It was the oversized canvas beach bag with the red straps that finally forced me to admit it. My husband went ahead to set up our sun canopy and chairs, the boys dashed off, lugging our towels and balls and boogie boards, and I stashed a pro-level supply of sunscreen, snacks, and drinks inside that beach bag.
For the past three months, I’d been struggling with a very swollen knee, so I slowly made my way to the beach.
It was on that boardwalk, when I was wrestling with that blasted beach bag and clinging to the weathered railing, that I had my little come-to-Jesus moment. I silently pled, “Jesus, I’m done. Please, fix this knee.”
And I’m quite certain He answered, “Daughter, I’ll take care of the knee — but please, set down that ridiculous bag.”
You should know, this same knee already sidelined me eight years ago for over a year between injury, misdiagnosis, delayed surgery, and rehabilitation. This second chapter was not welcome. Body parts shouldn’t have chapters.
I sat under that canopy in my beach chair and made the call to schedule an undesired reunion with my knee doctor. After an MRI, I learned that it was a swollen bone and surgery wasn’t an option. The prescription was rest and quality time with a lovely bionic knee brace and a very fancy cane.
And then came the blow: “No walking for at least twelve weeks.”
Now, let’s face it: I already couldn’t walk. But I hadn’t come to terms with that yet. So, hearing this, with a timeframe that stretched far beyond the deadline I’d assigned this whole thing, pulled me into web of no’s: No walking our brand-new puppy, no walking to clear my head, no walking to catch up with friends or get the mail or enjoy our amusement park passes or circle the track at soccer practice or . . . My mind kept going, thinking of all the ways walking was not just part of my physical health, but also my mental health.
As the weeks wore on, it got harder. Additional, long-stuffed-down wounds that had been kept quiet in seasons of flourishing activity would stay silent no more. The times when I would normally put on my sneakers, grab my earbuds, and get moving to work through frustration, stress, or anxiety, I had to sit and be still. This connection between my soul pain and my knee pain was tangled and deep.
This forced physical rest created soul unrest.
I prayed, “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:2-3 ESV).
My knee ached. My soul ached too. My trusty cane and brace stood as physical reminders of how much I needed to lean on God. He knew my lament and grief. He was waiting to sit with me in it, and I literally couldn’t walk away.
Why was being still harder in a season of forced stillness?
On our beach trip, as I watched the waves, I landed on the answer: I can’t be still when I’m standing in the waves. Staying at the surface of my pain, in the waves of bitterness and anger, can never give me the footing to heal.
God was challenging me to embrace the rest that my knee demanded as an invitation to go deeper with Him. He wanted me to dip below the surface waves and step fully into the deeper soul pain.
Could this forced physical rest be transformed into soul rest?
As uncomfortable as going deeper could be, I knew that’s where rest waited. Remember those underwater games we used to play? We’d hold our breath and go under and everything got still. It’s the same with soul rest. Soul rest comes when I meet God in the depths, where He already is. When I go below the surface, pause my breath, and listen, the loud quiets. The rush slows. The crash cushions.
In the deep, what I can’t see on the surface comes into focus.
In the quiet, the deepest parts of God minister to my deepest wounds.
Perhaps, then, wounds surface not to hurt us but to heal us. When He invites us to offer Him our unseen, unspoken, unhealed places, it’s so that He can raise us up. With every wound we offer Him to heal, He retells the resurrection. Every time I reach for His hem in pain, every time I weep at His feet in despair, every time I lay down the jar in thirst, He meets my longing. Every healed wound is a miraculous reminder of how He’s already pulled us from the dark. Each new healing shouts of our raising.
As the weeks stretch on, my knee brace is still firmly in place. As my sneakers gather dust, daily I make the decision of whether to sink down below the surface of my woe-is-me emotions to settle again into His rest. I’m learning to hold out my wounds as an offering, trusting that each of these wounds surfaced because He has plans to heal every single one of them.
And friend, that is my prayer for us all: That in the deep, He raises us up again.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
(Psalm 42:7 ESV)