I didn’t know what to call tonight’s post. I want to speak about blessings, but sometimes they come in strange ways and rather than being overtly good, they challenge us. And as I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that our culture refers to things that aren’t necessarily mainstream as “left-handed” – meaning, out of the norm, but not necessarily bad – just different. I’m left handed, so maybe I am more sensitive to this that many of you who are right-handed, but I thought the title embodied the idea I wish to convey tonight.
But tonight’s post really has nothing to do with me – it’s about Janet. Lately, as you know, our family has been facing a number of struggles. Among them, but not one I have talked about much, is the fact that Janet just hasn’t been feeling well lately. It started about a week before I went to Dallas last month, when she had soreness in her hip and then her ankle. Nothing that she could pinpoint – just aches and pains in the joints. I don’t mean just a little discomfort, I mean “drive me to the hospital” pain – the “wake you out of your sleep” kind of pain. The morning I was in Dallas, her pain migrated to her wrist and one of our good friends, a doctor, requested an x-ray and an immediate visit for physical therapy. He really didn’t like what he saw and so Janet made an appointment with our internist.
Today, after weeks of blood tests and re-testing to check results, we found out that Janet has Rheumatoid Arthritis – and we have learned they call it RA for short. Now I’m pretty bad with acronyms – to me, RA was a resident associate – you know, one of the people who lives in a dorm at college and watches over the students. Of course, I’m the same guy who was asked years ago if I wanted to buy a “demo” at the car dealer; I asked why I would want to buy a car that had been “demolished?” The salesman laughed and said that “demo” was short for “demonstrator” – a car that people had taken out for test drives. Oh well, what did I know…. everybody had a great laugh on me…..
But back to the story – the doctor used the phrase RA three or four times before I understood that it meant Rheumatoid Arthritis – so now I’m educated! To be sure, Janet was a little worried about the test results. And who wouldn’t be? She just hasn’t felt good, and in her “bones”, I think that she sensed something wasn’t quite right. At first, we both chalked this off to stress – but the signs indicated that there could be something else going on. Janet already suffers from degenerative arthritis, primarily in her hands, but it has also affected her spine, shoulders and knees, on occasion. You may even recall that last summer she broke a finger (See “X Marks the Spot”) and although it is now healed, her ring finger is a little crooked and the doctors didn’t want to operate again because of the possibility of aggravating her arthritis; and creating an even greater problem with mobility. When you already have one kind of arthritis, what’s the chance that you could pick up another kind – and really independent of the first problem?
As Janet and I grow older together, I always re-live our past when these types of events happen. We depend on each other more than we ever have. My back has never been really good; and I notice now that Janet usually bends down to get a pan from the lower cupboard or to pick something up from the floor that I have dropped. I help make the bed much more than I used to; and when we take Lexie for a walk together, I always hold the leash. It’s just too painful for Janet if Lex sees something and tugs on Janet’s wrist or fingers. In other words, we help each other – plain and simple…
Many times, these acts of kindness come automatically, neither one of us ever needing to ask for help – the other is always there, keeping a watchful eye for ways to ease discomfort or suffering. Now I don’t mean to say we’re ninety or anything. I have to mention that because Janet’s Dad always writes me to let me know that Janet and I aren’t “old” yet – and he’s right. But let’s face it – he’s an exceptionally “young” ninety!
So, today, I joined Janet at the doctor to get a glimpse of what our collective future looks like with this latest wrinkle. For now, we have adopted a course of therapy that should minimize her side effects and hopefully, God willing, Janet can enjoy a long life without fear of extreme pain or altering her life style too much. If things get worse, there are other advances that have been made in the treatment for RA that can greatly reduce the chances that she will suffer the way earlier generations did.
We’re still learning – the formal news is one day old now. But one thing is for sure – with God’s help, we will handle this together – the same way we have managed for the past 38 years. I can’t help but be reminded of Paul and his “thorn” in the flesh. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was a constant reminder of his earthly infirmity. Tonight, I just can’t get that verse out of my mind. It seems to fit where Janet is tonight – coming to terms with a new reality while realizing that what she has isn’t life threatening; it’s manageable – just not curable.
So, in honor of Janet and people everywhere who are adjusting to these life transitions, the verse tonight comes from Paul, but you probably already figured that out. He is talking about his “thorn” and in 2 Cor. 12:8-10, we are told, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that God never gives you, or us, more than we can handle. God knows our limitations – after all, He created us. My prayer is that you will turn to God to walk you through these trials and tribulations – and rest in His peace. After all, I think Paul had it right. As we remain dependent on God, we are made perfect, or strong, in our weakness. So, Janet, with God on one side, and me on the other, we’ll do this together – like we always do….. May all of us experience God’s grace and peace. Amen.