Like the Biblical Jacob, I limped toward my future. Unlike Jacob, RICE helped me take more steps into my future without limping.
My last Sunday as a full-time pastor ended on the first Sunday of June, 2007*. After nearly nine years, it seemed the right time for a new direction. However, not all on my last day went as planned.
The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time â€“ for July 31, 2011
â€œJacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.â€ (Genesis 32:24)
But the planned events were grand: Communion was celebrated, newborn twins were blessed with gentle words, some of my favorite hymns were sung and a few surprises for me were tossed into the worship mix. What a wonderful day!
And I was also injured.
Near the beginning of the second worship service, I tore or bruised a muscle in my left leg. Yikes! Just after the greeting time–when church members exchange hugs, handshakes and a hearty, â€œMay the peace of God be with youâ€â€”I retreated to my seat near the pulpit. On my return, I did a little hop-skip step. What a happy fellow!
With one step, life felt good.
With the next step, it seemed like a BB gun pellet smacked the side of my left calf. In the proverbial split-second, a burning sensation spread across the entire calf. Suddenly, I could barely walk.
Physically, the remainder of the day was miserable. I preached with pain rippling up-and-down my left side. At the afternoon farewell festivities, an outdoor picnic, I leaned all my weight on the right leg. Instead of wandering about a lovely tree-shaded patio to share with folks, I claimed the nearest chair. Grrrr.
Jacob, in Genesis 32, wrestled with a man â€œuntil daybreakâ€ on the night before he would cross the River Jabbock for a reunion with his brother Esau. Genesis, with its terse, dramatic language, suggests Jacob was in a holy tussle with God. As one of the Bibleâ€™s great liars and cheatsâ€”and also an unabashed lover of his Lordâ€”Jacob is soon to risk his future. Tomorrow he will wade across the Jabbock and seek his brotherâ€™s forgiveness.
Jacob longs for a new future. But first God wrestles with him. When I read Genesis, I donâ€™t see God â€œtestingâ€ Jacob. I donâ€™t believe God tests us. But the scene boldly reveals the Holyâ€™s desire to remind Jacob, the scoundrel, that faith prevails. Risking forgiveness rather than harboring old wounds is the best preparation for a new way of life.
And yet the nocturnal struggle costs Jacob. According to Genesis, his hip was â€œput out of joint as he wrestled with him.â€ At dawn, he would limp toward Esau, and his future.
What caused my injury? I have no idea. One step: Good. Next step: Bad. At home, I Googled â€œmuscleâ€ and â€œtearâ€ and â€œbruiseâ€ and found descriptions matching my pain. The moment I read about the â€œBB gun pelletâ€ feeling, I knew what I had to do for my damaged muscle: RICE.
RICEâ€”which Jacob probably didnâ€™t doâ€”helps heal bruises. â€œRâ€ for rest. â€œIâ€ for ice. â€œCâ€ for compression. And â€œEâ€ for elevation. Itâ€™s the standard, effective medical advice for all saints and scoundrels with soft tissue injuries. If only Jacob had known, eh?
What a way to end a ministry. Though I would have preferred a stride rather than a stagger on my last walk from church, my limp helped me remember that RICE works for more than one sore muscle.
All of us need â€œR.â€ Why do we wait until injury or exhaustion to rest?
All of us need â€œI.â€ Cool down, baby! We live in a hot world. Raising children, paying the bills, surrounded by politicians using fear to claim our votes, gas prices soaring. Like over-used pistons, we heat up. We burn up with too much on our to-do list. What helps ice you down? Cool down? Get refreshed?
All of us need â€œC.â€ Compression. Frankly Iâ€™m taking some time off to hug my wife a little more, and to let my dog wrap herself around my feet. I need that kind of compression. One of the gifts I got at my farewell party was a T-shirt reading: â€œLord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am.â€ Yeah!
All of us need â€œEâ€ time. Elevate. Medically speaking, itâ€™s important to keep the injury above the level of the heart. But personally speaking, in this sabbatical year, I desire to elevate my way of looking at the world. What, because of busy-ness or useless worry, do I miss? What havenâ€™t I taken the time to experience?
A week after limping away from church, I was nearly healed. RICE works. But I hope I remember, in the days to come, that RICE works for more than just the temporary healing.
(*After again reading the story of Jacobâ€™s struggle in Genesis 32, I decided to re-post this June 2007 reflection. I left the church I then served for a sabbatical, with establishing a web page as one of the yearâ€™s goals. This was one of the earliest essays placed on the site, probably then only read by family members and a couple of folks who took the wrong turn on the Internet and ended up at larrypatten.com. Jacobâ€™s wrestling match with God, and his limp toward the future, inspires me. Humbles me. Four years later, Iâ€™m still limping forwardâ€¦)