Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 15 - Walking in Circles - October 4, 2008

Recently I had microfracture surgery on my left knee, which I’m told will buy me a few years until I need a knee replacement. Prosthetics will be the status symbol of the Baby Boomer generation. My gift to myself on retirement will be a trip—to the orthopedic clinic for an upgrade of parts.

It’s not just golden girls and guys sporting state-of-the-art titanium upgrades; people of all ages need limbs and joints. In fact, animals are being fitted with prostheses. Several years ago, Allison, a five-inch Atlantic green sea turtle washed ashore on the coast of Texas. This little gal was missing three flippers and could only swim in circles, counterclockwise.

Against great odds, Sea Turtles Inc., a rescue organization in Texas, nursed Allison back to health on a regimen of TLC, antibiotics, and a force-fed diet of squid (you’d have to force-feed me, too, to get me to eat squid). Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay* is designing a prosthetic flipper that will attach to a bony stump on Allison’s left rear side.

I recently viewed a u-tube video of a hatchling sea turtle making its way from its nest, across a stretch of beach, to the ocean, an arduous, danger-fraught journey for such a little one. Did Allison make this trek with only one fin, or was she injured by a predator in the water? How did she survive in the churning ocean waves?

Doesn’t Allison’s story just make you weep with awe and wonder? Okay, so I’m the only one weeping into my whole-grain cereal (no squid or squid byproducts—I checked the ingredients list). Allison’s incredible journey is truly miraculous.

Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in circles, getting nowhere. This brings to mind an image of a penned up Shetland sheep dog spinning in circles, yipping and yapping ad infinitum. When I feel helpless, incapable, lost, I’m an Allison. When I’m crazed with fear or frustration, or rebelling against my circumstances, I’m that spinning sheep herder.

Life’s journey—including our spiritual journey—occasionally takes us for a dizzying spin, like getting caught in the traffic circling Monument Circle in Indianapolis, unable to exit the post-game or rush hour rat race. We feel trapped, clueless, our anxiety and frustration mounting. We go around in circles creating ruts in our lives, our relationships, our jobs.

What keeps us stuck in those ruts? Fear of change, rejection, failure; unmovable attitudes and perceptions that we cling to like a ravenous predator clings to its prey; a lack of insight, foresight, and an inability or unwillingness to learn from hindsight; laziness, stubbornness, prejudice, pride; depression, anxiety, unhealed emotional wounds from our past…

We can continue going around in circles, handicapped and disabled by swimming with only one fin, or we can strap on some additional limbs that will enable us to live effectively. Spiritually speaking, I suggest that those limbs are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Author, Paul Young, paints an arresting picture of the Trinity in "The Shack," a very popular, yet controversial book. Paul’s wife encouraged him to write a book for their children to help them understand and learn from their father’s painful past and journey toward wholeness. So he wrote an allegory in which Mac, a depressed and grieving man, has a remarkable and life-changing encounter with the Triune God.

We are all wounded and lost, sometimes swimming in circles or embedded in rigid ruts. Paul and Mac strapped on the limbs of grace available only from Trinity, Inc. Both Paul and Mac were swimming counterclockwise to God’s will, hopelessly lost in shark infested waters. What sharks circle you—a painful past, regrets over poor choices, a belief that God can’t possibly love you, forgive you, walk with you?

The rescue boat is close at hand. The life preserver has been flung your way. Do you continue to flail or relax and float in faith? Stretch out your stubs and allow Father, Son and Holy Spirit to strap themselves on.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.”
Psalm 55:22 NIV

*Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay is an assistant professor in Restorative Dentistry, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.

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