by Joanna Williamson
The other night I fell down the stairs in our house. When we first moved in, we immediately thought the stairs looked steep and dangerous so we were super-careful. But the other night, I slipped, tumbled down with much noise and shock, and hurt my ankle and my knee.
It happened so quickly. It took me a minute to recollect myself together with my limbs flying in the air. After what seemed like ages of not being able to move from the spot where I landed, with excruciating pain in both my knee and my ankle, I ended up on the sofa downstairs, immobilised with my leg up and a selection of frozen vegetable packs.
I then thought about how I have never had a broken leg or anything like that, how really I have never experienced much pain at all… and how blessed and grateful I really am. I am used to doing my own thing, going my own way… so this, this I do not like at all. Here I am a week before Christmas trying not to be too wimpy about it all, but frustrated as well. It totally messed up my plans for the week to come.
I thought about Amy Carmichael almost immediately; how she on that dark night in Kalakadu, fell into a pit and twisted her ankle; how she was taken to the hospital miles away on the bumpy, dusty roads of southern India; how this seemingly small accident then launched her into 22 years of pain and sleepless nights, in a time when painkillers were not invented yet; how she faced a daily battle with excruciating pain and sleepless nights. She never recovered from her fall. I know I will… and probably quicker if I do not rush the process. I am thinking about how she got frustrated with those who wrote to her in weeks following the accident about this being an ‘enforced rest.’ She became angry about it, because it presented a mean picture of God. My theology does not agree with it either.
Referring to ‘enforced rest’ Amy writes: “These words, had an absurd power to distress. It held such an unkind, such a false conception of our Father. Till that hour, although I was puzzled, I had not had one unhappy minute. I had been given peace in acceptance. The spirit can live above the flesh, and mine, helped by the tender love of our Lord Jesus and the dearness of all around me, had done so.” And then soon after, she says: “But the Lord our Creator knows (and all who have ever suffered know) that pain and helplessness are not rest, and never can be; nor is the weakness that follows acute pain, nor the tiredness that is so tired of being tired that it is poles apart from rest. He knows that rest is found in that sense of well-being one has after a gallop on horseback, or a plunge in a forest pool or the glorious sea—in physical and in mental fitness, in power to be and do.” Amy Carmichael, Rose from Brier (p. 23)
So though there will be no Christmas shopping this year or walking around the streets of London to see the Christmas lights, or rushing around to clean the house, or ice-skating, I hope that I will be able to use this ‘pocket of time’ as my spiritual director called it, to reflect upon the true meaning of rest and find it.
Life can be so fragile and breakable but life can also be strong and resilient, and this is what I am focusing on; the incredible God-given ability of the body to heal, to recover, to be whole again, to rest.