I have this red pencil in my makeup bag. It was left there from a stint I did in the hospital last year. I look at it and think: sadness, hopelessness, dependency…sounds depressing. And it is. Why keep it? Have you ever been on the side of want? Wanting so badly, you ache? Have you ever had to bring yourself to "humble" with the act of asking? Stripped of the little control you're pretty sure you had? Cried because you're so desperate, it's humiliating? This is why I keep it. To remind me of my want. Ultimately, my surrender… to remind me of the place my now should hold.
So, a little bit of background. Had back surgery. Have been in bed for 5 days…lots of pain and just moved to solid food. Yippee!! Sat up once to be fitted for a brace. The same day, in walks my Occupational Therapist. She has big dreams of rehabilitating me. She wants me to sit up, wash my face and stretch. One hand - yay!! Other hand, please no. Pretty sure I'm going to faint as I haven't sat up yet. Pretty sure I'm not going to like what I feel when I sit up. Sure enough. Couldn't hold my balance - kept toppling to the side or back. Blanched to the color of snow - saw stars and everything. Definitely did NOT wash my face as my hands were white knuckled to the bed rail. After fifteen grueling minutes, she let me lay back down, thankfully still conscious. I was secretly hoping we were done for the day but nope. She asks me to sit up with the assistance of the bed - you know, push the button and rise up. I'm still feeling sick and light-headed as I explain that I can't reach the button. Side note - in order for me to reach that button, I would have to twist my middle to squish my elbow in, to make room from my arm to come up, to finally push that irritating button that is SO out of reach. It seemed like a journey, not a movement. And squishing my middle was NOT an option. No twisting at all.
With her soft smile, she left the room, grabbed a red pencil (ah ha, the red pencil!) and handed it to me. It gave me an angle and 4 extra inches of reaching space, all without wrenching my spine. Using my new red tool of independence, I punched that button with superiority! This was marvelous! I can sit up all by myself! Immediately, I decided to hoard that pencil. No one is taking this tool of independence from me. It was magical. And it was mine.
This is what I'm talking about when I say "surrender.” I could barely do anything, surrounded by people freely walking in and out of my room describing their beautiful crazy lives. I was so sad and felt so isolated. I wanted their lives. I wanted to move and create and explore. I wanted to haul my kids all over and enjoy it! I loathed being in this position of want, and, at first, cried at my ruined self. I had a couple of fits, too - the kind where I was talking out loud to my God on how unfair life is and why would He “okay" this particular scenario. I cried. I was mad. I pouted. I was three again. I HAD to surrender all I wanted and be okay with what I could do. This was not a choice. I don't like "have to's" and I certainly don't like "less".
Eventually, the desperation of my thoughts brought me to deep grief and I choked at my helplessness. It was there that God finally met me and said, "I got this. We can do this. What you say, how you love - these are the things you are missing in this moment. Your hurt is power. I am using you in this place…please, look around. You may only have words but your words matter. Your words create humor and love and growth. This is where I need you." Part of me responded, sobbing, "Okay. I'm here. We got this." But, in complete honesty, (and because I'm a bit sassy) I also said, "Isn't being in a wheelchair enough? C'mon! Give me a little…something!"
I already exist in a state of less, being in a wheelchair. I struggle every day with little accomplishments, like opening a door with no button and the entrance is on a ramp. I get to hold myself on that ramp so I don't roll backwards, grab the handle of the door and, with one swift movement, while using the ramp to pull me backward, I aggressively open the door. Then, YANKING the door all of the way open, I propel myself forward, creating momentum that gets me inside the building. JUST enough that the door, at the very least, will slam into the back of my chair and crank me the rest of the way in…thank you. I am forever scheduling my day and outings according to where I can and cannot get in and whether or not I can use the restroom...thank you. My day is also made up of built in extra time because hopping in and out of a car is not a moment for me, not when my chair needs to be taken apart wheel by wheel and put into the car one at a time and, following that, the body of the chair is put in. THEN, I get to close the door, adjust my car chair, and buckle my seat belt and drive. Yup, it's a 2 minute process, not a "slip in, slip out". Thanks. Now, this is all to say that, even though I use so much time with these simple movements, I also - for perspective - have my time crushers - vacuuming, laundry, carrying in and putting away groceries. Now I get to be confined to a bed, armed with only words and a red pencil. It is hard for me to live this life of constant planning and adapting and THEN for God to say, "I need you to accept even less." What?? I already have less!
And, God, in His amazingly patient way decides to forgive my thought pattern and graciously give me a revelation. If I am watched and listened to as a person confined to a wheelchair, would shaping me to the point of even less, scream even louder? Or is no one going to notice? Of course, they notice! And those with their own hurts take an even closer look. They want to see proof of who you really are - what you're made of. They want to know you can do this because that means THEY can do their own "this.” The more desperate your reality, the more potential you have to be a testament. God was asking me to see my potential in my need. In my want. My situation was always about Him. I was focused on circumstances and He remained glued to people. People I could care about. Especially in my want. So I shift. Because I really don't want my worth wrapped up in what I do or how I look or how smooth my life is. I sincerely want my worth based on how God shines through me….I want to see people, too.
Now, I'm not saying those more fortunate are not influential and I would NEVER wish my position on another. I'm simply saying that when I have nothing, in steps God, creating far more than I could myself. The less I am, the more He can become. THIS is the red pencil. This is my surrender. My want! My loss of every speck of control drove me to see God's potential in me and His influence. Even though I'm home, recovered and driving and living my own beautiful, crazy life, Lord, let me never forget - my influence is still in my nothing. My influence will always remain in my surrender.
Jill Stigman, as first featured on Jill’s blog, Just Be