Thursday, December 15, 2016

When the Going Gets Tough.... There Is God

My hands have hurt a lot lately. My doctor told me some time back that I might begin to suffer more each year with arthritis. We had that whole conversation about family history, what types of arthritis my parents and grandparents had, along with the usual suggestions for diet and exercise. All that would be great if I lived a sedentary life and was not the type to be out doing things that perhaps might be qualified as "hard" work for most. I grew up hearing about what daily life was like in my parents and grandparents time. Hard work was the norm back in the early 1900's. It was not just expected, it was necessary for the welfare of the family. There were not the conveniences we have in this day and age. Work with your hands included hands not just in dough for our favourite recipes, but in dishwater, washing clothes, along with cutting, splitting and piling wood that had to be harvested in the forest without our chainsaws and diesel driven harvesters and hydraulic hoists on log trucks that deliver the wood to our door. After a days labour I feel exhausted and my days are not 8-10 hours long anymore. I am lucky to get 4-6 hours out of this old body these days, but I keep going.

I am one of the fortunate ones I believe. My discomfort is not unmanageable. I take over-the-counter pain management meds as needed. Doctors continue to say that the pills don't work when you won't take them. There is that fine line between being medicated for the pain and medicated so you won't feel pain. I have known people who medicate so that they won't feel pain, and that can be a downhill journey. I am not trying to be judgmental, but for myself, I fear that journey. I need to be able to function daily and manage pain that is real so that I can continue to be reasonably pain free, but also be alert, especially as I use machines that call for my complete awareness. I can't afford to be numbed or medicated so that I might be in a situation and not be aware of some critical decision making process that I am not acutely aware of, or fully capable of handling. I value my life and the lives of those who may be assisting in a project, especially in the woods, working with a chainsaw and felling trees.

Some days are worse than others. I believe we all find that to be true don't we. For my physiology, the weather makes a difference. As a sufferer of migraines for most of my life, I have been critically aware of weather patterns and changes in seasons which have been tough on my pain management program. As seasonal climate changes take place and one season changes to the next, I may suffer for several days as my body acclimatizes to the difference in temperatures. As another example, while working in the woodlot this fall, I have been lifting heavy loads and my hands have taken a beating. My wedding ring no longer fits, and my knuckles are so stiff and sore that getting them moving in the mornings is a real chore, but I persevere and exercise gets them limbered up. I remember my Dad being told to get a small rubber ball and squeeze it in first one hand and then the other through several repetitions each day. His hands, that had begun to twist as the arthritis did its damage, began to straighten out a bit, and for several years he kept up those exercises, and it helped his condition to a great extent.

Due to the damage to my knees some years ago, arthritis is now finding a home there as well. I often wonder; how far can this advance? How many of my joints will succumb to this painful disease. Well, all perhaps, or so it seems. My wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips and even my ankles seem to be saying to me some days... "How's that for lack of response!", and I limp on until the fluid motion of this old body finds somewhat of an acceptable level of norm. I've been told that there is a key to living with an arthritic condition. Like all keys there is a limit, but within that limit there lies a diversity of options that gives us some leeway, in the decision making process. From my doctor's perspective, along with the idea of pain management through medication, there is that simple age old and time proven method used by my grandparents. We just keep on moving not matter what! One could ask the question, "Won't that do us more harm?" Well, with today's technology, there are the advantages of joint replacement. But I continue to wonder why our "now generation" has come to that so quickly. It may perhaps be as simple as diet, lack of the proper exercise and repetitive action on joints that were once used in a broader spectrum of functions daily, that kept wear-out and tear-out at a minimum. But, I am no specialist and I can only speculate. So I wonder; is my hard work good for me or more destructive than I should be taking on at my age? After all, a great deal of my life was more sedentary, in style, in the workplace. I guess the answer is going to be found in the undertaking! 

I am not sure that God wants me to rust out. Some of my longtime friends are convinced that wearing out is better than the alternative of rusting out. As I mentioned I stay busy, but when needed I stop and rest, I do. That has been my mantra of late, as my body feels like it is about to shut down. What I mean by that is, as I reach a certain level of exhaustion, and I can feel my body beginning to not just slow down, but also to scream with pain, it is telling me that enough is enough. You know what? I am just a young buck next to Methuselah or Noah. After all, when in your 60's, you should be able to go a full 16 hours and be ready for an evening out. After all Noah built an ark when he was a lot older than me... actually he was over 500 years old. Ok... We don't live that long anymore... That’s not my fault! LOL But, I believe that God has a plan for my working life as well as my resting life. What's the difference you ask? 

My resting life is that period in time when I am fully aware of Him...His being God! Some take that time during one day only per week... Sundays perhaps. Others choose a life that includes God daily, keeping in touch with Him through the daily journey and with a constant mind for Christ, so that as events and circumstances arise we feel His presence and relate our needs to Him. For me it is the latter. Yes, I do practice the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, but every day is God's day for me. I want to feel Him with me, near me, beside me and around me, and when I feel like collapsing in exhaustion, I know that He has me in His care. When I am weak He is strong. So does that make me vulnerable or over needy? No, it makes me reliant on God for my daily walk, my work, my up-time and my down-time and I am not ashamed. I have heard people state that we should not bother God with the small stuff. I can tell you from experience that if you try to handle the small stuff single-handedly, you soon lose control of even the big stuff along with the small... we are just not strong enough to take it all alone. Even Christ knew the hazard of reliance upon self and its pitfalls, as He petitioned The Father for courage and strength, if not the removal of his tribulation to come.

Each day becomes a journey of trial for us all. It is folly to try and gloss it over with an assumption that the pathway is paved with joy and blessing each moment. Life does not happen that way. We may have moments of peace, but we also endure hours of pain through exhaustion and failure. Like my arthritic condition we may seek chemical answers as some relief, but there also has to be a rethinking of life, its values and our personal actions. I know that if I abuse my body, without considering the consequences, I feel horrible. So I have to limit myself, keep my life in check so to speak, and be cautious of those moments when desire to accomplish something takes over and leads me into over-extending myself. It is living near the edge on a different level daily. It is as dangerous being an over-achiever as it is as being an under-achiever. To rust out as an individual means a waste of good potential, and to wear out, without regard for sustained potential being met, is folly as well. So I strive to walk the fine line. I walk to the edge each day and consider the options, the possible positive outcomes of whatever seems to be on the plate before me. How I reach the right outcome depends on my dependency upon God and my reliance on what He enables me to do, without taking steps independent of His will. 

It is not an easy journey, this journey of life management, focused in Christ. It is however an incredible journey, when we cast off the burdens of self-definition and determination and take on His will each day. It is hard to always be true to that path, for it is fraught with pitfalls, which include stresses and pressure from all sides. The blessings though outweigh the trials. Keep your eye on the Christ and your heart in tune with His will... Living near the Edge becomes less scary and more manageable then.