"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

13 April 2005

Maintaining My Balance

As those who know me are aware, I often only notice immediate physical realities when they impinge, usually painfully, upon my life. Normally this deficiency is a source of amusement to others and only a mild annoyance to me. Paper cuts and bruised shins are simply an expected part of my day. Recently, however, I rammed my foot into a piece of furniture that I’d been successfully avoiding for several months. After hyper-ventilating for five or ten minutes, I decided I must have really broken my toe.

Since then, the bedroom has been rearranged, thanks to a sweetheart of a husband, and I have become painfully aware of just how valuable one’s little toe is. I am quite sure I’d never before paid attention to it other than to note its odd inherited shape while clipping my nails. Now, however, I realize that it governs my every movement.

I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve missed work in over twenty years. One of those was the day after breaking my toe; I tried, but by noon that Friday the pain so overwhelmed me that I had to go home and get my shoe off and my foot up. Throughout the weekend I limped about on the inside of my foot, causing my entire leg to tighten and ache. Sunday I had to stay home from church. Halfway into the week, finally wearing shoes again, I can’t walk down stairs and have to consider every step I take to avoid excruciating pain.

Because of all this, I’m constantly grabbing hold of things to maintain my balance. As I careen down the hallway or stagger up the stairs, fall into tables or grab the chalk tray to keep myself upright, I see the amusement in others' eyes. True, they try to hide it when they find out why I look like I'm half-drunk, but when I laugh about it they freely join in. It is, after all, pretty ridiculous.

The analogy is obvious, and perhaps old hat. But old hat often only means genuinely true, and the obvious often bears repeating. I, at least, tend to forget it all too readily.

How often we neglect to think of those who do their jobs out of sight and out of mind – until for some reason the jobs aren’t done. And when the restroom isn’t cleaned for a day or two, or boards aren’t erased in the classroom, or there’s no response to my aggravated call about the air conditioning freezing me out of my office again – how often do I whine and gripe instead of considering that the one who does such a job may be ill or overwhelmed with work or facing a family emergency, may need my prayer instead of my complaint, my friendship instead of my irritation? How often do I think to seek out these usually unnoticed workers and thank them for their sacrificial work on my behalf, instead of arrogantly accepting it as somehow my due?

And am I willing to be an unseen worker myself? Am I willing to just do my job without demanding and expecting recognition, to be unconcerned when I’m taken for granted and unnoticed? Do I work to be seen by men, or to the Lord to serve Him by serving His creation as He’s called me to do? And do I ever stop to realize how important my own spiritual health really is, that I can do harm to the entire body by neglecting His call on my life?

It’s not just about me. How hard that lesson is to learn, no matter how well I know it. Thank the Lord for His mercies, and His reminders of the obvious and often-taught. Even the ones that set me up as an object of amusement. A little laughter about oneself is, after all, rarely misdirected.


Fieldfleur said...

"And do I ever stop to realize how important my own spiritual health really is, that I can do harm to the entire body by neglecting His call on my life?" I appreciated this line a lot and seem to be grappling with this (and the recognition part) much lately in my life and ministry. Thanks for feeling that I'm not alone! Hope your toe feels better soon!

alaiyo said...

I think it is so easy to fall into the belief that my self-centeredness affects only me . . . I am glad that preaching to myself encouraged you to press on towards the goal!

And thanks for the good wishes -- I am hobbling a little less obviously now, but I am going without shoes this weekend!