As a child I used to love the animated short stories on TV from Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwick Green. If you’ve never seen them then find them and watch them – they have a charm and innocence that is special. Many of the characters had their own rhymes or songs that accompanied their actions, especially if they were travelling somewhere. “Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb” accompanied the firemen sliding down the pole in order to get into their fire engine, for example. In Chigley most episodes involved Lord Belborough driving his own personal steam train to help someone out (just go with the plot, don’t get all Network Rail on us!). His journeys would be accompanied by the song that began, “Time flies by when you’re the driver of a a train and you ride on the footplate there and back again…” That song came into my mind today, but let me try to explain why:
One of the things I am encouraged to do in order to aid my recovery following the surgery earlier in the year is to go for walks. I have tried to do this, gradually increasing the length of the walks around the estate on which we live. Some days the walks have been longer than others – it depends on how much energy I have in my legs.
On one of my walks with my wife a while back we started walking up a slope towards some local shops (I had expressed that one of my targets was to be able to walk to the shops). I was surprised at how much steeper the slope felt than I had expected and, about two-thirds of the way up, Sally pointed out that I had stopped talking and asked if I was okay. Disappointingly I had to admit that my legs felt really weak and that I was not going to get up the slope. So we turned around and walked home.
I was determined I was not going to be defeated by it. So a few days later we tried again and, to my amazement, about two-thirds of the way up the slope my legs felt really weak and I had to turn around again.
Now the slope had become my nemesis. I was not going to be defeated by something as simple as a slope.
As you can see from this photo it doesn’t look that tough, but it was too much for my weakened legs. I set myself the target of being able to walk to the local shops that were the other side of the slope. I even set that as a goal within the cardiac rehab process that I had just begun.
Frustratingly I had another setback shortly after beginning the cardiac rehab process which meant I had to put it on hold, but the slope was still there in the back of my mind, taunting me. So a short while later Sally and I set off with the express purpose of conquering the slope. It was hard work and my legs felt like jelly at the top, but I made it. I didn’t have enough in me to complete the journey to shops but the slope had been defeated.
Last weekend I decided that it was time to show the slope once and for all who was the boss. So, having arranged for Sally to meet me at the shops with her car, I set off. At the top of the slope my legs felt like they were on fire, but I kept going and got to the shops. I was elated – so much so that I couldn’t stop myself posting the achievement on Facebook. Lots of my friends very kindly and encouragingly ‘liked’ the post and wrote encouraging comments below the post, which was really a blessing. But in my heart I felt as if I hadn’t really completed the mission. I had only gone one way.
So this morning I set off to the shops again with no backup driver. I needed some tablets from the pharmacy in the parade of shops so that was my motivation. But this time I was going to walk back home afterwards. As previously by the time I reached the top of the slope my legs were burning. I paused to catch my breath at a lamppost at the top of the slope and then pressed on to the shops as planned. I got my tablets and set off back home.
Now the good thing about slopes is that while they may prove to be an obstacle in one direction, they are an assistance in the other direction. The upward slope that inhibited me became a downward slope that made my walk back home manageable and I arrived home tired but triumphant. I had achieved my goal. There’s a lot more to be done in terms of rehab, but it felt like a big step (or lots of little steps) in the right direction. There and back again – without the aid of Lord Belborough’s train or my wife’s car!
And it also made me ponder – what can feel like an obstacle and a difficulty when we look at it from one direction can prove to be a blessing and assistance from another. For example: my unexpected need for a heart operation and subsequent convalescence has been hard to cope with physically but it has also revealed to me an amazing level of friendship, support, prayers and encouragement that I had not expected. And while it’s taking longer than I had anticipated it’s also giving me an opportunity to live life at a slower pace and appreciate the many blessings I have. I see life differently now because of what I have been through. I definitely would not be so insensitive as to suggest that everything bad that happens has an equally positive side to it, but (often with hindsight) if we look for them some blessings are there too and often manifest themselves in other people. They may not make the bad stuff tolerable, but it’s amazing how bright even the smallest pinprick of light looks in the darkest places.
Be blessed, be a blessing.