to carelessly head down the stairs on crutches attempting to retrieve ice for my leg rather than waiting for my family to help. I lost my footing and went flying into the landing, fracturing my ribs and pulling the groin muscle in my other leg.

I spent the next few days on the bottom floor of the house, navigating my way around in a wheelchair. I’ve learned a few things about my home trying to access it in a wheelchair. We really aren’t handicap accessible. Ironic, huh?

My daughter uses a wheelchair for long distances and always outside the house. And in a household of six people, there was always someone to watch her go up and down the stairs. But now, it’s just the three of us in this big house with two staircases. I think it’s time to move.

All those cleaning and organizing tasks I’ve avoided really drive me crazy now that I can’t physically do them because I can’t stand for long periods of time.

Walking, which used to be my therapy is now a long and arduous task — but then there’s the fractured ribs from the fall down a flight of stairs. It’s really not too bad. It only hurts when I laugh and cough and breathe. Sneezing kills me.

It’s hard for me to ask for help. I’ve gotten used to doing so many things on my own and being an advocate for my daughter. But now I need help with ridiculous things like getting up from a seated position without re-injuring the groin muscle or popping out my knee. I have a profound respect for people who live their lives with physical disabilities. It isn’t easy to ask for help.

This trial is me slowing me down and causing me to simplify my life. I’ve been joking that God grounded me. But in truth, He is answering my prayers.

I am more mindful to focus on the tasks at hand, rather than running in circles to take care of the next thing. When every step is an effort, you learn to plan your steps more carefully and to do things now rather than procrastinating.

You also learn to rejoice in the little things that make life easier. With great humility, I asked my husband to hook up a bike basket on the front of the walker. I put aside my fear of looking like an old lady and opted for the extra hand and greater stability a basket provides.

My needs have helped my daughter grow and caused her and my husband to bond together in assisting me with household tasks that I once just did quickly behind the scenes. It used to be easier to do it all myself. Now, I have to ask for help.

Last week, two friends of mine brought us dinner with enough food to last us for the week. They are both prayerful, beautiful women. One of them has been a spiritual mentor for me for many years.

They brought more than bread for my table, but also food for my soul. As they sat with me, my friend revealed a vision the Lord had given her in prayer. She saw me and Jesus standing side by side. Jesus’ arms were outstretched with great love towards the world. My hands were outstretched, too, but constantly in motion as if I were frantically directing an orchestra or traffic in a busy street.

My friend said Jesus smiled at me and then He stepped behind me and wrapped his arms around me causing my arms to cross and bringing me to rest. I smiled and nodded as I told her, “Jesus is grounding me and teaching me to rest.”

In the Book of Job, Job and his friend speculate on why he’s going through so many trials and questioning the mind of God. God seems to listen to it all the way until the 38th chapter when He answers Job with questions like these:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me if you have understanding…
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings* shouted for joy?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.” (Job 38:4, 7-8, 18)

Yeah. Job was grounded too.

God used the difficulties in Job’s life to teach him that life is bigger than our circumstances and many times a mystery beyond our control. Job responded in humility recognizing that God is God and he was not.

God didn’t cause me to fall, any more than he causes the difficulties in any of our lives. But God, as a divine parent, allows His children to suffer the consequences of our actions to help us grow — He uses these tough times to strengthen us for the days ahead.

I broke my knee spinning around the kitchen in my heels, in a frantic rush to finish cooking Easter dinner. And fell down the stairs because I was doing it all by myself, rather than waiting for help.

While I’m resting to heal my body and my soul, God will continue to provide for our needs and save the world without me. I can slow down and focus on the small details that I have the strength to complete.

In due time, I will be spinning in my kitchen again. This time it will be to the music of my soul, not in chaos, but in peace. I will be wearing flats, not heels. I will be certain to know that though my spirit soars, my feet are firmly planted on solid ground. Because God is God and I am not. Our lives are in God’s capable hands.

Eileen Benthal
Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen