The reminders now come at random points throughout the day, and even in the middle of the night: A novel sort of pain, shooting from mid-forearm to right elbow.
An orthopedic surgeon would likely call my newfound affliction “tennis elbow.” But I know better: the culprit is not tennis. It is pickle ball.
As it happens, I didn’t take up this game – pickle ball – as a Lenten mortification, although I see it’s kinda working out that way. Rather, I went along with the idea mostly to enjoy the company of some dear mates. Indeed, they are – several of them – my oldest friends in the world (with a wry emphasis on the “old.”)
And for making this concession to friendship, I now find myself rewarded with a breathtakingly unpredictable and irrepressible elbow ache.
Or is it a growing pain?
That’s what I find myself wondering on this Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent.
I wouldn’t have the pain, you see, if I hadn’t been talked into trying something new. And surely, the prospect of calcification (whether of mind, body or spirit) is a danger far more grave than having to deal with a balky joint or two.
We hear reminders of this important lesson in scripture today. In the first reading from the book of Joshua, we encounter the Israelites encamped at Gilgal, at the end of their 40 years in the desert. And we see that they are being called to something new: No longer would they be given manna from heaven to eat. Rather, they’d begin feasting “of the produce of the land” – a change that suggests the need to learn in short order quite a bit about farming techniques.
In the next reading, from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we find the suggestion of an even more mysterious challenge:
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
It’s worth noting, too, that in Paul’s eyes, this is no passive gift. Rather, he says, God is
entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.
It seems a fair question to ask whether this is a wise choice on God’s part – to entrust so great a responsibility…to an admittedly sinful and broken-down old dude like me.
But perhaps the pain in my elbow has been sent as a not-so-subtle Lenten reminder that God is not done with me yet. Maybe the Mighty One – the One who promises me strength in the Holy Spirit – is asking me ever-so-gently to step up my game.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.