About 10 years ago, I started experiencing some moderate low back pain. It seemed to come and go. Flaring up with activity. It would sometimes radiate throughout my abdomen, and sometimes run down my legs. I had many different kinds of test run trying to identify the cause of the pain. Those tests revealed some minor probable causes but no real answers. My doctor suggested trying physical therapy which I did. I actually went through three extended periods of physical therapy, learning a bit each time, but never finding the answer to relieve my pain. I at first declined running an MRI on my back as I felt that surgery is often the option if something is really wrong, and I was not ready for surgery. After a number of years I finally decided that the pain was significant enough that I should have the MRI run to see what I was dealing with.
I learned some new words that day. Isthmic spondylolisthesis. I had the explanation for my pain. Surgery options were explained to me and steroid injections were recommended. Still not ready for surgery, I had two steroid injections relatively close together, and found that they did not provide any lasting relief for me. Nearly 5% of the population has this problem, but only 1% of those people ever have any physical problems or pain. Lucky me!
Being a woman of faith, I’ve prayed many prayers asking for God’s healing. He has revealed to me that He has purpose in the pain that we experience in this life. I live in a broken world, with a broken back. This is temporary – fleeting in light of eternity. He clearly showed me that my broken back isn’t a surprise to Him. He knit me together in my mother’s womb with a bone that was weak and would break before I reached a ripe old age of 10. He has a purpose for me in this.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8
Then a funny thing happened. God asked me to do the impossible. He asked me to go on a pilgrimage that will require that I walk around 15 miles a day for more than 35 days through northern Spain – over mountains and across streams and rivers.
I had the spirit of Moses about me….”um…Lord, with all due respect, I think you have the wrong person. See I’m broken, I’m overweight, I’m over 40 (something something) years old, I can’t do that!” And I moved on. But as God often does, He insisted that this was His will. His ever patient encouragement and persistence led me to step out in faith (literally). On September 2, 2013, I decided to go for a long walk. I put on my tennis shoes and headed out my front door. I walked three miles out and three miles back. I could barely move once I got home. “See God, I told you, I can’t walk 15 miles! Let alone 500 miles! You have the wrong person. And besides, why would a protestant want to go on a Catholic pilgrimage to a church that (supposedly) holds the bones of James. We don’t pray to relics. I don’t see the purpose in all of this.”
But God did not relent on His pursuit of me and His purpose for me. So I began to read; to educate myself on what this will entail, on the history of this pilgrimage, on the stories of the faithful who have completed it and God met me there. He is teaching me great lessons on “the path” and on my physical fitness in the midst of brokenness. I kept walking after September 2nd and I can now manage 15 miles. I’m not sure if I can manage 15 miles every day for 35 days over mountains yet, but I’m working on it. Better yet, God is working on it.
You see, God only wants my obedience. He wants me completely obedient to Him for His glory. He loves me enough to not leave me where I am. He has more for me. I trust Him enough to move even when I know that I cannot do what He is asking me to do – because I know that He can do all things. I am finding that His “more for me” comes with more physical pain. It isn’t comfortable or easy. It is a sacrifice of the flesh; blisters, searing back and leg pain, overheating, being frozen, not being able to breathe, sore muscles and aching tendons. But I am doing my part in obedience and trusting the outcome to Him who is able. I don’t even fully know why He asked me to do this, but He is blessing me for my obedience.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:24-26
God chooses those who are the least likely candidates for the job! Who of us would have picked an overweight, broken, 40 (something something), woman for this physically demanding journey? In our way of thinking, this was a bad pick!
A willing heart who loves the Lord is what He seeks. One who is willing to sacrifice their will, their comfort, their sanity, their time, their money, you name it. (Or should that be, let God name it.) Walking with Jesus requires leaving – you must follow Him. (Please tell me you see “the path” in this! …walking…leaving) Walking with Jesus is dusty, painful, dangerous, wearisome, eternal, fulfilling, joyful, peaceful, and flooded with His great LOVE. It is a good thing. It is Jesus asking you to feed 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He asks you to do what only He can accomplish. 5 and 2. Broken backs on a 500 mile pilgrimage. You do what you can with what you have and He multiplies.
Lord Jesus, I have only this broken life to offer You. I give You all of it. I willingly sacrifice all that would hinder my obedience to You. If it is flesh You need, then I offer You this broken body. Thank You for building my faith and teaching me to follow You wherever You lead. Amen.
What is God calling you to do that only He can accomplish? What has He asked of you that will require a sacrifice?
Trust Him – He is able. Be encouraged. Do your part. Offer your body as a living sacrifice to Him. Press on.