Leading a trip late last year, my co-instructor and I decided to enjoy a quick dip in the river. We floated around the bend of a gravel bar, taunting the travelers on shore and encouraging them to join us in the delightfully refreshing, cool water. As we neared the end of the bend, we began to swim to shore, and that’s when it happened. I rolled over, and my knee slammed into a rock protruding from the river bottom. As pain radiated through my leg, I dragged myself to shore, trying not to draw attention to the injury. My co-leader cast a worried glance my way as I stood and gingerly walked toward the canoes. I whispered a prayer to God that whatever had happened internally to my knee would not interfere with the trip. A great deal of prayer and the Lord’s grace made it possible for me to complete that trip.
The injury I sustained is called Patellar Tendonitis and is commonly known as Runner’s Knee. It is a typical overuse injury in which the tendon tears due to being overworked, and the most effective treatment is rest. Right! As a wilderness leader, I doubted that would happen any time soon. However, a slow recovery ensued, and it has been a healing that has in many ways mirrored my walk with God over the past year.
It took two full months for me to admit and accept that my knee needed to truly rest in order to recover, just like I can be a bit stubborn when God is trying to refine me. Psalm 62:5 says “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” Rest is difficult for me. How often I try to find rest in my athleticism, my natural gifting, my ability to manage and maintain relationships, details, and more! There is so much to do and so many things to distract me, leading me to depend on myself or think that I must be the one to accomplish everything. And in the process, I end up weary, worn out, tired. As I accepted my injured tendon’s need for physical rest, I realized God was guiding me to emotional and spiritual rest, also. Jesus promised, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) What an invitation and gift straight from God! Rest is an invitation from God to let go of control, an invitation simply to receive rather than work for rest.
Once I finally accepted that my tendon needed rest, I began a rehab regimen. At times I made encouraging progress, and other times a great deal of pain and discouragement overwhelmed me. I am finding seasons of growth in the Lord are like this. Some days, I live fully confident and hopeful in the work God is doing. Then come the days when despair knocks, and I let it slide its foot in the door, inviting fear, doubt, and insecurity to creep in. This is why Paul says in Philippians 2:12 to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” and in Ephesians 4:27 to “not give the devil a foothold.”
I hoped for quick results from the rehab on my knee. After a couple workouts, I wanted to be running miles again, but that’s not the way it works. Strengthening the tendon has been a slow, repetitive, and often painful process. There have been days where I have wrestled with anger toward God, and there have been days when I have been able to let go of my frustration and lack of control. The healing process is an invitation to admit my limitations, humbly acknowledge my weaknesses, and run to God in dependence. In reality, God is the only one who can bring about the healing I long for.
With the three-month rehab complete, I chose to ease back into running. I started out walking—increasing mileage, adding weight in a backpack, and doing hills to make sure the knee could endure the strain. After a full six weeks of walking, I felt joy in running again. Setting first one mile and then two and then more as my goals, I slowly worked my way back to the distances I most enjoyed. This re-entry into physical fitness brought with its pain an invitation ultimately to choose hope.
Running seems harder some days, the sore muscles seem to take longer to recover, simple movements at times seem to elicit more concern for me. There are days I question whether I will ever be able to run or move with the ease I once did. These questions bring up doubt, fear, and wrestling with identities. And yet, I also get to experience the enjoyment of exercise and activity. Each day as I lace up my shoes, I am thankful that I can run, even walk when there are so many who cannot. You see, I have the daily choice to live in the despair, fear, doubt, and insecurity that Satan tries to convince me is true OR choose to receive God’s invitation to truth, love, acceptance, strength, and grace.
While my journey is tiny in comparison to Job’s journey of wounding, restoration, and healing, I am comforted by his words: “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15) God invites you and me—regardless of circumstances, struggles, and even injury—to choose to place our hope in Him, to fix “our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) I choose hope!
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.