I’ve been in Boot Camp for months and I’m exceptionally eager to be done. I’ve never heard anyone describe his or her Boot Camp experience as pleasurable. The military uses Boot Camp to break the will, to teach unquestioning obedience to authority, and to make young men and women into capable and ready defenders of our nation. It is definitely a learning experience, but usually not a pleasant one.
My Boot Camp has been of a different variety. I’m not in the military and am way beyond the age for them to want me. My experience has been with an orthopedic boot which I’ve been wearing for too many months. The surgery I had in December was supposed to be healed in mid-March. It’s now mid-June and I’m still in the boot most of the time, wondering if my foot will ever heal. Since I love to hike, walk, and garden, this literally frightens me to tears and sometimes robs me of sleep. Will I ever be able to hike again, take the dogs for a long walk, or mow my own lawn? I honestly don’t know. I hope so, but not knowing is way too scary.
I have asked God “Is there something you want me to learn from this experience?” I’ve learned enough lessons for a long blog and enough spiritual truths for a retreat workshop. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.
If you don’t use a body part, it becomes very weak. After surgery the doctor ordered six weeks of total non-weight bearing on that foot. This meant two weeks of using crutches, followed by four weeks on a knee-scooter, and then wearing the boot for what was supposed to be another six weeks. At the end of twelve weeks, the X-rays showed that the foot had healed enough to transition out of the boot. With great joy, I went home, took off that boot and started to walk. Whoa! Hold on Nellie! My first step revealed a big problem. My leg was so weak I thought I might fall. The months of inactivity had left the ankle and calf muscles extremely weak and with a tendency to jiggle. I could barely stand. I became an immediate “wall-surfer’ to give a bit of stability as I took those first steps.
A couple of weeks passed and although I was temporarily out of the boot, I was certainly not out of pain. Why did the foot still hurt so much? The doctor ordered a CT scan to try to identify the cause of the pain. The CT scan showed what the X-ray could not detect. Deep inside my foot, the bones had not fused. I had been walking around on a broken foot. I agonized as the doctor indicated “six more weeks in the boot,” but I learned another profound lesson. Even when something appears to be healthy on the surface, if it is broken deep inside, it will continue to hurt. Many who look healthy and even happy on the surface are broken deep inside. The emotional pain will never go away until what’s broken deep inside is dealt with and allowed to heal. That usually takes far more time than we would like.
One of the problems with wearing the boot is that it elevates just one foot, creating an effect similar to having one leg an inch shorter than the other. Walking on this boot may protect my left foot which I hope is healing, but it causes a lot of pain in my right hip. The life lesson is obvious: whether in a family, a church, or a business, when one part of the body is out of alignment, it creates pain in the other parts.
What else have I learned in my particular Boot Camp? I’ve learned that a lack of physical exercise will increase the probability of depression. Unfortunately, chocolate doesn’t help as much as I’d hoped. Physical exercise releases feel-good endorphins. Digging in the dirt is good for the soul and an hour’s walk clears the mind and gives a brighter perspective.
I’ve learned if you don’t get exercise, you will gain weight and muscle takes less space than flab. Both truths were pretty obvious when I had to move the button the wrong direction on the waistband of my jeans. I’m guessing the extra chocolate didn’t help the waistline either.
Another painful lesson for me is that being unable to exercise can negatively affect your social life if your connection time is built around physical activity. My absolute favorite way to connect with a friend or family member is to walk and talk. I miss the daily walks with my friends at work—what a great time to connect and share our lives. I miss the Thursday evening walks with my daughter and the long walk-and-talk sessions with my sister. I miss connecting with my neighbors while walking the dogs. At times it feels terribly lonely. Yes, Boot Camp can be lonely, but I’m learning more compassion for the handicapped and a new appreciation of handicapped parking spots. After months in this boot, I understand more of what they go through. As I wait and hope this foot will heal, I’m connecting more with friends over a cup of tea or a meal together.
I’ve learned that hours spent in pity parties are wasted time and don’t make you feel better. I can use those hours of forced inactivity to learn something new and to do something productive. While I would love to be out walking and gardening during these long hours of June daylight, that’s not possible right now. Focusing on what I cannot do blinds me to what is possible and robs me of joy.
Here are a few of the ways I’ve used my “sitting hours” in the past few months.
I’ve learned to put together a web site. It’s not exactly the quality that web-site professionals build, but I was about 100% certain I couldn’t do it at all. Given enough time and a few hints from Dennis Brooke at NCWA, I did it! If you’re reading my blog, you’re on it!
I’ve had hours and hours to write. I’ve completed the editing of Experiencing Lavish Grace, an eight-chapter study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I believe it’s the best study I’ve ever written. Will it ever be published with my half-inch platform? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s in God capable hands if He chooses to open that door. If He doesn’t, I am certain He will find a way to use it. His Word never returns to Him void; it will accomplish His purposes.
I’ve taken hours to write some of my life stories—stories of times when I knew God was working on my behalf. I’ve submitted a story to the Chicken Soup editors, not knowing if it will ever find its way into a book, but there was time to write it. I am sharing my stories to encourage others who need to be reminded that God is still active in the lives of people today.
I’ve had more time for Bible Study, teaching twice a month and completing Beth Moore’s study of The Beloved Disciple. There was a ton of homework, and I had ample time to complete every lesson.
As I am now three months past my predicted healing time, I don’t know if my foot will ever heal properly. The surgery was meant to correct a situation that was causing pain in my big toe when I walked. Unfortunately, the pain is not better, but worse. It was an elective surgery that I chose because I love to walk and wanted to be able to continue. As I face the possibility that my choice may leave me with worse pain than what I had before, I deeply regret the decision to have the surgery. I certainly hope time will prove me wrong, but here is another Boot Camp lesson. You cannot undo the decisions from your past. Sometimes you have to live with the consequences of your choices. Focusing on regrets is discouraging and unproductive. That doesn’t mean God can’t redeem the situation and turn it for your good, but some choices you will live with the rest of your life. Choose wisely—too much depends upon it.