The newest doctor I’ve tried to help me fix my upper back pain gave me a bunch of exercises to do as well as instructions to ice my back several times a day. The exercises with a foam roller and lacrosse ball actually seem to help, and the ice definitely makes my back feel better over all. He said to do them multiple times a day until the pain subsides.
But you know, I’m busy (aren’t we all). And I hate sitting still. So, I was good for a few days, and then I started to taper off and forget. I went back for a second appointment, and he asked me if I had been doing my exercises and icing. I was honest, “I did, but then I got busy.” He was okay with it. He said maybe I was feeling better because if it was really bad, I’d do the exercises. The man doesn’t know me very well.
Logically, I realize that if you do not follow a doctor’s instructions, you can’t really tell if they are effective or not. I have had this pain off and on for fifteen years. I have tried everything. I have to admit, however, that I do not always follow through with the recommendations from the various doctors I visit. The chiropractor recommended stretches – I was good for a few days, and then I stopped. I do not know how many times a foam roller has been suggested. I bought one, but it gets used more often as a sword by my three little boys than for its intended purpose.
Part of me wants immediate relief and an easy, quick remedy. Icing takes too long. A minute for each part of the exercises – do you know how long a minute can feel? And it’s not like I do this and then I’m healed. It will flair up again, and these are tools I will have to use again and again to keep myself pain free.
This Sunday’s readings speak of the impatience we all feel sometimes with how long things take. In the first reading from Habakkuk, the prophet is complaining. Things are taking too long, and God seems silent. The response, however, is about patience and fortitude. “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” (Hab 2:3). The second reading from the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy reminds us that we must bear our own share of hardship for the gospel and that God will grace us with the strength to persevere. And finally, the Gospel reminds us that when the work is done… there is still more work to do. The goals we have, the jobs we do, the positions we hold in life require a lot from us. And they give us a lot as well. Good things, however, take time. A lot of time.
I hear in these readings today that I have to do the work. I have to sit with that foam roller and use the lacrosse ball and go through the exercises. I have to sit with the ice on my back for the full 20 minutes. And I have to do it over and over until the injury is healed. But the work will still not be done. Whenever it hurts again, I have to be willing to stop and do the things necessary to prevent further injury. I have to do the things that will keep the pain at bay.
The same is true with all aspects of life. We must do the work. We can not bypass the difficult moments. And we can not be assured that when one passes another one will not come along. What we can be assured of is that we have all the tools we need to work through those moments and move towards consolation and joy. We just have to have the faith and the willingness to use them.
I pray today for the grace for each of us to have a little faith and the strength to persevere and move closer to the person God is calling each of us to be.