We’ve agreed to one immutable rule in our weekly pickle ball match: “No lunging!” I broke the rule the other day, and now find myself restricted to a diet of R.I.C.E.
R.I.C.E. – as in “Rest; Ice; Compression; Elevation.” Standard protocol for a hamstring strain. It seems to be working, slowly but surely. Meanwhile, in my hobbled state, I have ample time on my hands to consider the folly of having disregarded our one immutable rule.
On some level it’s inaccurate to say I disregarded the rule. In the heat of the moment, I did not so much choose, as simply act.
I’m no athlete: This much I know. I also understand there’s absolutely nothing at stake except the momentary endorphin rush of having won a point. Yet even before finishing my face-plant on the pickle ball court the other day, I knew I’d just done something rather foolhardy.
I’ll leave it to the moral theologians to decide whether my ill-advised lunge rises to the level of sinfulness. But “sinner” in this instance or not, I certainly find myself pondering my fractured human nature these past few days. What is it about my hardwiring that makes it possible for me to act, without really thinking? To lunge, without regard to the probable consequences?
This time around, the price I’m paying is physical pain. But in all honesty, lunging is not the only less-than-holy reflex I often wish I could put on a 3-to-5 second time-delay. Maybe you have a few such “hardwired” sinful patterns in your life, too.
So there’s little consolation to be found in the first reading we heard at Mass on Sunday. In it, the teacher Sirach assures us:
If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live..
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him…
No one does [God] command to act unjustly,
to none does [God] give license to sin.
Reflecting on this passage, I tend to find myself squirming a bit, in guilt and shame – even on just one good leg. But here’s another possibility: Perhaps my limited gait is in fact a gift from the Holy One – reminding me (with each painful twinge) that God does desire to heal my unhelpful hardwiring. And it may be the case that my job is to simply slow down, and give God’s grace ample time and space in my heart to repair (or prevent) the damage.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
RICE now means: Really into constrained exercise. A few days on the couch should cure your pain.