After he examined my incision, asked a few questions and applied fresh bandages and tape, my doctor pulled out his pen and began to write on the dressings. I was one week post foot surgery (he removed bone spurs and put artificial cartilage in my big toe joint—I now have a bionic toe!) and I thought he was just being informative. No. He pointed at the line he drew, saying, “Here’s where the implant is.” Then at the dot, “You will grab your foot here” and at another line, “And here.” He then proceeded to do just that and give the new joint a fierce yank. Did you hear me screaming all the way down in Houston?
“Now, I need you to do that every hour or so, moving it back and forth for a good five minutes, to ensure scar tissue doesn’t build up around the site.” What? I have to to that to myself?! Not only does it hurt, but the whole thing just gives me the heebie-jeebies. Why can’t I just sit here, foot propped up and let it be? Or just let him do it at my check ups?
feeling sorry for myself motivating myself to do what I needed to do, I thought my ghastly toe predicament only appropriate as we enter into Lent. Without this time of reflection and penance (sometimes doing things we’d prefer not to), spiritual scar tissue can build up in our lives. We can ignore our failings, hoping they heal on their own, or pray that God would just fix us. Imagine how nice that would be, if God just came down, confiscated all our cookies and donuts, strapped us in a chair with a Bible and a rosary and told us to get busy! It sure would be a lot easier to give up sweets and increase prayer time.
As I tried to discern what my Lenten practices should be this year, I was inspired by my medical house arrest to AVOID something for Lent, no so much give something up. Since I’ve been off my feet for the better part of two weeks (and on pain meds for part of that), I’ve spent way more time on social media than usual (or is healthy, to be honest) and it has left me rather discouraged at the negativity in the world.
Certainly political divisions are a big part of it, but I see that same negativity in the larger culture as well. (Political post fatigue on social media has made the news, and I can attest that it’s harming relationships, which is certainly NOT a Lenten goal. I was recently unfriended by a woman I’ve known for more than 20 years because I asked her to post more about kids/pets/hobbies–you know, the happy banalities like giraffe births and kitten videos that are the raison d’être for Facebook–and less politics.) I have felt almost overwhelmed by hysteria, cynicism and a self-satisfied sophistication that is quick to judge the motivations and indeed, the innate humanity, of whole groups people. And sometimes, even friends. It feels like negativity is the easy path, the rut we stay in because it’s harder to lift people up and to work on ourselves than to point fingers and complain. So this Lenten season, I want to reject this nihilist world view and embrace the positive so that the paralyzing scar tissue of negativity can’t get a toe-hold (I know, GROAN) in my world.
But its not just about avoiding the negative. Like last year, I also have some pro-active Lenten practices planned. More frequent adoration and getting to daily Mass more often will be the cornerstones. Taking a cue from my “turn towards the positive”, I am going to try to pray more for those I disagree with or who just generally get on my nerves. I’ve joined the Pray More Novenas retreat, new this year I believe. Four speakers, 16 talks with reflections–a scintillating laugh riot for the soul, I’m sure. (Was that cynical? Negative? Sorry, but it’s not Ash Wednesday yet, right?) I love the 40 bags in 40 days project. Not explicitly religious, but it feel right for Lent.
Finally, for a fun, creative lenten practice, I’ll be participating in Busted Halo’s instalent photo challenge, where each day you post a picture that you feel represents the spiritual word of the day, or how you are living it. (Instagram-ers, follow along, our username is yallblog!) March 9th’s challenge should be interesting—the day’s word is “walk”. Hobble might be more appropriate for me, considering both my physical and spiritual state.
And, of course, there will be the unpleasant task of working my new cartilage. Framing it as a Lenten practice helps mentally, but I’m still squeamish. So what to do? Offer up my foot challenges for the gait-challenged and syndactyly sufferers? Pray for the intercession of the patron saint of toes? (St. Servatus of Tongres, apparently. Yes, I had to look that up.) Good options, but whatever I do, I pray I can use it and all my Lenten practices to cultivate a joyful heart that rejects the negativity our culture often embraces. Might be toe-tally tough. Pray I’m up toe it!
If you are looking for a Lenten practice of your own, consider this book, by the ladies of Y’all Need Jesus and some of their friends!