Involuntary Sacrifices

Don’t you hate it when you run across something you’ve written and realize you still need to learn the lesson all over again?  That was exactly my experience yesterday. For Holy Week leading to Easter, I intended to send a past meditation each day—perhaps as penance for my dearth of new entries. What thwarted my best intentions was also the bridle I was chafing against…
Last week, I learned I have a detached retina, which is considered a “medical emergency” because of the potential of losing one’s sight in the impacted eye. Frankly, I used to think that a detached retina meant your eyeball fell out of the socket; but then, as  Janet always reminds me, I was a Business major in college. I now know the retina is like a movie screen stuck to the back wall of the eye, and it sometimes pulls away due to age (Wait, WHAT?!!). I’ll spare you the pain and details (which involved needles, and clamps, and bright-hot lasers, and cryotherapy) but I now have several spot-welds designed to tack the retina back on the wall, and a gas bubble in my eye to press out any fluid behind it so it can reattach itself. The gas bubble means that I feel like I’m constantly looking through swim goggles and one is half-filled with water, which is surprisingly disorienting and mentally exhausting. In addition, I’m supposed to sleep sitting up for 12 days, which does not induce a sense of well-being… not quite as bad as a flight in coach class lasting 12 nights, but that’s the idea.
After nearly a week of increased exhaustion and a less-than-peaceful attitude, I was convicted yesterday that none of this was a surprise to God, and I could trust that even my limited abilities could be used by God during this time. So I recommitted to reviewing some past meditations that might be pertinent for sending out during Holy Week, and the first one I read (below) hit me between the eyes (figuratively speaking), about the attitude of sacrifice and empathic solidarity appropriate to the Lenten season, especially as we move toward Good Friday.  Sometimes our sacrifices are involuntary, but accepted and embraced, they can be an offering just the same…
Involuntary Sacrifices
I’ve finally figured out something to give up for Lent — the use of my right wrist… and the right to complain about it.
Three weeks ago, I fell off a paddleboard into 18 inches of water on a rocky coastline near me, jamming my wrist and hand.  Initial x-rays were negative, but last week my thumb was still aching, so new x-rays were ordered and my doctor’s office called saying there was in fact a fracture and I needed a cast…around my palm and all the way up my forearm, for a broken wrist!
The next morning, I was still discovering new frustrations in trying to go about my normal routine with this unhuman prosthetic device from which my captive fingers protrude. It was a struggle to not be frustrated. It was even more a struggle to concentrate on my Lenten devotion time, and when I finished I melodramatically thought of the tragic passage from Jeremiah, “The summer is ended, the harvest is past, and we are not saved.”  My quiet time was over, it was time to get ready for work, and nothing had altered my faltered state.
That’s when the revelation hit me: this minor (and temporary) infirmity could be embraced, not fought, and with Lent upon us, this handicap might be a form of sacrifice, albeit involuntary. Though I’d been struck by how very many references there were in last Sunday’s liturgy and Lenten hymns about fasting and sacrifice being the normal Christian response during this season—like it used to be for me—I hadn’t yet had the bandwidth to voluntarily sacrifice something this Lenten season.  I’d felt convicted on Sunday, both by my own lack of commitment, and in realizing how little fasting and sacrifice are talked about, much less practiced, in “modern” Christendom.
The least I can do—and I do admit it’s the least—is to not chafe under the bridle when an involuntary “fast” is visited upon me.  Keeping my eyes open to seeing these hindrances and obstacles as my “appointed” sacrifices, and responding appropriately, is a spiritual discipline I need to learn. Peacefully enduring these “light and momentary troubles” will no doubt take energy and discipline, and require me to bring not only my body but also my mind and spirit under submission to the Holy Spirit.
The payoff could be exactly what I’ve craved this morning and throughout this Lenten season: not only remembering in some intellectual or theoretical way, but also to experientially participate in the sufferings of Christ in some small measure.  Isn’t the purpose of Lent to find meaningful methods for contemplating Christ’s sacrifice?  I could do better at proactively choosing how to do this, but sometimes God puts a tool right in my palm—if I’m willing to grasp it.
March 2011
Postscript: In the week since I first wrote this, I’ve had a transformed attitude and at times almost joy (almost) about my formerly unwelcome appendage.

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