A few days ago I was out at my favorite outdoor spot in our area with my daughter. We had gone kayaking on the lake and then decided to take a short walk on one of the hiking paths. It turned into a trail run, which was fine by me since it’s a sport I’ve been wanting to take up for a while now. It was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, the sky was an incredible blue, and it was warm enough for a tank top in the morning. Spring was in its full splendor and I was happily drinking it all in. My two favorite places in the world are Mass and being outside in God’s creation. My daughter and I were happily running along when she dashed out far ahead of me and being a mother, I took my eyes off of the trail to see what she was doing. This is not something you can do trail running unless you want an injury, and that’s what happened.
When I looked up, I hit a rock with my left foot and severely rolled my ankle. The pain was incredible. I don’t yell when I’m in pain. I hold it in. It drives my husband crazy because he can’t tell when I’m in a lot of pain because I’m too busy holding my breath to let him know. This same thing happened here and I had to exhale to tell my daughter to come back. I limped a few paces and fell to the ground.
I’ve sprained this particular ankle many times over the years playing basketball, volleyball, and even running when I was in the Navy. I figured it was a bad sprain, but I was momentarily worried when I couldn’t get up right away. My husband was 45 minutes away at work and the thought crossed my mind that I needed to call him to come help me get out of the woods.
Thankfully, after the initial shock to my body I was able to walk again. Since I could walk again, I assumed that it was just a nasty sprain, so I wrapped it and went about my day while also stopping to ice it as needed. The next morning I got a prodding from my Guardian Angel through my daughter telling me that I needed to get an X-ray just in case.
Being as active as I am, the last thing I want is permanent damage and I’m quite a bit older than the last time I sprained my ankle, so I went to the doctor and found out that I damaged the ligaments on both sides of my ankle, which caused a blow out in my fibula leading to a small fracture. I’m now in a boot and I cannot walk at all on my left leg for at least three weeks and I won’t be running again for three months.
I initially took the news pretty well. I offered it up for the soul most in need in the world at that moment and I tried to focus on the positive. It could have been a much worse injury that required surgery. I will be able to build up my cardio endurance again. It’s not the end of the world. While all of this is true, I eventually found myself crying in disappointment that the weather is now getting nice and I can’t do any of my usual outdoor activities for a couple of months.
Thankfully, I can probably start some of them back up in two months with running being the last sport I can start doing again because it’s high impact. Even so, I have had to battle frustration and sadness while also focusing on giving it back to God. Objectively speaking, it is a small injury, but I must admit the spiritual aspects of it have been intense. When I jokingly tell people it’s been a great lesson in humility, I actually mean that at a much deeper level than it might seem.
Much needed humility
The last few days have been an unbelievable and sometimes painful lesson in humility and patience. I’ve fallen multiple times on the crutches, including landing hard on our cement porch when I missed the step. I found myself completely exhausted and emotionally drained after hobbling my way through Mass and events with friends last Sunday. I don’t like all of the attention the crutches are drawing from people wherever I go and people keep asking what happened. I’m happy to talk to people, but I’m an introvert, so the last thing I want is undue attention from people.
The lesson in humility is coming in many forms, some of which feel like a beating. Finding myself lying on my cement porch after a hard fall and having to wait for my husband to come help me up while I was sobbing in pain was a major lesson for me. There was nothing I could do in that moment except wait for him to come help me up. I am unable to take care of basic chores around my house and cooking is almost impossible for me as I hobble around on the crutches.
Thankfully, my sisters in Christ know me well enough by now to know that I will put on a strong front and pretend like I have everything under control—when I really don’t—simply because I don’t want to burden other people. I am the helper, not the one in need of help. I’ve had to be strong and independent throughout my life as a means of survival, but now God is chiseling away at this part of me, so that I can come to rely more fully on Him and the help He provides me through the people around me.
My friends are as stubborn as I am and so they have insisted on helping me and I in turn have learned to gratefully accept it. I cannot do this without their assistance.
Learning to be patient with myself
The other lesson is one of patience. Yes, I absolutely need to learn more patience towards other people. More than anything, however, I’m beginning to see that the person I am most impatient with is myself. I push myself hard and I beat myself up for my failures. I am harder on myself than anyone else ever could be. There’s nothing quite like being incapable of basic tasks to teach me patience towards myself.
The lessons on patience are small for me right now, but large in the spiritual life. If I rush on the crutches then I am more likely to fall or make my leg hurt more. It is in the rushing that I make things worse. Instead, I must make intentional, calculated, and patient motions to even do something like drink my morning cup of decaf coffee. I must plan how I am going to get my cup, when to get the half and half from the refrigerator, how to get everything in my cup, and then slowly slide my cup down the counter while I hop along to the edge in order to set it on the table and then hop into my seat. It is a process and one that takes incredible patience. If I go too fast or don’t focus enough then I make a mess or I lose my balance. If I don’t focus, I also leave things out and forget that I must be just as meticulous in putting everything away. All of this requires patience with myself and the situation.
This is also a mirror of what is going on in my own soul. I clearly lack patience with myself and I also struggle with humility. Some of it is vanity, but a lot if it is the fact that I feel and believe that I must always be strong, but in my great effort to internalize all of my pain and struggles I tend to do more harm to myself in the process. While I’m holding everything in and trying to be strong the weight on both my soul and my body eventually comes rushing forth and all I can do is cry. I feel things very intensely and I am a very passionate person. It’s hard to keep all of that in all of the time. My husband told me the other day that he wished I would scream more when I’m in pain, so he could know what’s going on in that moment rather than days or weeks later. He wants me to stop holding my breath and holding it in until all that’s left are tears and raw emotion. Pride. This is the heaviest sin for a reason and it is one that at times requires seemingly extreme measures to root out.
No, God didn’t intentionally cause me to break my leg. God doesn’t work that way, rather, He allowed it to happen because He knows that He can bring good out of it. He knows that it is an opportunity for me to progress in holiness as long as I open myself up to it and don’t allow myself to become overly frustrated or bitter. Even in my moments of frustration, I am focusing on offering it up to Him.
I’ve been able to use this temporary time of monasticism to pray more often. To listen to what is going on in my soul and to work to temper and understand this constantly working and analyzing mind of mine. It is only in this openness that any of us can progress spiritually. We have to relinquish our grip and open our hands to receive the gift that God wants to give to us.
That doesn’t make it easy to do and the path to holiness is painful. Not because God is a sadist who is trying to hurt us, but because we are broken and the way He has to put us back together in order to heal us is painful. Think of a bone being set when it’s broken. To mend it and help it heal there must be intense pain, but with God we are also given the gift of moments of intense joy and peace that propel us forward towards His plan for our lives and to our ultimate destiny which lies in Heaven.