I am now the walking wounded. Really. Earlier today, doing something less than smart, I banged my toe. Badly. Badly enough to head to urgent care, get a shot of a numbing agent (whatever it was), and come home in a “sandal boot” and a follow-up appointment with a podiatrist. While I was there the doctor poked and prodded, shoved my toenail back in place, and told me to stay off it for a while. The big moment came when my vagus nerve responded with a “vagus vasovagal” (I think I got those words right)…and I checked out for a few minutes. Every thing got fuzzy, voices were off in the distance, I felt a bit queasy, and I lost all the ability to perform higher math functions (according to Pastor Jean I couldn’t answer “what is 2+2?” – just stared into space!)
That was my day. How was yours?
But back to my toe…and the foot to which it is attached…while all this was going, I took a look at my foot. Not, it’s not that pretty a sight, but I realized how important it really is.
Now, this isn’t the first time that thought occurred to me. Years ago, at my sister’s wedding, I preached…on feet. I pointed out that despite the common belief, it wasn’t love that brought them to his point. “Really, you all saw it,” I said, “it was their feet!” My point was that sometimes…many times…maybe even most of the time, the most important stuff is stuff to which we don’t pay much attention. Like feet. Who cares about feet? Until they hurt! Yet, without feet…
So, as I pondered my foot…and the near future of staying off my foot (or at least taking it lightly), I started thinking about the days in which we find ourselves. The things that I have begun to appreciate that before I didn’t. Like being out with out needing to be distanced. Or being able to just go and not worry about masks and crowds and viruses I can’t see. A bunch of little things.
And bigger things – like taking a vacation trip, graduation and a party for Rebecca, and sitting in the stands for a ball game.
And then, the more important things – like the people who gather for worship, the shut-ins and nursing home residents, hanging out with the after school kids and confirmands, and just chatting with visitors in the office. Things which, I confess, I sometimes took for granted much more than I should have.
And it’s not just me. A few weeks ago one of the food pantry volunteers, one of our members said,
“I really miss my church family. I know I’m not in church every week, but I really miss it right now.”
For the record, just know that if you miss your church family, Pastor Jean and I really miss you!
But again…back to my toe. So I will miss something simple, yet of profound importance – using my toe, and by extension, my foot. And as I miss my toe and foot, I will look forward to regaining use and mobility. And I will appreciate that which I had taken for granted.
For a while, anyway. Long ago Pastor Jean and I traveled to Russia, to adopt Rebecca. In our host family’s apartment, we marveled at the small refrigerator and water heater (about a five gallon tank). And we developed a new appreciation for that which we had at home, and which we had taken for granted. For a while, anyway.
But it didn’t last. In time, we forgot our “lesson learned.” We again took for granted what we should have seen as a gift.
So… yet again, back to my toe. I have a new appreciation for toe and foot…but for how long? For a while I will look forward to renewed use and mobility, and when I resume using my toe and foot I will have a renewed appreciation for that which otherwise can be overlooked. For that which, unless it hurts (like now), we don’t usually give it much attention.
Now, hopefully I haven’t lost you yet, though maybe I’m just having a relapse of “vagus vasovagal.” Maybe I’m not making much sense. But if you are still with me, let me pose three questions…
What things are you appreciating anew these days? Friends and family you have missed? The freedom to travel and explore the world? Life without fear of an unseen virus? The opportunity to gather in worship, to enjoy coffee hour, to see kids running around the church building?
Think about them for a moment. Maybe even make a list. Think carefully. What would have been overlooked and unappreciated, which now, you really miss?
Then…second…how long will you have a renewed appreciation? Like the refrigeration and water heater in Russia, what will you (for a while) appreciate, but later take again for granted?
Finally, what might you do to keep the appreciation for the seemingly little things that really do mean so much? How could you find a way to retain a new balance in appreciating both the obvious and the less than obvious?
As you do that, remember that all of these things are gifts of a good and gracious God. From a worshiping community, to the people throughout our lives. From the world and the ability to explore that world, to the simple opportunity to rub shoulders at the grocery store. Or even toes and feet.
So, ponder those gifts that you are currently missing, that you would have otherwise overlooked or taken for granted. Ponder too how in time, when they return, you might just have a new appreciation for what God has given you. Then finally, ponder how you can hang on to that appreciation, embracing a new gratitude for all the stuff – big, little, obvious, or not – with which God has blessed you.
And maybe that is a small gift we can take from these troubling and challenging times. Maybe somehow we will discover a whole new world of things that always were, but which were rarely noticed. A whole new world of gifts from a gracious God.
Like toes and feet.