Last Thursday about mid-morning, my right leg started hurting whenever I stood up. It was an overall ache the full length of my quad rather than a specific point like a tear or sprain. And since it only hurt when I stood up, I assumed it was a weight-bearing problem. I missed yoga class Thursday night because I was delivering a couch to the Burmese church, so no opportunity to stretch out properly, but I was hurting so bad I probably wouldn’t have done much anyway.
Friday morning, Cyndi and I went to Body Pump class, where I quickly discovered the pain was caused by elongation rather than body weight. I could do rows, bicep curls, even squats, but when I tried to lift my hands over my head while standing, clean and press, my leg hurt so bad I almost threw up. Any movement that straightened my leg and extended the hip joint caused intense and immediate pain. Not good.
My personal diagnosis was this went back to my cycling crash last March, even though I’ve had no similar symptoms for five months. At the time of the crash, all the damage to my body seemed to be close to the surface. I never noticed any hip pain or leg pain the entire time off, so I assumed I’d escaped deep injury.
However, it was too coincidental that this new pain originated at the same spot on my hip where I hit the pavement. Maybe the damage spent all that time getting angry, waiting for a change to flare up. Hard to say.
So Friday morning, Cyndi set me up for a massage with Bill at Integrity Massage and he spent the entire hour on my right leg, and most of that on my hip. “Is this it?” he asked, as I came up off the table in a silent scream. “I guess it is.” I knew I would feel worse before I started feeling better. That’s often the nature of healing.
That same afternoon I left for a men’s retreat near Junction, Texas, with several other men from my church. My leg ached the entire three-hour drive down to the retreat center, but it was tolerable. However, I couldn’t walk more than a few steps without hobbling, without pain.
We spent two nights at the retreat center, and I slept little either night. I could never find a comfortable sweet spot for sleeping. It was exhausting. As I flipped side-to-side in my bed trying to find a tolerable position for sleep I prayed, “God, please give me a good night’s sleep since I have to teach tomorrow.”
During one of the long nights it occurred to me how wounds can lay unhealed for a long time. In the past three or four years I have seen God heal some deep heart wounds in my life, some personal, others professional, but all crippling.
In one case, God showed me the answer as I was talking about it to a class of men, even as I told the story from twenty years ago, and He healed it by showing me how two puzzle pieces fit together precisely. Another time, God healed me after 35 years of haunting, first through journaling, and finally by sharing my wounded heart with a friend.
In both cases I thought I was over those wounds years before, and I also felt like I was old enough and mature enough they shouldn’t have bothered me anyway. But they would reawaken and leap into my life at inopportune times.
Friday morning before the retreat, as the massage therapist dug into my hip, I could tell he’d found the damage. Bill kept telling me to relax so he could do his work. I thought I was relaxed until he mentioned it, then I noticed how much tension I was still holding in my leg. You can’t heal without relaxing, but relaxing is harder than it seems. It takes intentional focus to relax a muscle that’s been hurting all day. Our mind keeps it tense to protect it from further damage.
It’s the same with our heart. Our mind keeps it tense to prevent further damage, but to heal we must relax our hurting heart into Jesus. It isn’t easy. It isn’t natural. We have to work at it.
Later, Cyndi asked why I thought I was hurting so bad. I told her my theory about awakening an old unhealed wound that had spent five months laying low and getting angrier.
She smiled and said, “Well, when you started back, you ran and biked TWICE A DAY for the first two weeks. Maybe you overdid it.”
“I don’t think that had much to do with it.”
“I think that had EVERYTHING to do with it,” she said with her eyes if not her voice.
Maybe she’s right, that my original accident had little to do with this present condition. Maybe this is one-hundred percent self-induced, brought on because I refused to listen to advice from the people who love me most.
So many of my sad stories end with the same conclusion … my own failure to follow advice. I wonder if I can do better next time.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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