When life throws you a curve ball [and jelly!]

My wife believes there is nothing good at all about green jelly and so the only time it gets a run on our family menu is when Megan makes my Dad his favourite Christmas trifle. Well, Christmas has come early this year, with a bowl of sweet and tangy lime jelly on my hospital menu each day. And so to test my wife’s theory, I have ordered a serve each evening. 

Sure, it may score low on the nutrition scale, but it has been a reminder of simple comforts amid an emotionally stretching week.

Before surgery on Monday there was the prospect I could be home within three days, but falling over 24 hours after spinal surgery, quickly removes the “early release” stamp from your medical file. And the type of surgery I had, won’t show lasting results for another few months at the earliest. 

While in hospital I have ordered a few Christmas gifts online. In one instance, if I ordered before 10am, Amazon promised same day delivery!

That’s the immediacy that our minds are seduced with each day. And then Megan meets someone who has had similar surgery to mine and she reports it took her 12 months to see good results.

And as I discovered on Tuesday, within minutes of a fall and met call in hospital, your independence is temporarily removed. The self-control default is instantly re-set and you have to buzz for a nurse to wheel you to the toilet. And if I hadn’t had enough MRIs over the last year, I was back in for two more within 24 hours.

We live in a world that beckons us with the values of immediacy, choice and self-control. It’s so easy to become captives to these things. And then you find yourself lost in the bowels of a big hospital, with a ward assistant who has only been on the job a few weeks, and your blocked by trolleys of medical supplies. 

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure where we are,” says the embarrassed young man. “We’re going to be late for the MRI.”

And as I smile, I remind myself I have nowhere I need to be. No emails to answer. No zoom meeting to attend. The wordle will still be there when I get back to my room. And so we chat and I hear some of this young man’s story. He didn’t think university was for him. He’s not sure what he wants to do in life. But he likes being around people. He likes caring for others. He thought this would be a good people job. He laughs: “But I am not too good with directions”. By the time we get back on track, I need a toilet break. We get to the MRI lab and I am quick to apologise for holding things up with my toilet stop! The young man smiles. And I’m reminded that so often in life there are delays and detours. And there is much to learn about self and others in times like this. We miss then when all we’re searching for is the destination. 

This week I have again been placed in situations where vulnerability, humility and dependence was required. It has been stretching at times. But these times always present opportunities for self awareness and growth.

“You just have to be a patient, patient,” one of my nurses quipped with a smile on her face, in the early hours of the morning this week. I may not have been looking for advice like that at 2am in the morning, but she was right. I put my head back on the pillow and remind God, just in case he hasn’t worked it out yet, that patience is not one of my sweet spots!  

Patience is something I have always needed to work on – and in the season I find myself in, it seems I have signed up for a master-class.

Following my fall on Tuesday, I am escorted by a physio on my daily lap of the ward. Today, ready for a lay down, at the end a 100m stroll, I met a woman who also had a recent fall. She happens to be 25 years older than me, and yet up until her fall she was a very independent woman, who still drove a car. She has now been told she will likely never walk again without assistance, let alone drive. 

Patience – time to breathe, time to listen, time to learn. A perspective refresher. 

And as I have reflected on this week. Patience itself is a call to counter cultural living. In a crazy, busy, 24-7-365 world, time has become one of our most precious – and yet wasted commodities. 

When Jesus slowed. When Jesus was still. When Jesus was quiet. When Jesus escaped immediacy, crowds and the pressure cooker of people’s expectations – what was he doing? He was actually doing something quite radical. He was fostering and modelling counter cultural attitudes and behaviours.

One such attitude is gratitude. 

Yes, our health system is far from perfect, but again this week I have been reminded of how good it is for most Australians. And as one who can afford private health insurance, I am reminded of the need for people like me to advocate for others who need a better and more accessible public health system. 

This week I have received many messages of support and care and as I sat with a dear friend today, I was reminded of how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful “tribe” in my life. Those who stick with me in all seasons. Those who drop a meal into my family. Those who offer child care. Those who send emails and texts. Those who send a caring gift. Those who presence and prayers is a reminder of the presence and peace of the comforting and caring Good Shepherd in my life. 

Another attitude I have been reflecting on is the capacity to graciously receive. 

Yes, Jesus came to give, but he also received. He allowed those around him to meet his needs. He made himself vulnerable to others. He knew he needed others in his corner. And he graciously received.

Many of us are very good at giving. We give of ourselves regularly. We enjoy the privilege of serving others. Sometimes givers find it hard to receive.

This week I have been blessed by the serving heart of health professionals, particularly over-worked and under-paid nurses, who have been wonderful in their genuine care.

And last night – there it was – front and centre before me. Arli has had several trips to hospital and I have stayed in the hospital with him. I’ve been there trying to calm him when he was overwhelmed with pain. I’ve pulled my hair out trying to get him to take his medicine (offering it to him in a Maccas frozen coke). And he has missed the bottle and sprayed me with wee on a few occasions. But I keep turning up because of my absolute love for him.

And there he was last night, holding my hand tightly as he took his Dad for a walk around the ward. There he was pouring me a glass of water to take my tablets. There he was sitting by my side on the hospital bed, asking me did I need his help.

The receiver had become the giver. And I was being blessed most of all by his gorgeous, loving heart.

I have been on the receiving end of so much care over the past few years, led by my amazing wife, and championed by so many others. For this I am humbled and thankful. Thank you for not only caring for me, but teaching more about the power of humbly and graciously receiving and modelling the generous, giving, loving heart of the Good Shepherd, Jesus. 

Time to sign off, dinner, with lime jelly for dessert, is on it’s way! 

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