In November of 2022, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I underwent ALSF (Anterior Lumbar Spinal Fusion) surgery due to disc degeneration. Basically, 70% of the disc that was supposed to be cushioning and protecting between my L5 and S1 discs in my lower back was gone.
They warned me this was about a year-long recovery. The Friday before surgery, I taught my final two fitness classes for three months. The first month after surgery, I had to use a walker at all times. Slowly, in the second month, I was able to use a cane most of the time. By the third month, I was able only to use the cane for longer distances (think parking lots), but for short distances around the house or office, I could do okay without it. Now I am here at the four-month mark as I am writing this, and I don’t even know where that cane is, come to think of it.
Typing it out, it sounds really fast, but living it has been a whole different story. Rest is not something that comes naturally for a driven, recovering people-pleaser like me. I am still learning, but I want to share with you some of the tips the Lord is so kind and patient to teach me along the way.
1. Accept the help.
But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.
Two of my best friends surprised me and cleaned my house while I was in the hospital, and my church set up a meal train for us, and I am so incredibly grateful. I never realized what a HUGE blessing those small acts of kindness could be until I was on the receiving end. Accept the help. Doing so allows those people God has placed in your life to be the blessing He created them to be. You must accept the help for their calling to be realized. It is not weakness, it is humility and coming alongside and being part of God’s plan.
2. Give yourself grace.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Naturally, I place myself on a much higher pedestal than the one God built for me. This leads to a great deal of falling short because my standards for myself are not the same as God’s standards for me. This pride is a sin that has mastered my over-achieving personality for too many years. Through this rest and recovery, I have been forced to give myself grace when I cannot do the things my mind tells me I “should” be able to do. Walking in God’s grace starts with godly expectations and no longer “should-ing” on ourselves.
3. Look back at how far you have come.
Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
I had a realization at the three-month mark in my recovery. I was so desperate to be done recovering, I was solely focused on the fact that I was still limping and limited. One day while I was talking to a friend, it dawned on me: look at how far I have come, not how far I have to go. During those first couple of days in the hospital, it took a walker, a brace, and a strong nurse to get me out of bed and the two feet to the restroom. Three months later, I was having this “woe is me” moment right after teaching a yoga class that I walked myself into. Oftentimes the key to gratitude is the same as hindsight…20/20.
4. Don’t fear the future.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.
I can spend so much time spiraling down the path of “what if.” When it comes to my recovery. I can easily slip into the mode of “Am I where I should be?” “What if I never stop limping?” “Is my endurance increasing?” “What should I be doing?” and so on and so on. In those moments, it is important to stop and remember that I am not in the future, but God is. He has promised to always be behind me, beside me, and ahead of me on my journey. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow because God is already there.
5. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.
I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to the skillful; for time and chance overtake them all.
There will be roadblocks. There will be rough days. There will be days when instead of getting better, things feel a little worse. Those days have a tendency to start in my body and travel to my head. I pray for God always to be there to stop the intrusive thoughts before they reach my heart. This journey is not meant to be a straight line up the mountain, all nice and paved. In fact, a journey worth traveling rarely is. This hike is not for the strong of body, the brave of spirit, or the wise of mind. This is for those who are humble enough to say, “I am weary, Lord give me rest.” This is for those who do not look to their own strength to succeed but to the strength of God to get them through. This is for me; this is my story. It may be your story, too.