Samuel and Nathan showed up right after supper and deftly lifted the air conditioner out of its window in the breakfast room and carried it, like so much luggage, out to the porch where we store it for the winter. Then they followed me two flights to the attic and did the same with our boxed Christmas tree, dropping it off in the living room for us to set up later. Nothing to it for those young men. It took about ten minutes.
Something similar happened a few weeks ago when two other young men mowed my lawn and spread a thirty-pound bag of lime, nothing to it for those guys, but a watershed for me. For the first time in my life, I had to ask younger men to help me with simple household tasks. The reason—as most of you know because I’m such a whiner—is that two months ago, something called a sequestered disc fragment cozied up next to a significant nerve near my spine and put me out of action. And all I was doing was loading the dishwasher!
Frailty, thy name is back pain.
Of course, my discomfort is nothing compared to some of my friends and family with permanently damaged extremities, spinal stenosis, and even paralysis. My injury is not unusual for a guy approaching sixty who’s spent too much time in an office chair and not enough in the gym. I just grumble more.
On the positive side, it has made me much more conscious of human frailty, how much we take our strength for granted, and how fast we can lose it. Nothing will remind you of your temporary status on this earth like a body that no longer works right. It is humbling and frustrating.
The only thing frailer and more helpless than an almost senior citizen with an aggravated sciatic is a newborn baby. He cannot lift, bend over, walk, or even stand on his own; his muscles and neurological system not yet having learned to do those things. And that’s just one of the things that makes Advent so stunning. The Lord—the maker of heaven and earth, who spoke the stars into space and formed the spine that made the man an upright, walking creature—stooped down to become the thing that he created. To begin, as all humans do, the frailest of babies at his mother’s breast and end with his body broken. So helpless, he had to have another man carry his cross.
All this so that we may, wonder of wonders and hope beyond hope, exchange our broken bodies for ones that will never grow old.
If you find yourself facing frailty of any kind this Christmas, remember the baby in the manger who became the man on the cross and conquered death for us all. Put your hope in him and never let weaknesses steal your joy or rob you of your purpose. Even with an injury, you still have a life to live and contributions to make.