It would be nice to have a glamorous explanation for my knee problem. When the doctor looked at the x-ray and asked me how I’d injured it I didn’t have an answer. “You’ve hurt your knee do you remember when? Nothing comes to mind other than maybe cheerleading,” I said wincing. The pain from all his poking and prodding was beginning to overshadow my bruised ego. Jumping off the top of a human pyramid under the goal post now felt like a stupid way to climb the social ladder in high school. If you’re going to have a knee injury you want it to be from something really cool like mastering the half-pipe Sean White style.
“How long has it been bothering you?” he asked. “Over six months now. I want to be able to ski this winter so I decided to come see you. I’m tired of not knowing what’s wrong with it.” I said. “I can tell you some of what’s wrong with it but I don’t have the whole picture,” was his response. “Let’s get you started in some physical therapy and see if we can get the knee tracking properly before we do any other tests.” Oh great I thought my knee is off track?
Reading between the lines I figured out a set of more expensive pictures (aka an MRI) couldn’t be ordered just yet. This was frustrating to me. I’d finally conceded to going to a specialist because I wanted answers. I’d tried every lifestyle and exercise modification I could think of to no avail. With the technology available I wanted as much information as possible right away not down the road. Having part of the picture when it’s possible to have the whole picture was maddening to me. It was becoming clear, however, that because of insurance restraints I’d have to jump through the physical therapy hoop before more testing could be done. Unfortunately, that was nothing close to a walk in the park.
The therapy looked easy especially for somebody in relatively good shape but it was hard on my knee and made it madder than ever. The only truly helpful technique I learned related to pain management which was good since rehab was miserable. So, last week after finding a trail of pennies on my prayer walks, my knee was killing me but I was upbeat about finally being allowed to get an MRI done. Soon all the uncertainty would be out of the way and my questions could be answered. Emotionally I was in a better place.
Then Thursday morning when I started really thinking about what they might find and what it could mean I suddenly wasn’t so happy. It occurred to me that not knowing wasn’t a bad thing. As the proverbial saying goes, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” I was learning how to manage the pain from physical therapy. I was increasing my core strength and lessening the load on the knee so even if I was still hurting I was making some sort of progress. Why not leave it at that?
The realization that knowing the whole picture might not be any easier hit me like a ton of bricks. Now I didn’t want the MRI. I liked my limited perspective. It wouldn’t require surgery which for good reason I’m afraid of. It wouldn’t require any big needles near bones, the thought of which makes me faint, and I could stay away from water aerobics which I sadly consider the ultimate form of old lady exercise. Yes, not knowing was beginning to fit me just fine. I’d go ahead and buy my ski pass and just keep going with my physical therapy even at a glacial pace hoping to be ready for snow.
The problem was all these thoughts came to me while lying immobilized in the MRI. I wanted to wiggle around and ruin the pictures but I could tell the tech was patient and she’d just start over. I was wishing I’d left at least one of my week’s penny finds in my pocket because that would have put a halt to things but no – now the picture I’d originally wanted so desperately was going to be a reality. My anxiety shot through the roof and the magnet hammering over my head sounded like a jack hammer. I came home and turned to my friend the icemaker. Not for just help filling an ice pack but also a cocktail glass because my nerves were shot.
Resting on the couch with ice in hand and on the knee I was struck by the metaphor for me as a believer. More often than not I find myself wanting answers from God about the various aches and pains in my life. Frustrated by the lack of clear cut answers I’ve been known to set out on a quest to know – only to discover He’s not going to show me. He might give me a clue in the form of some new insight but in the end I only get a glimpse. It’s a limited picture just like the x-ray of my knee.
Why? I really can’t say. I used to think it was because “knowing” wouldn’t be good for me. This is true to some extent. Being in the know isn’t always ideal. Another plausible explanation is that God doesn’t want me to know because then I’d try to intervene. This is another convenient truth for a Type A personality like me. If you know what’s at the root of a problem and you’re a fixer then you have to get busy.
Anymore, I don’t think these are the big reasons. What I know and don’t know – what I do and don’t do are small pieces of the puzzle. What I’m beginning to realize about God’s silence is that it’s what keeps me moving forward. It’s His invitation to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling”. Perhaps even to the point I exhaust myself trying because whether I figure out the answer or not I’m at least engaged with Him. It takes a great deal of faith to keep going back with your questions to the one you believe has the answers, especially when you have so many of them. My faith it seems is of far greater value to God than my insight. I’d like to be the other way around but then my place in the whole scheme of things would be elevated too highly.
It’s easy in today’s world to insist on “understanding” things with the resources we have. When you can reduce human behavior down to neurotransmitters and then create medications that target those synapses in the brain that’s heady stuff. How do you avoid getting addicted to understanding in the Information Age? Despite our best efforts to the contrary, we find ourselves clinging to what is seen when God is far more interested in our hanging on to what is unseen. We ask for signs, wonders, and answers, wanting God to make himself heard believing that will tell us what to do next and yet it doesn’t. We remain as troubled as ever by our aches and pains.
As the ice was doing its work on my knee I began to relax and laughed at my anxiety attack. Be careful what you pray for I thought. In a few days like it or not I was going to hear something and sure enough I did. As if the whole experience had been orchestrated just to prove His point I had to shake my head when the doctor said. “Yep, it’s the cartilage. You’re wearing it out but we still don’t actually know why. We might not ever know.”
Of course I thought, that’s just how this was supposed to go! Then with little time to fret about it, I conquered the fear that felt bigger than the unknown – the whole needle near a bone thing. Hello cortisone shot! Lord willing that puts me on the road to recovery with a new appreciation for the less is more mindset when it comes to understanding the aches and pains of life. Things rub, they pinch, and they can really-really sting and sometimes you just have to keep your eyes shut and take a few deep breaths to get through it!