The early morning ward rounds woke me from what had been a rather disturbed night but the offer of a cup of tea was a welcome introduction to a new day. An old Chinese proverb claims that a day without tea is a day without joy. Although I am in general a coffee drinker, when I am under the weather and feeling sorry for myself there is nothing more soothing than a nice cup of tea.

The gnawing pain in my leg reminded me briefly of the drama of yesterday however, I had woken with a sense of anticipation as today was day 1 of my recovery. I have been physically limited during the previous two years which had caused me to give up playing golf, skiing and other physical activities which had offered me a welcome distraction from the business of life. I was determined to recover well enough to get back on to the golf course and maybe enjoy another ski holiday.

Yesterday concluded with a visit from a young physiotherapist who informed me that he would be round first thing in the morning to get me out of bed so as to take my first steps. I was slightly concerned as the expression on his face was not one of compassion and care but was more like the expression of a young boy intent on pulling the wings of an insect. However, I am sure he knows what he is doing even though he looks like he isn’t old enough to sit his eleven plus.

Physio sessions were a big deal on this ward as we were all either hip or knee replacement patients, most conversations normally concluded with the question “have you done the stairs yet” this seemed to be the qualification for early release.

I was acutely aware of a sense of apprehension, which seems strange to me as I’m generally up for anything. What if my first step was not stable, what if I rotated my leg too far and dislocated my hip, what if I wasn’t able to endure the pain, all of these irrational thoughts were trundling through my mind. The statement that says what you think about the next few minutes of your life will determine what you do next is so true. I am sure many of us become trapped where we are because we are afraid of the consequences of taking the next step. 

Just recently I was filled with great joy and pride as my then 11-month granddaughter boldly took her first steps. She seemed to lack fear, she seemed unconcerned about the prospects of falling over or colliding with an immovable object, her face lit up with excitement as she focused on her mum and dad reaching out to them as she confidently took her very first steps. Then it dawned on me, unlike we adults she had never felt the pain of falling flat on her face, she had never been bruised by walking into an immovable object, she wasn’t afraid of heights as she had never considered the prospect of falling, without these experiences and knowledge she could courageously step into the unknown without fear.

I began to consider how often we find ourselves incapable of attempting new things due to the fact that our minds are programmed by previous failures or we have grown up being told we are not good enough. When God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, his first response was, “But who am I to appear before Pharaoh? How can you expect me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) Moses was all too aware of his previous failure to rescue his people from the tyranny of Egypt.

Didn’t Moses understand God’s power? Didn’t he believe that God would equip him for the task? Apparently, he didn’t. Rather than say yes to God, Moses hid behind excuses. “The people won’t believe me, I’m not a good public speaker, I’m clumsy with words.” He answered God’s invitation to a holy adventure with, “Please send someone else!” (4:13).

The fear of making a mistake or of failing can become a stronghold that traps us and has the power to paralyse us. We want others to think well of us, not regard us as clumsy or incapable. The possibility of losing others’ respect hinders us from expressing our opinions, learning new skills, and honing our abilities, however, we can break free so as to embrace life fully as God intended for us. How is that possible? I have learned through my faith in Jesus Christ that I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need (Philippians 4:13).

I have also come to understand that to achieve something that I have never done before is a prosses, the journey starts with focusing on taking first steps. When I learned how to swim my ambition was to swim a whole length of our local swimming pool but to achieve this I had to break the objective down into attainable units. Swim ten feet without touching down, swim a width, do two widths of the pool, now I am ready to attempt a length.

“Good morning Mark” the young physiotherapist strode onto the ward, my attention was drawn to the Zimmer frame that he was swinging teasingly before me, he still had that disconcerting glint in his eye that indicated that he was going to get far too much pleasure from this moment. “It is time to get you moving, motion is lotion”. I gingerly pivoted on my backside and gentle lowered my legs to the floor, the pain was intense. I reached for the Zimmer frame to steady myself, the young man reached out giving me the confidence that If I was to lose my balance he was ready to catch me. Holding the Zimmer frame tightly I rose to full height ready for my first step. Maybe tomorrow I can attempt the stairs…..