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Monday, Sep. 1, 2014

A number of firsts

Posted Friday, November 9, 2012, at 11:13 AM

During these last few weeks I've been recovering from foot surgery. I was very lucky, had a great surgeon and now find that I'm getting better and stronger day by day. It is as if each morning now holds the opportunity for new firsts in recovery: First meal away from the parsonage, first day without using crutches, first day wearing a shoe, etc.

This was the first time that I've had three consecutive Sundays off and I've been in full-time parish ministry since 1981. My thanks go to the three persons who preached the Sundays I was away: Jamie Barrand, Rev. Dr. Leslie James and Mike Goss. I have heard from many that they were very good. Indeed, I keep hearing how good they were! Perhaps the standard of excellence has been raised while I was away and I will have to compete to keep up ...

This was the first time I sat in a chair for three weeks and simply watched television. Prescription painkillers kept me from being able to focus my attention to read. I tried watching movies but after a while I simply got lost in the plot and the story. I've heard television called mindless entertainment. During those weeks that was a blessing.

This was also the first time where I had an extended period of receiving care from others. First, I'm a guy, and we stereotypically don't like needing others to help us. Second, I'm a pastor, and usually our relationship with our congregation and community is one-sided: We are the ones to provide care to others.

It was VERY difficult for me to receive the help others offered. During the day the front door was left unlocked and just anybody could enter. Some brought food (delicious and plentiful). Some brought coffee and an hour or two of discussion and friendship. Some brought their knitting and stayed for hours; speaking few words, they simply shared time with me without any pressure or expectations.

Some brought their children for visits and I cannot tell you how each one brightened up my days! Two children brought drawings to cheer me up (I still don't know what they represent but each is still displayed in my living room) while two others brought me a spider encased in some type of silly putty; I learned how to both get the spider out of the "coffin" and how to put the spider back in the coffin without spilling the goo. What fun!

I'm now back at work even though I am moving very slowly. The church somehow carried on without me and in fact has done quite well (such a great team of leaders and doers!). I'm not multi-tasking yet but I can feel that the energy needed for that skill is quickly building.

And, I'm different. Don't ask me exactly how because I haven't figured that out yet. The increasing intense pain I experienced through August and September is now gone; even the surgery wounds don't compare to the relief I experienced within three days of the operation. But it's not just the pain.

I've now been on the other side of my profession. The care I might have given to others over the years has now been returned to me in part. I have a whole new appreciation for what a visit and prayer can mean to someone. You know how some people drive you nuts showing photos of their grandchildren? I show people the photo I took with my cell phone camera of the homemade apple pie someone made for ME. And the people who came and shared any time at all with me are no longer just friends or parishioners or colleagues. They are now jewels in my way of thinking, people who sparkle with laughter and love and light.

I have always tried to live by the spiritual teaching of "it is better to give than to receive." During the last month I was very blest to be able to receive and I thank all those who helped me.

How fortunate that I was able to provide an opportunity for so many to be able to give!

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Sunshine for the Soul
Rev. P.T. Wilson
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.
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