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Taking a Tumble (by Billy Coffey)

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I want it known before I begin this post that but for a small handful of people, I do not grumble. Ever. It is a Coffey tradition steeped in Southern Redneckness—you do not whine. The reasoning behind this is both simple and teeming with most of the truth you need to get by in this world—life is tough on all of us. We all have our own stories and our own problems, and we’re all trying to get by the best we can. Therefore, complaining helps no one.

That said, my shoulder hurts.

A few weeks ago I was ambushed by a slab of ice that was cleverly disguised as snow, bruising my knee and spraining my shoulder in the process. The sprain further aggravated an ancient yet lingering rotator cuff problem from my baseball days, which basically rendered the entire right side of my body useless. I was pathetic for a week. Ask anyone.

Both my doctor and the nice folks in the local hospital’s radiology department concluded it was nothing truly serious. A good thing. In fact, I’ve been promised that I’ll soon be back to my normal self. Assuming that I do two things:

Wait and move.

The waiting is simply that. Waiting. Time heals all wounds, and apparently this holds true for busted shoulders as well. Which means full contact sports are not an option, which is bad, but they’re not an option for now, which is good.

And as far as the moving goes, I have exercises to do. Stupid ones. Things like moving my fingers up the wall and swinging my arm in front of my like I’m pretending to be an elephant. Things designed to make me look as ridiculous as possible and thus be a fount of endless entertainment for my children.

But I’m following orders, if only because I know that by doing so I’ll get better. My wound will be gone.

Since I’m the type of guy who tends to philosophize about everything (and since I couldn’t really do anything else except watch reruns of The Dukes of Hazard), I spent a lot of time those seven days pondering my condition. I’ve come to realize there is a spiritual component to all of this. You can take a tumble on the inside just as easily as you can take one on the outside. Both hurt much the same, and both sorts of falls can be cured in the same way.

For instance.

It hurts more when you fall at thirty-seven than when you fell at seventeen. At least that was true for me. Either my body has gotten softer or the ground harder in the last twenty years, and neither case is appealing. Such are the ravages of time. The body adds weight over the years, and not all of it is cushion.

The soul tends to add weight, too. A tumble there hurts more at thirty-seven than at seventeen too, and for the same reasons—either the heart has gotten softer or the world harder. The more you live the more you feel, and the more you feel the more likely you’ll get hurt. It’s unfortunate, yes. But the alternative to feeling too much is to feel too little. Ironically, that ends up hurting even more.

Most people think stumbles happen when you’re not paying attention. While that’s true sometimes, it isn’t always. I was paying attention (promise). But the problem was disguised. A thin layer of fallen snow had covered the ice, rendering it invisible until it was too late.

Which is why I do my best not to stand in judgment of whomever is unlucky enough to find themselves on the cover of the latest tabloids in the supermarket checkout lines. No matter how well we pay attention to our hearts or our heads, sooner or later life sneaks up on us all. Legend has it that when Jesus stooped down to write in the sand between the adulteress and those who wished to stone her, what He scribbled were the secret sins of everyone who held a rock in their hand.

I really like that.

We all need to wait and move. We all need to have patience, both with others and ourselves, and we all need to exercise our wounds to make them better.

We can think or act however we want, but the truth is that we’re all clumsy. The truth is that grace is given to us because we do not possess it ourselves.

(Thanks to Sarah Salter for putting this idea into my head.)


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.


My friend and pastor Jeff Hogan graciously allowed me to pilfer this post from his blog, Convergence. I should probably tell you he wrote this post while he was still living in Ohio, as we don’t get much snow here in southeast Texas. He’s not blogging much anymore, as he’s busy pastoring Convergence Christian Church. Which has a wicked AWESOME website, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Here’s Jeff in his own words:

I love to watch the snow fall- especially in the evening… From indoors… With a fire in the fireplace…

Okay, I’ll admit it: I like snow once or twice a season (it’s a plus when it happens the way I described it above) but after that, I’m really just waiting for Spring. So, I guess it would be more accurate to say that I’d like to visit a place where it snows- see it, play in it- and then go home.

Reality, however, woke me up this morning to find five inches of new, wet, heavy snow on the ground with more falling. I suppose I could have climbed back into bed, pulled the covers up over my head and told myself, “I don’t want any more snow, so it can’t be snowing.” I suppose I also could have stood at the window lamenting all the bad weather this town has experienced in the past 6 months thinking, “It’s not fair.”

I am anxiously waiting for Spring. But while it is very true that I don’t think there should be any more snow this Winter, it’s also true that I’m not even remotely equipped to make that decision. And, come to think of it, I’m also not equipped to talk about what is “fair.” After all, there are several things about life that aren’t “fair,” (particularly in the area of God and eternity) in which I am relieved that I don’t have to get what I deserve. Besides, denial and self-pity won’t get the cars and porch cleaned off or the sidewalks shoveled.

The only response which accomplishes that result is action. So even though I’m still waiting on the Spring, I got dressed and got to it, remembering that Winter doesn’t last forever.

But in that brief moment, it wasn’t an easy choice, even though I clearly knew it was right. Precisely because I’m waiting for it, the big snow seemed to somehow make Spring more implausible- as if it might not actually happen. It was temporarily defeating. Waiting seems to trigger a unique combination of thoughts, emotions, and physiological effects in most people- especially when the wait is ongoing.

Waiting tires us out and wears us down.

Don’t think so? While waiting for something, have you ever used the phrase, “I’m so tired of…”? Or how about this one: “I can’t take this much longer.”

When our emotional batteries get drained, our judgement can be compromised. I believe that more than a few poor choices have been made out of a desire to end the waiting and find closure. In order to avoid this situation, we need to find a source of renewal; a way to keep our stamina while things are on hold.

Waiting is a theme that is literally found throughout the entire Bible. Jacob waited seven years to be allowed to marry Rachel, only to be tricked by his father-in-law Laban into marrying her older sister. After re-negotiating for Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob worked an additional seven years for Laban (Gen. 29:16-30).

At the age of seventy-five, God promised Abraham (then called Abram) that he would be “a great nation” (Gen. 12:2). After receiving that promise, Abraham waited twenty-five more years until God gave him a son, Isaac, through his wife Sarah.

And in Acts 1, after the resurrection and just before he is “taken up before their very eyes,” (v.9) Jesus tells the eleven remaining apostles not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there instead for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Okay- so in this case He actually tells them it will happen in a few days. But when they ask if this is the point when He will “restore the kingdom to Israel” (something for which the Jewish people had been waiting a very long time) Jesus responds by telling them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). I’d say that roughly translates to “nobody gets to know that, you’ll have to wait and see.”

In each of these examples, they chose to act while they waited. Jacob negotiated for Rachel’s hand in marriage, and then continued to work for Laban until the terms of that agreement were met. Abraham trusted God’s promise that he would be a great nation, so he left his country and set out on a journey to a new land. The apostles returned to Jerusalem, joined together in prayer and chose someone to take the place of Judas.

So where did they find the stamina to do those things?

Isaiah 40:27-32 says, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (NASB version)

Interestingly, sometimes “wait” in v.31 is translated “hope.” These verses, compare Israel with a person waiting for some kind of resolution. In frustration, the cry goes out, “I’m so tired of this! Don’t you see me God? This isn’t fair!” But, they are reminded that God does indeed see everything, and he never gets tired. And they will find the strength and renewal they need to endure the waiting if they will put their trust and hope in Him.

Life is full of waiting, for both the mundane and the very serious. Waiting to check out. Waiting for lunch time. Waiting for that file to download. Waiting for the light to turn green. Waiting to find out if you got the job. Waiting for those test results. Waiting to see if the surgery was a success.

It’s likely that you are waiting on something right now. It may be wearing you down and draining your strength.

Do you need renewal?

Where will you go?

In Him We Live,