Gaining the Upper Hand

“Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my fingers for battle.” –Psalm 144:1

Katie is the physical therapist I've been seeing the last two weeks. She is helping me regain the use of the two fingers on my right hand that I lost with my stroke on July 24. That has been the only lingering physical effect, so I know I have been abundantly blessed. It is still a significant thing for me, though, because I am right-handed. Shaving, brushing my teeth, and... writing require a dexterity that's gone missing.

Plus, I am a preacher. And, though it was not my preaching finger—the index finger, for pointing—that was weakened, I still need the full hand when explaining certain things. Both of them, actually. The vastness of God's creation, for example (Psalm 8), or the wideness of His mercy (Psalm 145:8). Forgiveness and the removal of sin "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). Grand, sweeping gestures are required for subjects like that.

No, it's my ring finger and the pinky. Initially I lost the total hand—it lay floppy by my side—but all was quickly restored except for these two. And that's where Katie comes in. She is helping me with exercises to strengthen them and get them cooperating with the rest of my hand again. And she says that I am making progress from appointment to appointment.

Like that scene in The Princess Bride when Fezzik says to Westley: "You just wiggled your finger. That's wonderful"—she motivates and encourages me in the right combination. Exactly what you look for in a therapist. If I want to regain full use of these fingers I am going to have to exercise. Repetition. Over and over again, she says. There is no substitute.
Of course, that is true in so many areas of life. To become proficient in playing a musical instrument or a sport takes long practice. To change the way we think, to retrain the brain from negativity to the positive. And to come back from a tragedy—especially a self-inflicted one—to lean into God and learn to trust Him.

Exercises like prayer, daily Bible reading, and expressions of gratitude are part of it. I could do it alone once I learn the basics, I suppose, but it's better when somebody is there to motivate and encourage me. To tell me that things are getting better, and I mustn't give up. Christian fellowship functions that way, which is why I am looking forward to being back at church this Sunday, doing what I love and what God called me to do. I hope that you will be there, too.

Oh, and I was just kidding about having a "preaching finger" to point at you in my sermons. I learned a long time ago that when I point one at my listeners there are three coming back at me. And pointing just makes people recoil into a defensive stance. If I must point, the Disney Leadership School teaches, two fingers on the hand are better.

Usually, though, I preach with open hands.




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