Monday, March 8, 2010

Taking a Tumble (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of

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.


Anonymous said...

Wait another ten years, Bud- those aches come at you even harder!
I'm not sure that the tumbles of the soul get tougher with age. For me, anyways, it seems that I've hardened up to some things, and softened in other areas. The weight has shifted. The situations that were soul-traumas 15 or 20 years ago don't seem like a big deal now. But then again, my heart has discovered new territory for breaks and bruises that I hadn't noticed when I was younger.

Glynn said...

And it hurts more at 57 than 37 when you have a bike crash. I crashed last summer, and didn't know for three days that I had bropken or fractured four ribs and a partially collapsed lung. As it turned out, all I could do was -- wait and move. Slowly. Good post.

Helen said...

I hope you heal well.

My cousin slipped on the ice about three weeks ago and broke her shoulder. She had to have surgery. Her arm is still in a sling. She is inclined to rush the moving... Anyways, I hope you continue to heal well.

lynnmosher said...

Welcome to the Always-Gonna-Have-a-Problem-With-Your-Shoulder Club! I've dealt with this for years with hubs! In fact, he is currently having therapy also and has to do exercises with enormous rubber bands.

Great article as always, Billy! Profound thoughts from a simple experience. You always find them!

Please watch that shoulder from now on. Praying you heal quickly and completely. Be blessed!

Heather said...

I'm sorry, but I cracked up picturing you doing your exercises.

Also, I love this post, as usual. We're all slipping and sliding around, getting hurt and learning to deal with it. And we really do need to pay attention to Dr's orders, so to speak. To sit in the healing and recovery and give it time.

Cherie Hill said...

I love how our "everyday" life is used by Almighty God to speak to us in the inner most parts of our soul. I guess that's what He means when He says, "My ways are higher than your ways." Who would think to use a nasty spill on ice and pain and suffering to get you to stop and draw you nearer to the One who cares for you? Our spirit cries out, "Isn't there another way??" All too often I find the answer is, "Sometimes, there's not." Praying for your healing...and praying that the snow melts soon!!!!
In Him,

♥ Kathy said...

I hope you're all healed up now. Or at least hurting less!

David@Red Letter Believers said...

I have fallen…and fallen hard.
Sometimes I have escaped with just a scrape.
Othertimes, it was more serious.

And when I slip and fall on the ice, the first thing I do is look around to see who else saw me. Then I check my own status.

that kind of pride keeps getting me into trouble

David, Red Letter Believers,, “Salt and Light”

Melissa_Rae said...

Hope you're feeling better soon. I loved your description of your exercises. Haha!

Dayle said...

I was reminded of the day my husband cautioned me about how to navigate the ice on the porch. He stepped out to demonstrate and flew clear across the yard. Good thing he wasn't injured, because I couldn't stop laughing.

Anonymous said...

Very good thoughts, Mr. Coffey.

I also have a damaged rotator cuff from baseball. This is starting to creep me out. I think you are living my life or vice versa. Very scary.

Sandra Heska King said...

Hey, I've had to make like an elephant before!

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

There's something deep there!

JML said...

"The more you live the more you feel, and the more you feel the more likely you’ll get hurt. It’s unfortunate, yes."

Most of my friends are old men, or are people who are old at heart, old souls, etc. It's interesting watching us age (or age more) and to see how things impact us. I couldn't agree with you more!

A Skin Bag for Jesus! said...

" But the problem was disguised. A thin layer of fallen snow had covered the ice, rendering it invisible until it was too late."

Amen! That's often so! Sometimes we're headed for disaster and the fall that comes with it.... but sometimes we slip before we see the danger. Like you said, often because the problem is disguised.... thus, invisible to the naked eye until too late.

I teach at several prisons and am also involved with a Re-Entry Program for those up for parole or at their end of sentence. I've only being doing this since the first of November. But the experience has been eye-opening for me. Number one, careful where you step! It isn't always only the ones cycling down a wayward path that finds themselves locked behind bars. Some (as the tv series dubs it) "snapped" before they realized they were a time bomb waiting to detonate over the least little happening. Their problems were deceitfully disguised "with a fine layer of snow" until it was too late. And trust me, their falls are much harder to get up from than from where you fell.... leaving more than a shoulder that hurt (SO SORRY about yours!). Oh, that we would learn from the mistakes of others and watch for the ice that hides to make slip! Some peoples' tumbles takes decades of years to get up from again. Thank God that He is graceful and merciful to all of us that don't deserve it! Thankfully His love is unfailing... and He always has enough to go around!

L.T. Elliot said...

I've waited all day to read your post, Billy. It was worth it. I'm trying to remember the hurts of others and be patient and giving.

L.T. Elliot said...

p.s. feel better soon!