Each Wednesday night, my husband leads a Lifegroup in our home. It’s a time where we gather with a few other people to discus Scripture, share what’s happening in our lives, and pray for one another.
Last Wednesday night my husband concluded with this challenge, “This week I want you to list five things each day that you are thankful for.”
“Five?!” I demanded.
“Yes, five.” He replied.
I went about my business the next day with little thought to his challenge, not because I didn’t regard it as worthwhile, I was just busy. I was scheduled to work a double shift at the restaurant where I am a food server. I started at noon, and I would be there for ten and a half hours.
For about a month, my lower back had been giving me trouble, and I hadn’t done anything to find out why or make some changes. As I worked this long shift, my back pain was interfering to the point of distraction. With each passing hour the pain grew more annoying. Thankfully, one of my sweet coworkers agreed to close for me so I was able to walk out a little earlier than expected.
At exactly 10:00 PM I drove home, where I assumed I would shuffle into the house and drop into a hot Epsom salt bath.
My back had other plans.
With the first step out of my car I could tell something was different. I couldn’t stand all the way up, and I couldn’t sit back down. Pain that rivals the pain of childbirth shot through my back. I slid down to the ground while holding tight to the steering wheel. I tried to call my husband on his cell, but he didn’t answer, so I resorted to using the horn. Fortunately, I didn’t have to honk for very long before my husband came to my aid.
At first it didn’t seem like there was much he was going to be able to do to assist me. All he could do was hold my arms while I lowered myself backwards so I was lying flat on the ground.
Here’s the thing: we live in Arizona. Translated, that means we don’t have grass in our front yard. Very few homes have grass in their yards; however, the state of Arizona also doesn’t have annual drought issues. We don’t have water restrictions, and our parks are bright green all year long.
But, I digress…where was I? Oh yes, in my front yard, lying on my back atop sharp red rocks. I began to shiver. The cold and the pain were waging war against my body. My husband tried to help me get up, but each time I made any movement the pain was agonizing, so I would scream and resist.
Not long into this fun interaction with my husband, a neighbor came outside to move his trash can. He saw us struggling and crossed the street to see what was happening. I’m pretty sure he thought it was a domestic quarrel, which it may have eventually turned into, given a little more time. The two men were able to carry me inside and lower me to the floor. My husband made me a blanket pallet and a stiff drink. I pulled my off clothes and slept on the floor with a heating pad.
The next morning my back didn’t feel any different. If I laid perfectly still, I could begin to forget it hurt, but when I tried to make a minuscule move, a paralyzing sharp pain shot through my back and I would unwillingly scream out in response. My husband made me an ice pack and I laid still for as long as I could, alternating the heat and ice.
Finally, I couldn’t ignore the greater issue at hand: I needed to pee. Somehow, I was going to have to get to the toilet. I tried to roll and to scoot. I tried raising myself to a sitting position from the left and the right. No matter what I did, it felt like a train was traveling across my spine, its metal wheels cutting into my nerves.
My husband decided he would drag me towards the restroom. He pulled the blanket pallet across the carpeted room, while I rode in screaming pain. Once we got to the hallway, I was able to press myself up enough that I could rest on my elbows. I began a snail pace shuffle down the hallway.
Getting this far had taken us nearly twenty minutes, during which time, my sweet husband made multiple offers to get me a container in which I could urinate. I repeatedly declined. I wasn’t going to pee anywhere except the toilet.
As I rounded the hallway corner, I decided to use the door jam to pull myself into a sitting position. As I leveraged myself and made the adjustment, the train pain came barreling down my back. I resisted the urge to recline away from the pain, and allowed my scream to emerge while I pushed through it.
I was practically sitting. Yes, my breathing was labored and my face was wet with tears, but I was no longer horizontal. I looked over at the toilet and I thought, “I’m just five feet from the toilet.”
I sat there thinking about how crazy this was. Less than 12 hours prior, I was carrying heavy trays with multiple entreés. I didn’t get into a car accident on the way home, and I didn’t have a bad fall. I hadn’t done anything, at all. And yet now, here I was sliding across the floor wondering why our toilets are so high up off the ground.
I rested my head against the door jam and looked at the hallway bookcase. Sitting across from me at eye level was a sign reading “GRACE is enough”. The sign was made by a dear friend and given to me when my world collapsed a year and a half ago.
Looking at the sign, I remembered all that the word GRACE has come to mean to me: God’s grace is goodness and love. It’s mercy where mercy is undeserved. It’s being willing to publicly interact with someone who may not be esteemed in the eyes of some. God’s grace is sacrifice; it requires action.
Pressed against the door jam, I was hit with thousands of memories from the last year and half. Each one reminding me that nothing is permanent and God’s grace is always enough to see me through. Even in this painful and ridiculous situation, God’s grace is enough.
God’s grace showed up when I was paralyzed on the rocks and a neighbor took the time to walk across the street.
God’s grace showed up in my coworker friends who started texting me as soon as they heard I was down, and it showed up through each call from my children.
God’s grace showed up through the chiropractor who loaned us a back brace that our insurance wouldn’t cover, and it showed up in the sweet friend who rushed over with essential oils for the pain.
Finally, God’s grace showed up through my husband. The man who slept on the couch so I wouldn’t have to be alone in the front of the house. The man who washed my hair, bathed my body, helped me dress, and has helped me take every single step over the last two days. The kindness and servitude of my husband has left me with so much gratitude that counting my five blessings will be all too easy this week. Even when I’m five feet from the toilet.