What I Take for Granted

I’ve been living with some pain for the last fourteen days. At times, this flare up of arthritis in my spine with some complicating disk degeneration is a bit debilitating. It has kept me from doing things I too easily take for granted, like sitting, standing upright, walking up steps. I’ve spent a good deal of time just lying flat on my back.

It is my fervent hope that the doctors who are treating this condition are making good decisions about how to heal this. What I do know is it has given me new insight that I want to share with you.

The first is an awareness of how many things I take for granted every day: walking up the steps to my bedroom to sleep soundly through the night; sitting at a table each evening to enjoy a meal with my wife and son; getting the keys to the car and driving any place I choose for any reason that is needed; sitting in my office for hours every day to do the work I have been hired to do; packing my suitcase and heading to the airport for the next scheduled trip; holding my grandchildren and delighting in their laughter.

The second awareness is that while for me this is a temporary condition, there are those who live every day of their lives having to navigate what I, and so many of us, take for granted. In addition to seeing this with new eyes, it also occurs to me how routinely we structure our lives to meet the needs of the world most of us live in: a world that is built around the assumptions that arise from the things we take for granted. Because of that, and somewhat counter-intuitively, we structure everything to make life easier for those who live without a known disability.

I have been journaling through this journey with debilitating pain. I have been paying close attention to my spiritual and emotional health as well as my physical well-being. I am aware for now that the onset of a disabling event in one’s life, not the first time for me, carries with it two things: grief and gratitude.

A dear friend, after I told her of my current suffering, called. We talked for a long time. She had a brother who died last year but who lived his entire life with a disability. She invited me to consider what there will be in my current suffering that brings me new joy. That invitation shifted something for me – I received it as an invitation to relate to my injury differently.

The future is unknown for all of us and health issues like the one I am experiencing and  may experience again arise at unexpected times. This has caused me to look at life differently and I find myself giving thanks for: family and friends who show an amazing capacity to serve; the humility that comes with receiving the care of another, a very different experience of being the one who gives to another; time to slow down, and the joy that comes in quiet stillness that one receives as gift and not burden; the permission one gives to oneself to live with limitations, and allowing that I am not the only person available to make sure everything goes right. I have found myself giving thanks for things I have always been able to do but never paused to be grateful for.

I invite you to give thanks for the way you find your joy in the world, for the abilities that God has entrusted to you that enable you to make your contributions to the world.

I invite you to become aware of the way we construct our world to meet the needs of those who walk most easily through it – and to become aware of the barriers we build for those who are disabled, most of which we just don’t see.

I invite you to grieve and to celebrate your limits. None of us can do it all – but all of us, no matter how we live and move and have our being, all of us have something that God can use for the greater good. May what we have to give be given in love, received in joy, and create pathways of grace and gratitude for all who walk together on this, our journey Into the Mystic.