Just Turn The Page

Just Turn The Page: March 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lose my life...

Like many, the Cape Fear River trail allows me to escape urban life. Adjacent to the Cape Fear River, nestled among thick luscious vegetation the trail offers four miles of hidden treasure. One end of the trail neighbors Methodist College, the other Clark Park. From the college side, the first quarter mile is wide open, with soccer fields flanking its left side and thick vegetation on the right. Then the trail bears right and plunges into a shallow valley; thus beginning a series of intense hills before leveling out for the rest of the three miles. The other side, with its level path and instant density offers a leisurely entrance for trail-goers.

I chose the Methodist side. The hills are intimidating, and 7 miles feels like an eternity away. Like everything else I do, I start strong and taper off in the middle. I pass the 1-mile mark. My spirits are soaring; easy run. Why was I fretting so much? I begin to relax a little, and allow myself to feel the run. I take in a deep breath, and the cool spring morning fills my lungs; my body tingles with exhilaration. My legs feel strong and alive. I cannot look around or I will lose my gait, so I keep my gaze straight ahead. The apostle Paul’s words stroll across my mind “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (NIV Rom. 3:13-14). Mile 3.5, I reach the halfway mark. I turn around and head back towards Methodist College. I cannot see the sky through the dense vegetation but I can feel the shift in the air. Drops fall on my face. I smile and thank God for the refreshing rain. Mile 4.5, my legs begin to feel rubbery. My spirits dip and so does my pace. Mile 5, my legs are on fire. I keep running but now I no longer feel free. I feel as if I am forcing my body to move against its will. My mind argues with my legs. Tears stream down my face. I want to quit. I hear God’s still small voice speak to me: “You must train your legs to go further than what they think they can go." I run down the hill into the shallow valley and across the bridge. Up ahead is one last hill—the first going down. “I got my full armor on, my head to the sky, I’m going into battle my horns up high, And I’m through playing games; you can see it in my eyes… I ain’t turning back, I ain’t turning back!” (Thi’sl) blares through my IPod. The soccer fields come into focus. I did it! I am hooked. I knew from that moment on, I would be a lifelong runner.

That was two years ago. Since then, I ran the Thunder Challenge obstacle course, with my dear friend Amber, and the ToughMudder, with another friend, Andrea. Last year, I accomplished a twenty-year- old dream; I ran the Army 10-Miler. My next goal is to run a marathon.

Reaching for my hand, the somewhat intimidating—looks more like a football player than a doctor, says to me, “Hi Samantha. I’m Dr. B— welcome to Duke Spine Center.”
I shake his hand apprehensively. He slides his chair so close that his knee almost touches mine. I feel naked without my husband, and immediately regret his absence.

Bending over and resting his elbows on his knees so that we are face-to-face, he asks, "What brings you here today?"

I still need to look up at him despite his proximity to me. “Well, I thought I had a really bad muscle spasm on the left side of my neck that radiates into my shoulder. My doctor ordered an MRI. When she received the results, she called me and said, ‘My cervical spine was really messed up and she was sending me to you.’”

I leaned back in my chair, away from his nearness.

He nods. “Well, you do have several things going on. First, you have spinal stenosis—a narrowing of the spine, this is a birth defect. Secondly, you have Cervical Spondylitis with Myelopathy. Basically, you have bone fragments pressing against your spinal cord, along with several pinched nerves and a disc herniation at C4-C5 level. Plus, you have arthritis that is contributing to the degenerative process; all of which contribute to pain radiation, loss of motion, muscle spasms, and loss of fine-motor skills.”

Ok. I already knew some of this--not the part about it pressing against my spinal cord. Now get to the part where we fix it and I drive on.
“What exactly does all that mean?” I ask nervously.
“Well, once things start messing with your spinal cord then it requires a more aggressive approach.”

“You mean surgery?” I ask.

Dr. B— voice fades in the background as my mind tries to grapple with the information.

 “Can I run again?” I blurt out. He stares at me for what feels like an eternity, but really, it is more like seconds.
He asks, “What do you want?”

“Do you want spinal health and longevity, or do you want to run and see me again in another year or two?”

I left his office in a daze. The tears gushed down my cheeks by the time I reached my car. Really God? Anything but running! Now what? I found a release in running! God this doesn’t make sense.  
My thoughts ramble. I bounce between grief and anger. Then I feel foolish because it’s not like my life is over. I know others who are facing situations far more difficult than mine. Still, my heart grieves. I am mad at myself. What kind of Cristian are you? You should be denouncing the doctor’s report, NOT listening to it! Samantha, you really suck at being a Christian! Where is your fire—your boldness? I feel defeated. I cannot find God in the midst of my turmoil. The storms in my life seem to be continuous—one thing after the other. Will I ever catch a break, or am I destined for hardship. I am not mad at Him; but I am mad. Yet, there was wisdom in the doctor’s words; I just do not want to accept them. 

Running is a passion of mine, among others things. Nevertheless, Jesus taught me to “lose my life in order to find it” (NIV Mathew 10:30). In the stillness of my grief, God’s still small voice speaks to me: “I am doing a new thing [in you]. …Do you not perceive it?” (NIV Isa. 43:19). Honestly, no I cannot see how this is a new thing. Regardless, I know He is faithful, and when I cannot see—He does. For now, that is all I need to know. A chapter of my life is ending. Now I must Turn the Page

We can take the darkest disappointment, break it open, and discover a precious jewel of grace inside. John Henry Jowett


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