On the nine week anniversary of my shoulder surgery, my seemingly endless dependence threatened the spirit of expectation with which I greeted this new year. Rather than give in to the melancholy, I decided to reclaim a measure of my independence by driving myself to physical therapy. The doctor had given me permission to do so, though not in “trying” weather. As a result, I delayed my driving debut until the snow and ice melted from the roadways. That morning’s generous offering of sunshine provided the last bit of encouragement I needed to grab the car keys. I admit that it took some doing to get my seatbelt on and to get the keys into the ignition. Once I changed gears and backed out of the garage without complaint from my shoulder, I realized I would indeed make it to my physical therapy session. Still, I drove all the way without benefit of my car radio. I didn’t want anything to distract me from the task at hand.
When I arrived at the rehab center, I could not wait to tell my therapist and my “friends-in-therapy” that I had achieved this milestone. I knew that, of all people, they would fully appreciate this accomplishment. Interestingly enough, sharing this good news set the tone of this session for me. My therapist managed to stretch my shoulder muscles beyond past limits, and I managed to tolerate his efforts with minimal discomfort. As my fellow patients and I pushed ourselves through this day’s regimen, we exchanged smiles and encouraging words.
Though I usually feel energetic after physical therapy, on that day I felt particularly empowered to tackle whatever might come my way. I jingled my keys and hummed as I walked to my car for the drive home. Apparently, all of those stretches paid off as I was able to fasten my seatbelt and push the key into the ignition with less trouble than before. I even managed to reach the radio dial. Now that was a real accomplishment! Rather than dampening my spirit with bad news, I immediately switched from the radio to the CD player.
Since I had not driven for nine weeks, my CDs had become long-lost friends whom I had missed terribly. Before driving off, I took a minute to look through them. In the end, I settled on Matt Wessel’s One Step Forward.* Matt’s music had become a supportive friend during my mom’s and sister’s bouts with cancer. I listened to his lyrics to and from my visits with them throughout their illnesses. Matt had lost his dad to cancer and his music indicated that he understood firsthand what I experienced.
On that drive home, tears stung my eyes –tears of appreciation for the blessings which we find in one another. I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving for my family who had endured the losses of my mom and sister with me. I whispered an additional prayer of thanksgiving for my therapist and my friends-in-therapy. Though our journeys are easy in the face of a diagnosis of cancer, they have still played havoc with our lives in ways that only “we” understand. As I drove, I renewed my appreciation for those who join me in the “we” of my family, the “we” of my friends, the “we” of my friends-in-therapy, the “we” of my faith community and all with whom I am a part of “we” at one time or another.
After settling in at home, I looked over the scriptures in preparation for this writing. I laughed out loud when I read 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17 because I found that Saint Paul appreciated being a part of “we” even more than I. In his letter, Paul registers serious disappointment in his friends in Corinth because they are not functioning as “we” at all. Rather, they are bickering as they differentiate among themselves on the basis of who it is who brought them into the faith –Paul, Apollos, Peter or Christ. Paul responds by insisting that there is no negotiating as to who is the greatest of their teachers. They must all unite as the “we’ who follow Jesus Christ. Only when they function as “we” will their faith have meaning.
If this is not enough, Isaiah also celebrates community in Isaiah 8:23-9:3. There he rejoices in the relationship with God which gives life to the Jewish community. In Matthew’s gospel (4:12-23), Jesus exhibits his own appreciation of community when his own heart breaks over the arrest of his cousin, John the Baptist. John is a part of Jesus’ family in both the human and the spiritual sense. His absence hurts Jesus just as our losses hurt us. Yet, even in his sorrow, Jesus embraces community once again when he calls Peter and Andrew, James and John. These are the first of the followers who will become the “we” who journey with Jesus to Calvary.
It occurs to me that even when I feel isolated and alone, God sees to it that I am a part of the “we” which includes God and me. God resides in each of our hearts and so it will be until we reside with God. In the mean time, “we” live and love, work and learn together until “we” make our final homes in heaven.
©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved