Every time I try to push against the boundaries my body has set for me, it seems to end in more pain and regression.
I try to add a few more steps to my walk. I attempt to hold a simple exercise for a few more seconds. And my body always knows and immediately pushes back.
Why does pushing forward so often lead to falling backward? This is my experience, and I know many of you share in this demoralizing cycle that is chronic pain. Our attempts to progress and move forward, all of our hard work and efforts, so often lead to a place where we are worse off than we were before we ever started trying so hard in the first place.
No wonder the temptation to stop trying occasionally arises. Trying so often leads to failure. Hard work does not automatically mean success. We find ourselves in the myth of Sisyphus, pushing a huge rock up a hill, knowing it will roll back down, knowing we will have to push it back up again tomorrow. And again the day after, perhaps until death do us part.
But in the end we can’t stop. Because this is our life. We can’t stop or give up because then we would immediately lose all that we have been trying to gain for the past months and years. We can’t stop because the only thing worse than regressing because of trying is regressing because of not trying at all.
At least when we try we can say that we fought the battle well. We can say that we did everything we could. We can hold our heads high when people question and doctors disbelieve. Because we know the truth.
We know that we do everything we can each and every day. We know that sometimes doing everything we can isn’t enough to end the pain.
We know that we are not lazy or crazy or lying. Our bodies are simply sensitive and limited beyond what most people can understand. We know that just because we push that rock up to the top of the hill, doesn’t mean it will stay there. Something always happens to tip it back over the edge.
What are we to do? How are we to live this constant cycling life of pushing and regressing, trying and falling, working and seeing so little results for our effort?
I think in the end most of us reach a place in which we realize that we need to figure out how to live this life well, even while trudging up and down the hill. We realize we need to try and make this the best life possible, even as we walk a constant painful circle.
We learn to accept where we are on the hill, whether at the very bottom in the depths of despair, or on the top, able to see the sights. We learn God is with us no matter where we find ourselves, no matter how high or low on this hill we rest.
We learn that acceptance doesn’t mean stoping, but working towards health, even as we place our hope not in new bodies but in the Lord who is our all.
We learn to remember that this life is not the end. One day we will leave these earthly bodies and live as eternal bodies made for us by God himself.
We learn that God is gracious to grant us refreshment and joy, even in this midst of this long hard walk.
We realize that we are not alone in this march that once felt so lonely. Right next to us are others, slowly but surely pushing their rocks up the hill. We do have friends for the journey, and that makes all the difference.
This is our life. Trying and falling. Sometimes lying in the valleys in despair. Sometimes finding strength when we reach the top of the mountain. And seeking to live this life the best we can wherever we may be.
Where do you find strength for this long and tiresome walk?