So now I’m in the middle of my fifth month of a 6-month recovery from reconstructive surgery on my right wrist last Fall. I’m thankful that the invasive repair work and immobilization are in the past, yet I still have a long way to go until I’m fully healed. I’ve been in hard-core physical therapy now for over 2-months, and still have about 2 more to go. It’s been a learning experience in many ways.
There are so many things that the Lord teaches us about ourselves and the world He’s placed us in through the circumstances of our lives and bodies, and I have been learning quite a bit over the past few months. I love how He does that…we are never done growing and learning! Every day brings new opportunities to receive from Him what we could never produce for ourselves.
After the cast came off, I could barely move my wrist in any direction. It was very surreal and kind of scary to be honest. My impulse was to panic and push-through whatever pain I had, so that I could hurry-up and recover what was lost and “get back to normal.“ But the doctor and my physical therapist have been my greatest allies. They’ve been there before with many patients who have gone through the same thing, and have seen stories of success and failure. I committed myself to become a model-patient; not in order to please them, but because I understood that they knew what they were doing much more than I did. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to hold onto that mindset, because things are progressing very well…they’re hopeful because the repair is healing fantastically, and they think I’ll recover the ability to do most things long-term. But it requires lots of time, repetition, some pain, and p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e….which is an ongoing challenge.
Physical therapy has been really interesting for me, in that the path forward has not been generic or multi-faceted, but instead has been in embracing the minutiae…breaking down every movement into its basic parts so that over time, one movement at a time, I can learn to move again. This principle is woven into the fabric of how our souls heal as well… but we often get impatient with the process and jettison the cure before it’s finished. Prideful and stubborn, we often start with the right motivations & directions of Godliness; but get detoured along the way when the timing or result isn’t what we expect. There’s a guy like that who wrote part of the New Testament, whose journey we can learn from…someone who has been through these things before, complete with failures and successes.
Introduce Peter, chief of the apostles of Jesus Christ. A blue-collar, roughnecked, brash and prideful fisherman whose life was turned upside down by the Lord along the windswept shores of the lake of Galilee all those years ago. I’ve always identified with Peter, because I find myself in his controlling and willful responses to Jesus in the other apostles, finding comfort in the fact that he was constantly forgiven and invested into by our gracious Lord, in spite of himself. Isn’t it wonderful that the figures we aspire to in scripture had many of the same shortcomings that we do? Anyway, Peter wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, yet he was forgiven (often) and molded over time into a wise and faithful leader…by the Master who never gave up on him.
In Peter’s second letter in the New Testament, we find a little piece of soul therapy that I have been meditating on a lot lately. It highlights a list which has become very important to me:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness… make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ….if you practice these things you will never stumble… (2 Peter 1:3-10, condensed)
What I love most about this passage is the nitty-gritty one-step-at-a-time tactics that Peter lays out. Like when he says “add to your faith virtue; and add to virtue, knowledge”, you have the idea that he isn’t talking about something that you can work-out in one sitting. I look at this more like long-term therapy that takes weeks or months or years. As I look back in my own life, I definitely see that there are seasons when I’m working on one specific thing. For example, there have been times when I’ve had a voracious appetite for more knowledge about the Scriptures. But in the end, it’s not about knowledge of the Scriptures that saves us… it’s Jesus that saves us. In the same way, virtue – also translated as goodness or moral excellence – is something that is only possessed as the byproduct of faith … through habit and commitment and hard work over time. In my opinion, Peter is not talking here about some kind of spiritual recipe so you can make a batch of everything you need at one time, that’s not how life in Christ works. He’s describing how we need to break-down every broken & aberrant movement of our souls so that we can re-learn to move in the way that God designed us for, as His agents in the world. And this takes a lifetime.
If we write down all of the words in the continuum that Peter puts forth. It looks like this:
Nine character traits that God eagerly desires to form into our souls as a result of our connection to Him. Through all the trials & achievements & circumstances of life, the formation of these character traits is what God is most interested in for us.
So, here I’ve given you a little glimpse into my meditative life. I hope this inspires you in yours. I would challenge you to take these words and ideas to heart, and take them to the Father. Where do you see yourself in the continuum of the 9 principles here? Is there a place where you might be stuck? Is there a specific movement that you need to break down to its most essential part so that you can learn to move again in the way of the Spirit? Is there something you need to release, or some pain you need to allow?
The Spirit of God is the Master Therapist of souls, you can trust Him.