A little over two weeks ago I was able to remove the boot I’d been wearing on my right foot for six weeks due to a stress fracture. For about three weeks before that I had a lot of pain in my right shin and ankle. This meant that I could not walk my 15- 20 miles a week that I had been doing to stay healthy and mitigate stress. Over the six weeks without walking, I noticed that I became much more impatient and was more easily frustrated with small things. Some days I focused on all the difficulties and challenges and couldn’t easily find hope for the days ahead. I felt stuck, almost trapped in my house because of my injury and pandemic.
The first few walks I kept to about a mile to a mile and half, and at much slower pace. It felt good to get out in the world again, especially since it was warming up a bit. Yet, I was frustrated and it was hard to accept the limits and all I could think about was what I could do before the injury. In that first week, I felt like I would never get back to where I had been. That did nothing to improve my mood or outlook.
Then last week when I was out for a walk and the sun was bright and warm, I noticed a couple of things. First, I walked by a yard that was full of purple crocuses blooming where they had not been the day before. In that moment, I took a deep breath and felt grateful for the visible season change. If the spring had come to Minnesota, then this season of injury and despair would come to an end in my own life. A few miles later, I looked up to see two eagles soaring on the wind. And I was filled with peace. There is still beauty and wonder in the world and I get to witness it and live in it.
I’m still not back up to my previous four – five miles at a pace of four miles an hour. It’s okay, though. Between the crocuses and the eagles I accepted the body I have in this moment. It may not be what it was before and I may never get back there. That isn’t what is important. What’s important is that I can walk enough to help mitigate my stress. It doesn’t have to be exactly how it was before my injury. Besides, if I slow down a bit, I notice things like purple crocuses and soaring eagles. I feel gratitude, peace, and hope.
Hope is the tricky bit these days. I put so much hope into when I was able to walk again and after I’ve been fully vaccinated. Those hopes were built on desire more than reality. I might eventually get back to the way I was walking before, though maybe that wasn’t so great because it led to the injury to begin with. And as far as the vaccine goes, it won’t be the ticket to freedom I once thought it was. Yes, I will be able to go out more, maybe visit with friends outdoors, distanced, and masked. I might be able to go into stores. Things I haven’t done in over a year. But those same things that put me at greater risk for the virus keep me at greater risk. The vaccine will decrease the risk, not eliminate it. I will still need to be careful, more careful than most people. So I have to build hope on something other than my body which is unpredictable, and the vaccine which is good at reducing the risk of getting the virus but doesn’t eliminate it.
As I think about the future—near and further away—I think of that yard full of purple crocuses and those two eagles soaring. Seasons change. New life always follows dormant periods, winds will blow the doldrums away. The God of Resurrection has promised us a future filled with hope and good things (Jeremiah 29:11). If what we are experiencing things that are not filled with hope and goodness, then changes are they are not from God, and God is present waiting for us to turn to God and receive peace, forgiveness, strength, hope… whatever we need to get through our challenges. Take the time to look for the purple flowers, the soaring birds, the signs of new life, grace, and hope all around us.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author, and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com