My limb reconstruction operation was three months ago now, but it feels a lot longer. Suddenly the pace of my life took a dramatic change in so many ways. I found it frustrating as I love to plan and look to the future to what we can achieve, but for many weeks I couldn’t tell what the next day would bring, let alone plan anything else. I also found it hard not being able to help Diane – hearing Caleb our youngest child cry and not being able to pick him up, or seeing Diane get more and more tired as I couldn’t help clear up after dinner or drop the kids off at their activities. Was I useless if I couldn’t do certain things? When would things get easier?
We all long for certainty. I am realising slowly that the way to deal with anxiety about the future is to accept uncertainly and learn to trust. Regaining the ability to ‘plan’ life is still a long way off. After this procedure is over I need to have the same operation on my other leg and go through the whole process again. I still often find myself asking the question ‘why me?’ despite my (albeit) slow learning about accepting uncertainty. It is sometimes extremely hard to not get frustrated with life’s circumstances!
I find the words of Nick Vidilic interesting. He was born without limbs and writes,
“I used to ask ‘why me why me?’ But now I say ‘why not me?’ You can allow God to make something beautiful out of it”.
I am personally struggling with this concept, but it is beginning to make sense.
Over the last 17 years of working with XLP we have been working hard to create positive futures for young people and to have a sustainable effect on poverty and educational failure. To do that we have Arts Showcases that bring rival schools and postcodes together to celebrate what they have in common instead of what divides them; Community Buses that travel onto the heart of estates across London every afternoon and evening; a Schools Work Programme; Projects that help long-term unemployed people get into work in London; and a Secondary School in rural Ghana providing education to one of the poorest areas I have visited. The team at XLP are amazing and certainly not short of vision and an infectious passion to make it happen – I love that about them. Our society needs people that dream big. As Jim Wallis points out, Martin Luther King didn’t stand up and say “I have a complaint to make”; he had a dream of equality and justice. He inspired a movement.
When I was first allowed home from hospital, brought to the house by ambulance and carried in on a stretcher, nothing had prepared us for how difficult those first few weeks were going to be. It was a shock and it was hard. My wife told me later that she took a moment by herself and cried out to God “it’s too hard, I can’t do this”. She pictured a tunnel. Everyone has heard of the saying ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’; in her image she looked and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel – it was too long. But then she realised as she looked around that the light wasn’t at the end, it was at the start; at the point where we were at that moment. She had our strategy – for us to cope as a family was to be fully present in the moment, not an hour later, not the next day or week etc.
Diane and I have come to the conclusion that you can’t always plan life; you can’t work it all out. You can however learn to grab someone’s hand and journey with them through the ups and downs. We are not designed to cope on our own. The last 17 years I have been a visionary, always looking to the next thing. I am not saying that’s a bad thing, yet I now wonder how much I have missed out on being truly present in the moment. I was always grabbing the iPhone to send yet another email instead of reading to my kids or watching them chase each other around the house. I would be rushing to the next appointment, not even making eye contact with those around me, being so pre-occupied with the next interview. Though I was physically present, I was not really there.
Brennan Manning writes,
“To stand stubbornly in nowhere, rejecting the restlessness that urges us to move on, silencing the voices that entice us into tomorrow, and blowing off the demonic whisper, ‘look busy – Jesus is coming’ is an act of unflappable trust in the presence of God”.
I hope to carry on dreaming, but now I want to balance it a bit with not being just physically present but being fully engaged with the moment, remembering that people are always more important than anything else. My Mum is one of the longest serving Hospice nurses, and when people are coming to the end of their lives she tells me that they are not interested in their bank account or accomplishments, they just want to be with the people they love.
Trysten Owain Hughes says,
“Pain might well remind us that we are alive, but love reminds us why we are alive”.
Next week I hope to find out when the frame on my leg comes off. I will then need to have a brace put on; I don’t know how long for but hey, one day at a time.