It was New Year’s Day and I was doing what I love to do. I sat rather awkwardly in a low rocking chair as I painted a landscape on my easel. Blending colors, I was thoroughly involved in what I was doing. I was totally lost in the moment. That moment stretched out into a couple of hours. Then, I rose quickly to stretch my muscles and move on to something else, and my back went from zero to nine on the pain scale. I almost screamed! I could hardly take a step; I was in so much pain!

I have had back problems before. I have overestimated my own strength and moved heavy furniture or large plants. I have been too impatient to wait until someone else could help. I have been too proud to admit that I cannot do some things I used to do.

“Why?!” I cried out, lying in bed and applying an ice pack. “Why me? Why today?” I had thought a lot about the new year in the past few weeks. I had prayed and made my list of priorities to focus on. I was inspired about new challenges. I was ready to charge into the future.

When you are in a lot of pain and every movement hurts, it makes you think a lot about how to move. When each step causes pain from a pinched nerve in your lower back, you move cautiously, fully aware of what you are doing. You move very slowly and learn to push down impatience. Each step becomes a small victory; each movement a very carefully choreographed and structured action.

When pain management becomes part of your day, it can take over your day. Everything you do centers around this need to minimize the pain and get through it. Suddenly, some things fall into focus. Little things that might have nagged you and spurred you to action before are very quickly put out of your mind. Things you considered priorities are suddenly not that important. The little piece of paper on the floor can wait and that exercise class you love is way down on the to-do list.

I am appreciating time and slowing down to think about what is important to me. As I rest more than I thought I could, I feel the miracle of healing and the renewal of my strength. As I think about what is really important in life, I am taking a very close look at my schedule and emptying it of things I don’t need to get done. I am looking at some of my habits that drain me of energy instead of increasing it. I am looking at my tendency to push myself beyond my strength.

I am realizing that if I don’t take proper care of myself, I will end up only taking care of myself and will not be able to help others. I am realizing that I need to ask for help and just wait until that help comes to do things that are beyond my ability. I am realizing that I tend to push too hard and charge too fast, and I need to slow down and take measured steps. Most importantly, I am applying these lessons to my relationship with the Lord. When I ask Him for help, I need to wait for His answer. I need to commit each step to Him and move in His time.

Instead of charging full steam into the new year this year, I am taking carefully measured steps. I have scrapped my new year’s resolutions and have begun a short, prayerful list, not of things to get done, but of ways I need to change. I am slowly, carefully, prayerfully stepping into the future, and I somehow know this is going to be a good year.

But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread 1.

I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life 2.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps 3.

  1. Job 23:10–12 NIV
  2. Proverbs 4:11–13 NIV
  3. Proverbs 16:9