I went for a short pondering walk around the park this morning. It was one of those walks that felt like a “thin place” where there is less divide between here and there. Normally the squirrels will scramble to a safe distance, with nut in tow. Today they just stayed on the edge of the path as I walked by. With the first one I just thought, “This one is really brave or extra friendly.” But then squirrel after squirrel stayed in place, like we were friends passing each other in the hallway. That knowing look, “Hi, how are you?” The birds were the same, allowing me to get closer than usual. I guess it seemed doubly strange in this time of social distancing. Human interaction is difficult, people pulling away as they pass, keeping safe distance. But today the animals were close, maybe knowing that was what I needed, someone to be close. I was in a state of joy and peace, and was thoroughly enjoying my walk.
Then, I turned the corner and suddenly a pain shot through the ball of my left foot. I was hoping I had just stepped wrong that one time but the pain continued. Instantly I felt despair. You wouldn’t think something so small could cause something so big as despair, but the truth is I have been in a long season of pain for the last eight years. As soon as one thing heals, something else hurts. I’ve had multiple foot injuries, broken toes, chronic back issues, a frozen shoulder, and the list goes on and on. Nothing very serious or life threatening, just chronic pain. I keep thinking everything will be better once the pain is gone. Today, I was finally feeling well enough to enjoy a walk around the park, feeling such joy and peace and gratitude, and then the pain showed up again. As I mentioned, my first response was despair. And then suddenly I wondered, “Is it possible for me to find joy and peace in spite of the pain?” Maybe that is my challenge. Maybe pain is just the thorn in my flesh, like Paul, that keeps me humble. Maybe the pain is not the end-all be-all dictator of my state of mind. Maybe there’s another way. Maybe…
I do hope the pain in my foot resolves quickly, but even if it doesn’t, I wonder if I can find joy and peace anyway.
2 Corinthians 12:9a
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.