I’m one of those women who loves checking things off a to-do list. My days tend to spin by in a flurry of activity, as I complete task after task. I’m on my feet. Hustling. Moving. Getting things done!
But at the end of the day, when I finally collapse into a chair, I sometimes wonder: Have I really accomplished anything significant at all?
Do you ever feel like that? Do you pack up lunches, or fold a load of laundry, or pull into the parking lot for another day at work and wonder and wonder if it really matters? A never-ending to-do list keeps hands busy, but our hearts still wonder: Am I making any difference at all?
I felt especially challenged by these questions when I decided to break my foot a few months ago. Actually, a slightly raised sidewalk made the decision for me, and my fifth metatarsal agreed as it rolled right over the edge. I really should stop doing such reckless things like walking. I’m a mother for crying out loud. My children need me.
You don’t realize what glorious cooperation is happening among the 26 bones of your foot until one of them decides to call in sick. The other 25 look at each other with confusion on their faces and refuse to stand. Really guys? You can’t figure out a way to support me without Fifth Metatarsal? There’s 25 of you, for crying out loud!
I remember sitting in the urgent care room with my husband after the doctor diagnosed an “undisplaced fracture” in the bone. I honestly heard those words as “undetermined fracture,” so strong are the powers of denial.
I turned to Brian with a positive perspective: “So … undetermined means it might not even be fractured, right? And it’s not really broken if it’s just a fracture!” (This is where my English degree comes in handy. I can use it to aid in my delusions.)
Brian just looked back at me and said, “It’s broken nerd.” (He’s too kind to say the word “nerd.” But I could see it in his eyes.) I shrugged—still clinging to a little hope that this annoying “fracture” wouldn’t slow me down.
That hope was brutally shattered by the staircase in our house.
When we moved recently, the realtor failed to point out that taller ceilings equate to taller staircases—and this could become an inconvenience if you happen to break your foot a month after moving in. C’mon, Zillow. Why didn’t your app factor this little detail in when you sent me 8,342 notifications during my house-hunting process?
Here’s what I quickly learned about having a non-weight-bearing foot: You can go ahead and kiss your dignity good-bye anytime you need to use the stairs. The ascent can be handled with a modicum of grace, using your knees to push you up each step. You just have to keep your eyes focused upward and ignore your eight-year-old daughter’s giggles as she passes you on the steps.
But the descent? I could only accomplish that feat in sitting position, sliding my gluteous maximus down, one step at a time. It was a slow process, granting me plenty of time to ponder exactly how pathetic I must’ve looked with my crutches dragging along behind.
Of course, stairs are just one challenge among many when you’re wielding crutches. Simple tasks like packing a lunch for my kids made me break a sweat, literally.
Later, when I actually wanted to break a sweat and get a happy endorphin kick from some exercise, I googled “Workouts With a Foot Injury.” Oh happy joy! There were dozens of YouTube videos to choose from. I could do this: I could stay in shape even with a broken foot!
But wait. Why were they all seated on chairs?
There went a little more dignity as I was forced to Sit and Be Fit. Sitting jumping jacks are just plan awkward, people. (And I should give props to a young woman named Caroline Jordan here. Her chair workouts are no joke. It actually is possible to work so hard that you cry for your mommy, even while seated in a chair.)
It’s easy to write about all these little challenges now and laugh. But in the midst of them, I felt frustrated and useless. I spent a lot of time as a couch potato: Foot propped up as questions weighed me down.
Sitting on a couch for hours gives you a different perspective on those questions of purpose and significance.
I learned some lessons about myself—namely, my incessant need to always do something. I’m always doing. Doing things around the house. Doing crafty things. Doing things to care for my family. Doing things to help out at church, or at school, or for a friend. Doing. Doing. Doing.
When your foot is throbbing and the best you can do for supper is text your husband and ask him to pick up some cheeseburgers? That’s when you learn something about just being.
Being still. Being quiet.
Being in pain. Being healed.
Truth of it is, my brokenness isn’t limited to a fifth metatarsal.
In recent years, my once-bustling faith has fell off balance. I’ve been asking a lot of questions of God. Not always hearing answers. I’ve struggled with growing awareness of the brokenness in our world—and in myself. Wrestled to understand my purpose in this season of life.
I used to sail up and down the stairs of faith with ease, feeling confident in my purpose and energetic with every step. I could do so many things, so very well. But these days? I sometimes wonder if God is disappointed in me—because I just can’t do everything.
Sometimes I hobble along with doubt and fear by my side, and they make terrible crutches.
But right here, in this season where I’m feeling weak and stumbling around for answers, I’m also learning about God’s love. Right here in my brokenness, I’m learning to sit still and listen. And when I do, the voice I hear doesn’t say much about everything I do. It assures me that God loves me for who I am.
I am His creation. His daughter. Not perfect. Not able to do it all. Not always brave or selfless or strong.
But not a disappointment, either. Not forgotten. Not unloved.
The most significant work of my life? It’s actually happening inside—where it can’t be counted or measured or applauded. And that longing to be a good mom, a good wife, a good Christ-follower? It has a lot more to do with the condition of my heart than the length of my to-do list.
I really can’t “do” anything significant at all if I’m not attuned to what God is already doing, in me and in the world around me.
It’s hard, though. In a culture that obsesses so much about what everyone does—it’s easy to lose sight of the deeper reality. To look at Facebook or Instagram and feel insignificant compared to the doings of everyone else.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with these things. I know, because in those moments when I’ve ‘fessed up to some of this craziness with other people, I’ve rarely seen the judgment I fear in their eyes. Instead, I tend to see relief. I imagine them thinking, phew, I’m not the only one.
So if you ever feel broken, or weak, or just confused, you’re not alone. You’re not the only one with questions. You’re not the only one who wonders if you have anything important to offer the world. You’re not the only one feels like you’ll never be enough—or you’re just too much—for those around you.
But you are the only one who God made to be you. You are the only one who can share your story. So hold on to yourself today. Stop all the doing and just take a minute to breathe. To think about your story. To ask: What kind of person have you been lately? And what kind of person do you really long to be?
There’s always going to be some distance between those questions. But that’s okay. We’re all a little broken. We’re all on a journey. With God’s grace, I’m just hoping to take one small step and keep climbing toward who He made me to be.
God, could you help us slow down today? Just enough to remember who we are—and who we’re aiming to be. Life gets so hectic and crazy. There’s so much pressure to DO things, to perform, to accomplish. But it’s all like vapor, satisfaction fading away as the next “to-do” comes along. Grant us eyes to look beyond our outward “doings,” whether they be glamorous or mundane, and to notice the work that matters most. Help us to notice the beautiful work You are doing within our souls. Amen.
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