What did you give up for Lent? I gave up the use of my right arm. Not on purpose – it was not a choice that I mulled over, not a, “should it be my right arm or should it be chocolate” type decision. Quite simply I slipped on some ice and when I crashed heavily to the ground I broke my right arm.
At first the pain was severe. The hospital gave me morphine and the doctor prescribed Vicodin. I could not do anything for myself. If I was not taking the drugs I was in too much pain to do anything. If I was taking the drugs I could not think straight and even then the pain was not fully gone. Even with the pain suppressed any attempt to do even a simple task was hampered by the fact that my arm just did not work. I had no range of motion, no ability to grip, nothing. The only thing my arm was good for was getting in the way
In this experience I began thinking of the many Soldiers I have seen and ministered to who have lost limbs through traumatic amputation. How hard it is to learn how to do something simple like brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. How it is nearly impossible to tie one’s boots one handed – and that only with long laces you can grip in your teeth (forget about formal shoes – at least I never figured out how to do it effectively). Consider how these men and women will learn (they will have to) how to adapt their living around the challenges caused by the loss of one or more limbs and all the conveniences those limbs provided.
Today is Good Friday and it is the day Christians around the world take time to acknowledge the suffering that Jesus bore in order that men and women can be made whole. Some follow the Stations of the Cross – the Way of Suffering – with each of its stops along Jesus’ trip from Garden to Tomb, others simply acknowledging that Jesus was executed for sins He did not commit – a permanent sacrifice for the sake of others. Today is the peak of loss in this season of reflection. Easter is just around the corner. Saturday is the day of Holy Silence and then, after Sunset, as we approach the dawn of Easter, the fast is broken, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and an end of our suffering – the end of the fast. People can go back to their chocolates and coffee and whatever else they have decided to give up.
Over the weeks since my injury the use of my arm has slowly recovered. It is still not 100% and won’t be for some time but it will get there. For our many amputees the loss of a limb lasts for the rest of their lives; similarly those suffering from the effects of combat stress injuries. It is a permanent sacrifice on the behalf of others. I give my thanks to them and my prayer for them today is that, as this season reminds us, our suffering is only for while – have faith in Jesus who, on the day of resurrection will restore all of God’s creation, setting it right, and making us fully whole again.