Wellness Wednesday – “Reflections From The Emergency Room”
For this week’s Wellness Wednesday, I would like to share some recent clarity I gained as I started the new year. Sometimes, clarity comes when you intentionally seek it. At other times, clarity comes unexpectedly through difficult situations that hits you up the side of the head, knocking some sense into you. This case of recent clarity I gained falls in the latter category.
As some of you may have read in last week’s SED Connect, I had an accident a few days after Christmas. My family and I went ice skating, and on my last lap, as I was coming in to finish up, I fell and dislocated my left shoulder. I’ve fallen many times while ice skating before, but the worst I’ve ever done is hurt my pride. This time was different. As soon I hit the ice, I experienced the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life. It was everything I could do to get myself off the ice with my arm hanging limp as I broke out in a cold sweat.
My loving family drove me to the local hospital, where a fantastic staff of medical professionals cared for me, gave me some pain medication, sedated me, and popped my shoulder back in place. The good news is I didn’t break any bones, and there was no serious ligament damage. However, for the next week and a half, my left arm was in a sling, I had to take time off from working out, and I couldn’t type on a computer. All I could do was stop, relax, and heal. While these things are not necessarily bad things to do, my accident forced me to do something I should have already been doing over the Christmas break.
While getting injured like this is never fun, God has a way of using situations like this to get our attention. As I lay on the couch, spending some time in His Word and prayer, looking out the window, this is the clarity I gained from my recent ice skating accident:
1) I need to start realizing that I am not as young as I used to be and adjust accordingly. Honestly, while I could have fallen at any age while ice skating and dislocated my shoulder, the healing time is going to be much longer for me now at 54 years old (soon to be 55) than if I had done this in my 20s or 30s. As such, there is a cost/risk analysis that I need to start considering when it comes to my leisure activities in life. Yes, ice skating or skiing is fun, yet what are the potential risks and downsides if I have an accident? Am I willing to pay the price for that downside at 54? For me, my answer regarding ever ice skating again in the future is a resounding “No!” That doesn’t mean I can’t be active and have fun. It is simply a matter of rethinking those things in which I might get more seriously injured than when I was younger.
2) I need to slow down a bit more in my life to rest. In recent years, so much of my life has been defined by “go, go, go.” However, when you are forced to slow down or stop completely due to sickness or injury, you realize how much your heart, mind, body, and soul need rest. Due to the demands of ministry (coming from both internal and external performance pressure), my doctoral work, and recently writing a book, I have gotten into an unhealthy pattern of working on my days off and even during my vacation time. Through this recent “time out” I’ve been in due to my injury, God has revealed how I need to incorporate more sabbath rest, relaxation, and fun into the rhythms of my life. All work and no play (or rest, for that matter) makes for a very unhealthy Travis.
3) This recent injury has taught me that it is ok to accept help from others. I am used to being very independent. However, when you have a messed up left arm, even simple tasks become challenging to do on your own. It is humbling when your future daughter-in-law has to tie your shoes, your son has to help you do your hair, or your wife has to help you get dressed. However, by being dependent on others, you learn that accepting help is not a weakness but an opportunity for those you have often loved and served to reciprocate in return. God designed life to be about living in interdependent relationships where we love and serve each other. I am blessed with an amazing family who loves and supports me so much in life – I am very thankful for them.
4) Times of sickness and injury give us a glimpse into our own mortality. While intellectually, each one of us knows that our time in this life is limited, it often isn’t until you are lying on a bed in the emergency room with an IV in your arm that you begin to realize just how mortal you are in reality. A few days after my accident, my son Kendall said to me that seeing me in that emergency room made him have to come to terms with a fact that he had never really wanted to think about – that I will not always be here. Laying in that emergency room did the same for me. In Psalm 90:12, we hear, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” While some people consider it morbid to think about one’s death, it actually brings clarity to life. It reminds us that we are indeed like the mist, here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14). Facing our mortality brings us to an end of ourselves and opens our eyes to see our need for Jesus, who is for us the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). Even though we die, in Him, we find true life that leads us into eternity, where we will experience the fullness of the new creation, not just in our spirits but in our bodies as well. Facing our mortality also helps us gain clarity in this life, helping us to count each day as a blessing from God and not assume there will always be a tomorrow.
Thank you for this chance to share a few of the reflections and clarity God granted me over the last couple of weeks from my time in the emergency room. When my son was younger, I used to tell him, “Wisdom is learning from your mistakes. True wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.” I pray that these thoughts I shared in this week’s Wellness Wednesday, in some small way, may help bring about greater clarity for you regarding how important caring for your own wellness – heart, mind, body, and soul – truly is so that you can show up refreshed and empowered for your various callings in life. God’s richest blessings and a special thanks to all of you who lifted me up in your prayers over the last couple of weeks – thank you!