Last night when talk turned to broken-bone stories,  I told the story of falling off a horse and breaking my arm 8 years ago.  Three months of sitting in a recliner with a propped arm waiting to ‘heal’ culminated in a surgery to place a plate in my arm.  The day after the surgery, with a fresh 7-inch incision in my arm, I felt better than I had during the whole 3 months of pseudo-healing.  And needed less pain medication.

Last night in the telling I joked about the things I learned during those three months.   Vicodan makes me itch.  Percocet makes me way happier than any human has a right to feel.  And a stabilized bone feels way better than a wobbly one, even factoring in a 7 inch incision and 8 screws.

But I didn’t tell the whole story.  In fact, I skipped the best lesson from that long painful 3 months of waiting for my arm to heal.  I am a doer, a fixer, a planner.  When faced with a problem, my default reaction is to brainstorm for solutions.   Inside the box, outside the box, whatever.  I’ll do almost anything to avoid just waiting.

But that winter I could do almost nothing without pain.  When you break your upper arm, there’s no good way to cast it.   They give you a rinky-dink brace, and tell you to crank it on tight enough to stabilize the bone (which it does only partially), but loose enough so that your hand doesn’t swell up from poor circulation.

I could never get it right.  Just walking to the bathroom was a trek.  Turning over in the night was an ordeal.  Laughing or coughing or sneezing brought tears to my eyes. And taking the brace off for an occasional shower made my bones grind in a way that brought cold sweat to my husband’s forehead as he gingerly helped me.

At first I thrashed around (mentally only, because of the bone-grinding)– trying to find some way out of it, some way past the pain and uncertainty and enforced stillness.  But there was no way out except through it.  And so I gave up and waited, and was waited upon by my husband and other loved ones. And in the process I discovered a peace that I don’t often feel in regular times, when my mind is full of a million schemes and plans for that day, and the next, and the next.

I also never felt more loved by my husband.  Instead of shrugging him off when he fussed over me, so that I could better hurry on to the next thing, I looked in his eyes and thanked him. And gained a whole new appreciation for his faithfulness and his caring.

My dad named me Mary, not after the mother of God, but after the Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word.  He couldn’t have known when I was born that I would actually be more like Martha, the sister who was too busy serving guests to sit at Jesus’ feet.   But of course God did.   I think of my name as a reminder to live more like my namesake.  And that three months dramatically demonstrated to me the peace that comes from resting.  

From letting yourself just be held.

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  1. Awesome reminder to “Be still and know that I am God”.

  2. I heard you. I have always prayed to be more of a Mary-Martha and less of a Martha-Mary. Only the Holy Spirit could help me to do that.
    I hope you are completely healed from the broken bone accident…

  3. I had a broken arm like that (from falling off a horse, no less!) when I was in 8th grade. Mine healed after about 6-8 weeks of sleeping sitting up, but oh, the pain. And the moving around of the bones! I can’t imagine having to deal with that now, as an adult, with kids and responsibilities and a real LIFE to live.

    I just recently went through a grown-up slow down period due to a pregnancy complication. The complication has cured itself, but the doing nothing period was hard for me to adjust to. I did finally learn to be lazy and peaceful, but now I’m trying to lose the lazy part without losing the peaceful part! It’s such a fine line….

  4. I am struggling so much with letting God “hold” me right now. I needed to read this Mary. Thanks.

  5. I love your blog. You always express things so beautifully.

  6. I love your blog. Once again beautifully written.

  7. What a beautiful story, actually made me tear up a bit and that’s sayin’ somethinng;)

  8. Beautiful post. Thank you for your insight. It was something I needed to read.

  9. Wow, do I relate.

    I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago. But now that the metaphorical bone has healed, I find myself getting busy and rushed again.

    Why do you think it’s so hard to stay in that peaceful place?

  10. Thanks you for sharing your story. I have been in constant pain from a back “injury” for the last year and have just been told my only hope is surgery. Surgery that means not being able to be Martha for at least 2 weeks, and a total recovery time of about 1-2 months.
    I completely heard myself in your descriptions of yourself and needed to be reminded that sometimes God calls us to just slow down and become more like Mary.
    So thanks. Again. And again.

  11. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. I broke my elbow 2 years ago and can definitely relate in a lot of ways. Being the control freak that I am, having to sit back and let my husband do everything from clean the house to help me fix my hair was so hard for me to deal with at first. But eventually I had to learn to let go and let someone else be in control and realize that things were not going to be done my way, but that was just fine – a great metaphor for how our relationship with God should be. Two years later the screws in my elbow still scrape and the bone aches from time to time, just a little reminder of the time I had to sit back and let someone else be in control. Thanks again!

  12. I’ll be thinking of you and this post this summer, I am sure!
    We had to postpone surgery on my torn rotator cuff (which was supposed to happen April 2) due to my son’s overwhelming needs, but it’s coming in June. People keep coming out of the woodwork just to tell me how utterly helpless I will be, how much pain there will be, how much time therapy will take, how I won’t be able to sleep, and how I could re-injure the whole thing if I do anything I’m not supposed to… and I’m too swamped right now to get things readied for it! Praying that my husband and children will step up in ways I’ve never seen before…

  13. i can’t believe that was eight years ago. as soon as i read ‘eight years’ i was startled. truly, time is going faster, isn’t it? or is it just me? i totally remember it happening to you; we’ve been friends a long time.

    a wonderful reflection on a certain period in your life. insight from looking back and realizing things. i had a ‘realization’ the other day; one that came from deep inside where I knew it was the truth: i could not be the parent i am without my husband. he completes me. i was arrogant enough to think i could do it alone but i can’t. well, i could if i had to…but it is HE who balances us out. it’s hard to explain in your comments section (!) but perhaps one day i’ll write about it. it just reminded me, reading yours.

  14. i have just begun reading your blog from a book recommend from another blog (renee at steppin’ heavenward). So your book is on my Amazon order 🙂 and your blog is now on my fave’s list. What a beautiful post. I’m glad I found you.

  15. Thank you for saying this- I needed it. I often find myself quoting the line about Martha “Thou art careful and troubled about many things, but thy sister Mary has chosen the better part.” Oh, how often I find myself careful and troubled about so many thing, trying to get things just perfect so I can go and enjoy the “better part” Christ offers, when I should really just sit still for a moment and just be.

    This thought is often followed by “Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof.” Took me a while to learn that one, too!

    thank you.