The Impatient Patient: An Agape Love Story
Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate loving others and of being loved by others.
In our English language, there is only one word for the emotion of this day and that word is love. In ancient Greece, however, they had several words. One of those is agape, which means love in a spiritual sense – a selfless giving, expecting nothing in return. It is a pure and simple love that doesn’t need a score card.
I imagine that those who know me have guessed that the “impatient patient” is me, and that any type of inactivity frustrates me. I’ve rarely been satisfied with only doing one thing at a time. If I were reading, I was also watching TV. If I were housecleaning, I would start cleaning one room and before finishing, go to another and start cleaning it, go to another and start cleaning it – who attempts cleaning an entire house concurrently? When I worked in the corporate world, I was happiest working on mergers and acquisitions, better known as taking companies apart and putting them back together…making them bigger and better.
Yet I finished the book, finished the TV show, finished the housecleaning and finished the mergers, no matter how long it took or at what cost to me. I’m not sure I always succeeded in making the corporate world better, but was proud of trying, and I do like a clean house and a good book. Being able to perform multiple tasks “in a single bound”, had its drawbacks, which has taken me a lifetime to understand, but never so much as my recent lessons have.
I keep my life full of, often frenetic, activity such as writing, traveling or planning to travel, worrying, studying, researching to finish first draft of my first book and so on. In the past several months I’ve experienced the mending of three physical conditions that have also mended my need to be in perpetual motion by forcing me to learn some hard truths. God certainly had been trying to show me these truths, but my impatience caused me to be a bit headstrong at times. Yet God knew I had to learn, so He did what any loving Father would do, He stepped out of my way.
My first lesson taught me to see. Stress manifested in a droopy eyelid eventually covering enough of my pupil to affect my vision. As often happens, life gets in the way and it was only when I couldn’t get a prescription reading that I finally had it fixed (a 5 day recovery period). Imagine my amazement when I realized I didn’t even know I couldn’t see – until I could! That sentence is worth rereading don’t you think?
My second lesson came from playing golf. No longer able to use poor eyesight as an excuse for my poor playing, I went to the driving range before a tournament to warm up. Out of nowhere, when I hit the ball I experienced such a strong pain in my left side that it almost took me to my knees. I walked it off and tried it again, over and over and over, expecting a different result, but not getting it. Learning a bit from lesson one, I went for help. The first doctor said, “Just don’t play golf”. Hmm, what kind of solution is that? So, I went to a sports doctor who gave me a shot in the cardiac thoracic muscle and sentenced me to physical therapy three times a week for four weeks. I complied, optimistic because I had a solution that was not passive; yet it didn’t work either.
Finally, I went to a doctor who found a growth in my left side — the size of a golf ball. Imagine my surprise to learn that not only was this the source of the pain, but that it was also…gulp…precancerous. Recovery took two days. Pain, whether physical or emotional, is dangerous to ignore. I laugh when I say, “Golf saved my life” – but I know God saved me, yet again.
The third lesson was from having foot surgery. It has now been four weeks and I still have trouble walking due to nerve pain, infection and a bit of a bump. The unexpected length of recovery has humbled me. It has forced me to physically be still because I can do little else, even though my frightened self is pushing hard.
During this enforced period of stillness, I’ve learned to think in terms of moments – too frustrating otherwise. During the first winter storm, I watched as the softly falling snow created breathtaking beauty on this little mountain where I live, while in another world only a few miles away, this same snow shut down the city of Atlanta. I felt a kindred association because, just like the paradox of the snow’s geography, the mind and body don’t always agree on the same consequence. I had difficulty accepting that my body said no, while my mind was screaming for me to regain my physical independence. I quickly learned that screaming doesn’t help at all, as you will see; my lesson was a bit harder this time.
I believe strongly in helping others, but when it comes to receiving help, my independent nature prefers to be just that…independent. Necessity caused me to rethink that. Gradually, I accepted the help of others in the form of walking my dog, food, calls, cards, running errands, taking me to doctor appointments, out for a ride or just a visit. Facebook had to help me figure out who the “snow shoveling angels” were who cleared my driveway. This said, it took a bit longer for my frightened self to begin asking for help.
As the days and weeks went by I began to realize that although God had gotten out of my way, He had not left me. He worked through other people, not only in taking care of me, but in waiting for me, through His own patience, to realize the peace that comes from stillness. I learned to accept the agape love of my family and my friends and by relishing and giving thanks for each expression of their love, I allowed myself to be in the moment of loving and of being loved. How good is that?
I learned to see and to appreciate the generous nature of people that had always been there, albeit taken for granted. I learned that when something is unsettling, like a pain in the side or in the spirit, to not delay finding the cause, no matter how difficult it may be. As I discovered, pain can be the opportunity to live a happier, healthier life. I learned the importance of grounding expectations in reality. I really thought that at two weeks, stitches out, I could “dance the night away”. That didn’t happen. This disappointment knocked me “down”, so I reached all the way down to my toenails and pulled every ounce of patience I had, and in the doing, I pulled myself back to a “standing position”. Aha! Patience, a wonderful healing device!
I will always have lessons yet to be learned. But for now, this moment, I happily love each one of my family and friends that have been, are now, and are yet to be – and celebrate their, and God’s, agape love with gratitude. I would like to share an excerpt from a Psalm I learned in elementary school – I know, they don’t teach this in the schools anymore, but I’m thankful I learned it at a young age as it has always sustained me.
Psalm 23:1-3 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Here’s wishing everyone a Valentine’s Day filled with sparklers!