Who am I when I can do nothing?


A reflection on Perseverance

Some of you reading might recall my sharing previously that I had quite a summer and fall recovering from both bicep and rotator cuff surgery. 

The question I asked myself during some weeks of that experience was “Who am I when I can do nothing?”  Dependent on others to bathe, dress, ice, transport, and more, was not to my liking.  Independence is my preference. 

Perhaps you can relate to this.

Joyce White WhitesSpace Who am I when I can do nothing?

As the weeks (and months) progressed, physical therapy required more perseverance than any single thing I have ever endured physically. The social isolation was comparable in its pain and the seeming lack of any purposeful contribution to the world equally hard. 

I thank God for all the faithful friends who kept checking in on me, transporting and calling me, sending flowers, cards, and bringing meals. Then there is my beloved husband who really outdid himself throughout this season. 

Yet for me, it was simply that…a season.  My debilitation was temporary.  One night we went to dinner at a friend’s home and it struck me hard that my perseverance was peanuts compared to another person at the table.  My dinner companion was born with a degenerative spine disease.  Her perseverance is not for a season, but for a lifetime. 

Many people asked me to write of my experience “persevering” through recent months. 

My preference would be to share with you the writing of this dear companion, Connie Chandler, who wrote the piece below seven years ago.  She has persevered seven more years beyond the date that this was written in 2012. 

She is a true heroine of mine and I share her with you now. Her picture belongs in the dictionary next to the word perseverance.  In those valleys of darkness, we all face at times, may we remember the story she recounts and may we remember the power of choice.

i choose life

As told by Connie Chandler

This month, we remember and honor the Sanctity of Human Life in a special way. My mom sent me a writing challenge, to write a poem about choosing life. I thought about writing about babies or moms or terminally ill people, but last night I decided to just write about me, and my daily choice to live. I hope it is an encouragement to you - whether you struggle with the value of your own life, or you wonder if there are other lives that are too small or weak or insignificant to value.

"Here we go again, God,"
I breathe as my alarm starts to ring.
"I don't know if I can do this thing called Life today..."
I lie still,
blinking awake because I can do
nothing else.
I wait in the semi-light of dawn
and wonder what this day will bring.
"You can choose, you know,"
my Father whispers to me.
"I always let you choose to live today or not.
Consider your choices,
and choose what is best."

The sharp pain in my hip
and the tingling in my foot
Forecast a day of stiffness
and swelling.
I take a deep breath
Wheezing and rattling
And know my tasks for the morning will be
Coughing and breathing.
I want to stretch my arms and my back,
But this blanket and gravity
hold me fast.
Glaring across the room,
I weigh whether it would be better to
Lay in this bed or
sit in that wheelchair.

My attendant - my friend -
opens the door and lets herself in
And sits in my chair,
quietly waiting.
She's giving me a choice, I realize.
She loves me and knows me,
And is letting me choose
to start my day.

I think a little more about my aches and pains,
And then I think about my patient friend,
Whose joy and kindness warm my heart.
I think about how beautiful musical poetry
Awaits in my CD player.
I think about Hannah and Kelsey and Pam
And how these friends will make me laugh today.
I think about my international students
Who will come to my home and call me "Tee-cha!"
I think about my African and Burmese teenagers
Who will make me crazy in the best possible ways.
I think about all the mysterious and thrilling adventures
Holding their breath, just waiting for me
to sit up and start the day...
And who cares about pinched nerves when
I have a Burmese baby brother named Sammy
Who gives me sloppy wet kisses?

Life isn't measured in pain, but in joy -
And the joy of the Lord is my strength.
Life isn't dependent on weakness, but on power -
And his power is made perfect in my weakness.
Life isn't defined by problems, but by purpose -
And He works in me day by day to fulfill his good purpose.
It isn't about what I can't do, but about what God can do -
And He can do all things.

It is a choice -
to give up or to have faith,
to despair or to hope.

And today, I choose life.


You can find more from Connie Chandler on her blog. I encourage you to visit her there.

Joyce WhiteComment