Last week, I learned a valuable lesson.
40-somethings probably shouldn’t be racing their six-year-old at the trampoline park.
Ankles tend to give and tendons get torn and ligaments pop and moms offer Oscar-worthy performances while waiting for husbands to cart them to ERs.
Unlike my fall while I was running, I opted not to google “death by sprained ankle” or anything about the injury. There’s nothing WebMD nor the Mayo Clinic can tell me I didn’t already know. Rest, ice, elevate, medicate, stay off the thing. The ER x-rays showed no bone breaks and likely no major damage. Just the run-of-the-mill sprained ankle.
But it did give me several days in bed. Also, I’m reminded how old I am every time I have to use the crutches to get from the bed to anywhere.
As I added up the list of illnesses and ailments and injuries we’ve had this year, I started to feel some discouragement.
You know that feeling?
That Ugh, not again, good grief, need chocolate now feeling?
A snack and a nap…
My previous pastor preached a sermon on Discouragement based on the passage in 1 Kings 19 where Elisha is running for his life from the evil pagan queen Jezebel. Elisha goes into the desert, finds a large bush, and sits down in the shade to rest. There, he begs the Lord to let him die.
In the previous chapter, Elisha had gone into an epic Battle of the Gods against those who worshiped Baal. God won, obviously. He sent fire from heaven that burned up the soaking wet sacrifice, the stone of the altar, the ground around it, and every drop of water in the ditch surrounding the altar. Elisha then caught and killed all the prophets of Baal.
So he went from an incredible victory to being hunted down fearing for his life.
The very definition of, “well, that escalated quickly.”
Underneath that large bush in the desert, Elisha falls asleep but God sends an angel to wake him up so he can eat and drink before he goes back to sleep. Our pastor would say when life has us so discouraged we can’t find the strength to go on, “Eat a snack and take a nap!”
He says it’s the most recited phrase he hears from his sermons.
The advice is so practical and applicable to all of us. I mean, sometimes we really do just need a snack and a nap!
For our family, the passage later in the chapter took on fresh meaning when we moved back to a part of the Metroplex we’d left five years earlier.
“The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came…” ~1 Kings 19:15 (NIV)
The Lord tells Elisha to go up the mountain to wait for Him to come by. Elisha goes and as they are talking, he’s telling God how awful things are and how hard he’s worked and that he’s the only one left who worships the one true God.
God gives him a To Do list to tackle when he gets back to the place he just left. But before he can get to the business of doing the work God has planned for him, Elisha has to retrace his own steps.
He must go back the way he came.
We felt like God sent us back the way we came as well. And there has been nothing but blessings and joy in that process.
Well, and now a sprained ankle.
Sometimes, before we can move ahead we have to go back…
Over the years, I’ve learned the process of going back to start again to be especially true when we’re in a season of frustration and disappointment and discouragement.
We don’t get the house. Passed over for the promotion. The pregnancy test is negative for the 16th month in a row. The cancer battle has to go another round. Our scale didn’t budge last week. We injure ourselves during the last weeks of summer.
You and I have a choice to make. Radically change course…again…or go back the way we came and try again.
More houses to see, more projects to lead, more treatments to try, more rounds to endure, more commitment, more learning to rest. None of those are new or different. Some tweaks are made. Vitamins added, water for refreshment, a little nourishment for our body and time with the Father for our soul. Then we just start again.
As I sat in my discouragement, feeling benched for the rest of these precious summer days, I went back the way I came.
I searched for gratitude.
Grateful for friends to watch the kids, grateful for frozen pizzas and Netflix, grateful for an ER near the trampoline park (which, genius move, Texas Health Services), grateful for my husband’s job that allowed him to be home with us, grateful for the pillows he brought me in the middle of the night when I was laying on the bathroom floor in pain, grateful for ice and insurance, grateful for muscle relaxers and a velcro boot to keep my ankle immobile. Grateful it’s the end of the summer and not the beginning. Grateful I’m active and that likely saved me from breaking it. Grateful for the prayers of friends and the offers of Sonic runs.
So very grateful.
I found, once I went back to what I knew to be true (God is good in all things), what I knew God had taught me (there’s is always something to be grateful for), back to the place where God met me, fed me, gave me rest, my discouragement burned up in the heavenly fire of thankfulness.
Whatever your place of discouragement, eat a snack, take a nap, spend some time with Jesus. Then after your rest, go back to the things He taught you in your previous seasons of feeling like you just can’t go on.