Kathleen Anderson Tells How Physical Debility Strengthened her Reliance on God

hcsp.jpgI used to be strong. As a girl, I was a fast runner and skilled tree-climber who took pleasure in stunts. At age 12, I was the strongest jumper in my ballet company, leaping so high that I fell behind the beat of the music, still falling to earth as the other dancers rose into their next jumps. My high-school senior track season, I ran nearly 700 miles. I competed in 10k road races, a half-marathon, and two marathons. In college I taught aerobics and took up powerlifting, usually the only woman in the weight room. I loved to say to my lifting partner in that casual-tough voice, “Gimme a spot?”

After an ice storm, a disabled student who lived in my dorm asked for help crossing a treacherous street; I carried her through the frozen slush with no effort. It made me feel like a hero. I could feel the pulse beat of my youth and strength. I could save the world.
Or at least I could eat anything and everything–downing four plates of food in an hour of continuous eating was not an unusual event. After college, a weightlifting coach tried to recruit me to a natural bodybuilding team. From childhood through my 20s, I was a formidable athlete who made all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants quake at my approach.
Now, after four major surgeries and myriad health issues, I can raise my left arm with difficulty, have many allergies, and frequently face nausea, sinus problems, fitful sleep, and fatigue. When I tell my students that I used to be a powerlifter, they glance at my skinny arms in disbelief.
A Crucifix of Sorts
Tears of agony rolled down my cheeks as I hung with outstretched arms from the lat-pull machine, trying to break up the scar tissue immobilizing my shoulder. It felt like my bones were breaking. When I described to a colleague my struggle with this treatment for “frozen shoulder,” she pointed out that my posture resembled a crucifixion. Jesus’ crucifixion was so painful in part, she explained, because of the enormous pressure it put on the shoulders as well as the nail-entry sites, his body weight sagging unnaturally against them.
I was uncomfortable with my affliction being compared to Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus chose to suffer and die for the salvation of the world; I have unwillingly endured some health problems.
Yet perhaps the comparison is enlightening. I have known God’s presence in unique ways during my journey from physical powerhouse to pathetic patient. As Christians, we know that we must take up our crosses and follow him daily. But what happens when that cross is gall bladder failure or an allergy to tomatoes? Saints in ages past were boiled in oil or crucified upside down for their faith. What good is it to suffer as an unwilling martyr merely to one’s own brittle body?
Source: Christianity Today | Kathleen Anderson