While working out in February on two consecutive nights, I developed severe and piercing headaches. The headaches felt as though someone had a voodoo doll of me, and was inserting pins into the head of the doll. The headaches also prompted a call to my doctor to determine the cause behind the headaches.
After blood work and an MRI, the results came back the headaches were caused by arthritis in my neck that is pinching a blood vessel, which is limiting blood flow to the brain. Hearing this news led to a mixture of emotions including mild anger, relief, and everything in between. There was even humor as I joked with Vaughn about being on God's list of least favorite people.
Why? Throughout Scripture, God refers to God's people as stiff necked and hard hearted. The Israelites were stiff necked in part because of the manual work they were forced to do of making bricks for the Egyptians. From using tools originally intended for animals, the Israelites often had pain in their necks. This pain prevented them from looking left or right, up or down.
God's people also earned the nickname of being stiff necked and hard hearted because of their refusal to turn from their ways and return to God's ways. Time after time, God sent prophets to warn, to remind, to encourage, but to no avail. God's people continued in their ways.
Lent is the season in the Church where we too, are reminded of our sinfulness, of the ways we are stiff necked and hard hearted. We don't mean to be hard hearted, or cold, or callused, or uncaring. It sometimes happens because of sin. Sin has this habit of preventing us from seeing our neighbor in need, of keeping our heads bent so as to avoid making eye contact with our neighbor.
Since learning of the arthritis in my neck, it has meant relearning many things. This includes learning to limit the weight I carry in my purse or backpack to avoid strain on my neck; how to work at the desk; even how to sleep at night. It has meant learning new exercises to encourage flexibility, mobility, and strengthening of neck muscles.
And, it has also meant learning, slowly, carefully, and in small turns, to turn back to God. For now, it is a new normal. And that's okay. There's still learning -- and re-turning needing to happen. If this is the new life God intends for me, I will live it to the best I possibly can.