Monday, March 21, 2011

One Stumbling Step

 I like to have my ducks all lined in a row.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a spontaneous adventure, but find comfort in knowing things will work out just fine.  Unfortunately, life isn’t about guarantees. Often the roads we travel, to the places we end up, make absolute no sense at all.  If there is one thing we can be certain of it’s that the end results we see come about out of changed plans, rerouted directions, curveballs, and the aftershocks of being thrown for a loop.

Towards the end of my Master’s program, my studies took me overseas to study abroad in Asia.  The trip was set to include time in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Korea, and Taiwan.  Every few days we would change locations, lugging our books and baggage to another ancient land.  My closest friends on the trip were all boys, a few who had become my lifelines throughout my grad school days, but I formed an instant connection with a girl named Sara.
I knew who Sara was, prior to the trip, but we had never officially been introduced.  Our first stop on our journey was Hong Kong and Sara and I immediately bonded over a fear for our culinary options and while shopping in the crowded, humid, street markets of that international city. 

The trip was enjoyable for the first four days and then my world was tipped upside down.  We were staying at a university in Korea and one afternoon, we Americans, thought it would be fun to challenge some of the local students to a basketball game.  Quite a crowd gathered around to watch us play and we were off to an early lead.  While defending my opponent, who had possession of the ball, my leg buckled underneath me and before I had any time to react I had fallen onto the ground with my entire body weight landing on my right arm and wrist.  I quickly got back up and new immediately that my arm was broken.

Now breaking your arm stateside is one thing, but breaking a limb where western medicine is not quite up to par is a whole other.  I received a ride to the hospital on a bumpy, windy back road while trying to stabilize my mangled arm.  When we arrived at the hospital, I watched large bugs scurry across the floor as we attempted to translate our needs.  The doctors offered me their best pain reducing meds, something very similar to ibuprofen, to quiet the pain.  Suffice to say, it did not do the trick.  After a few rounds of x-rays we discovered that my wrist, hand, and arm were all broken in several places.  As the doctors went about the task of resetting my arm, they managed to dislocate my elbow and tear a few ligaments and tendons along the way.  I was put in a splint until the swelling reduced and a few days later in Taiwan was fit for a cast. 

The cast I received in Taiwan was a complete laughing matter.  The size of the cast, once wrapped around my hand, wrist and upper and lower arm, was larger than my upper thigh.  It took around 4 days to dry and ended up weighing between 15 and 20 pounds.  As a right-handed patron, life, let alone traveling were my arch nemeses.  Lucky, for me Sara was there to help me laugh through this awful reality.  She helped me tie my hair, put on deodorant, and change in and out of clothes.  In fact, she literally became my right hand man.  There we were, two brand new friends, thrown into a comical situation that required her to extend grace to me and I had to allow myself to become vulnerable in front of her. The two of us superficially found common ground for the first four days of the trip and then we became sisters.

I enjoyed Sara’s company and had fun shopping with her but I never imagined having to ask her to help me complete such intimate tasks.  It’s odd to have to ask some to button your pants or tie your shoes at the age of twenty-four.  I, myself, was equally embarrassed and humbled while Sara was willing and able.  God often brings us to places of complete dependence in order to show us His paths.

In Proverbs 16:9 it says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

I had a plan to travel to Asia, finish my degree, and have a little fun along the way.  No disasters, no casualties, and no life-changing relationships.  But, the Lord had a different plan.  He didn’t want me to just experience Asia and walk away with a completed Master’s diploma.  He planned that I would walk away with a best friend.  Sure, traveling would have been less hectic, I may have been able to enjoy a few more things with the use of all my limbs, but God wanted me to learn more than just international business and chopstick fluency on this journey.  His plan was to humble me and simultaneously provide for me.  I believe that Sara and I would probably still be friends to this day without a broken arm but I’m not sure what it would look like.

We, as humans, like to take control.  I am guilty of desiring the ability to make a way for myself.  Yet, God’s way always seems to be better than our own.  It definitely throws our ducks out of order and may appear to make no sense at all but in the end, we are stronger and blessed by His provisions.  Life isn’t about guarantees but with Him guiding our steps we can be certain that He knows what He is doing.  God has already made a way for us.  It may seem terrifying and dizzying but when we submit ourselves to His plans and the steps He has for us we can rest assured that He has our best interest at heart.  No matter what, He promises that He will determine our steps.  We can try and make our own plans and map out our own ways but He leads us on journeys far better than our own.

With one stumbling step, that I didn’t have planned, I broke my arm and gained a best friend.  Traveling to a foreign land always forges a thousand memories.  But for me, Asia provided more than just things to be remembered.  I found Sara, my lifelong friend.  She has seen me through heartache and pain. She has listened to me cry and done her best to make me stronger.  Sara was the first friend I introduced my future husband to and she knew he was the one for me.  We have shared dreams and disappointments.  On her wedding day, I stood beside her as her Maid of Honor and on mine; she stood there with me just the same.  Today we share a long distance friendship that covers many miles but I know she is always just a phone call away.  God’s plan included me breaking an arm in order that I might find depth with a new friend.  His plan was better than mine.  While my right arm may never function the same, the Lord led me to a friend, who changed my life for the good.

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