Thursday, May 31, 2007

Handling Your Handicaps

Here is a quote from "Building A Personality" Condensed from Physical Culture, by Harry Emerson Fosdick, D.D., as printed in Getting The Most Out Of Life: An Anthology from The Reader's Digest:

Once when Ole Bull, the great violinist, was giving a concert in Paris, his A string snapped and he transposed the composition and finished it on three strings. That is life--to have your A string snap and finish on three strings.

As soon as a man begins to accept this positive technique for handling his handicaps, they present themselves to him as opportunities always challenging, sometimes fascinating. Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world--making the most of one's best.

This states better than anything I have ever written about my take on overcoming the physical difficulties I face--the difficulties we all face, for overcoming is universal. Perhaps it is better said that we all need to overcome something. We can simply endure and exist, or we can overcome and live. I don't suggest that overcoming means that the physical, mental, financial or emotional difficulty goes away, though sometimes that is what overcoming means, instead I mean that we learn to play on three strings.

I read a series of books recently where the central character and a wolf could read each other's minds and speak to each other, though each maintained their own thoughts. The wolf made note that the two-legs complained of being wet when it was raining and cold when there was snow. This discontent was not part of the wolf mind. The wolf expected to be wet when it was raining and cold when the temperature dropped, and did not suffer from it in the same way as the two-legs. While most people to whom I have mentioned this do not see this as profound as I do, it has made a difference in how I face my own physical pain. I simply decide not to expect to live pain-free and thus the surprise, disappointment and frustration with being in pain are lessened to the degree I am able to change my expectations.

Because of this acceptance, I now have a cane/walking stick. I don't like the message it sends, but the stick itself is helpful. As to why more pain now? Well, the high doses of Ibuprofen I was taking for pain and muscle relaxation may have been the trigger for my ulcer. So I have given it up. The trade-off for healing the stomach is severe muscle pain, stiffness and limping. Well, okay. To the extent that I accept this as the price I am able to endure and overcome. If I expect the pain I can choose to move anyway, to work in my garden, to do housework, to type, to restain the door, to bake bread.....

What are you going to do with the broken A string on your violin? Will you keep playing your piece of music, or will you run off stage in embarrassment and lament your lost chance for the rest of your life? Once you are done with the piece you are playing there will be plenty of time to change the string. If you lose a finger, will you learn to play with one less or will you put away your violin and watch it collect dust in the corner?

Let's figure out what we can do to overcome. Where is Christ's strength going to reveal itself through our weaknesses? What beautiful music will he play through our damaged instruments?