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Rest through pain

Editor’s Note: The following is a post by one of our new Associates, Jim Crooks. It’s the first of a series of posts from ‘seasoned servants’ – people who have served the Lord for many years, and whose experiences of God’s grace and presence have much to teach us. First, a little about Jim.

He writes,

Before retirement in 2012, I had a long career in education, spanning decades. I have been principal of a couple of FE colleges, in Northern Ireland and then Scotland, and I have various qualifications in Coaching and Mentoring in Leadership. I retired in 2012, six months after my first wife, Elzbeth, died from cancer. In that year, I became responsible for the development and delivery of a church-based bible teaching course called the Joshua Programme, run by Tilsley College in Motherwell. In January 2016, my life took a different turn. I became the pastor of Tayside Christian Fellowship in Perth. I have primary responsibility for the teaching and preaching programme and for pastoral care in the church. I am also the founder of the North and East of Scotland Church Leaders Network, running biannual seminar programmes since 2013, focused principally on brethren-origin churches, of which there are over ninety in the area. Since December 2017, I have been married to Laura. I have one son, Andrew, who is married to Susanna and they live in the Faroe Islands, where they raise my three grandchildren.

Here’s Jim’s post:

My back is really sore.

It has become quite debilitating, and the visits to a back pain specialist have had little impact. Having said that, when I receive a massage, I experience wonderful relief, but sadly that is short-lived. Why is my back sore? I’m told the damage was probably caused in my rugby playing days, but that was a significant number of kilos ago.

The net effect of this is that my diversionary activity on my day off - gardening - takes me much longer. However, I still love to go out into the garden and get those seasonal tasks done. It takes me twice as long (at least) because I have to stop and rest. It’s important to let my back stretch – always forwards, never backwards.

To deal with the pain, I’ve developed certain coping mechanisms. You might consider them a little unusual. For example, when I’m weeding, I find it a lot easier if I tackle the job horizontally. Up close and personal with those troublesome weeds. Once I’m down, it’s easier to stay down. So like some wounded soldier, I drag myself along with arms, hands and toes, making slow progress around the garden.

When my neighbor first saw me using this technique, he was a little shocked. To my recollection, I simply looked up and began a normal conversation with him, as though lying prone on the grass was the most natural thing in the world. Why wouldn’t it be? He already knew I was a pastor, so he thinks I’m a bit odd anyway – now he’s sure of it!

Before you think I’m just writing an amusing anecdote I do actually have a point. Here it is:

I get the work done, but it does take longer.

To get it done, I need to rest. Regularly.

God wasn’t diminished by work, and when he’d finished, he wasn’t sitting there, exhausted by his exertions. He was providing a model for us because, as Pablo Martinez says, ‘He made us human beings and not human doings.’* It’s taken me sixty-one years to get to the point of recognising the absolute necessity for rest. I thank God for teaching me through pain, that whilst I can remain very active, I need to pace myself.

I need to rest. It isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

In my case, my back pain has taught me a lesson that has been staring me in the face for years. It’s right there in the Scriptures.

We all need rest.

What will it take for us to learn our lesson, so that we don’t forget it? Or ignore it? God speaks to us in different ways, doesn’t he? I pray that he speaks clearly to you. St. Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh.’ He prayed for God to take it away. I don’t do that. In any case, it would be a ‘thorn in the skeleton,’ since they would need to fuse my vertebrae!

Instead, like Paul, I remember that His grace is sufficient. Of course it is. As far as the pain is concerned, I just ask Him to help me bear it.

And I take twice as long on my weeding.

On my belly.

Let me leave you with these wonderful verses:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11.28–30).

* Take Care of Yourself, Martinez, P. Hendrickson Publishers, 2018.

Editor’s Note: I sympathise with Jim a great deal, since I also live with chronic back pain. Perhaps one day, you’ll also find me rolling around my garden!

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