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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

When we would pack it all in

“I can’t put on a brave face any longer. I want to give up.”


She continues: “How wonderful it would be to rest both my shoulders and my soul: to have no worries; to be hoisted into bed, handled and turned by others at night; to be medicalised for the pain with stronger drugs; to have meals put in front of me and taken away afterwards.”


This is Melanie Reid writing in today’s Times.   In fact, each Friday her Spinal Column appears as she writes from her perspective as a tetraplegic.  Her inability to voluntarily move the upper and lower parts of her body was the result of a riding accident 14 years ago.


As a working journalist she resolved to maintain her craft.  She says of her writing: "A lot of people take inspiration from it. I have a black sense of humour, I think you have to have in this situation. You have to try to keep going and tell it like it is."


And today’s piece speaks vividly of the sheer frustration of being disabled and having to rely totally on others.  She longs for a place in a nice sheltered housing.


“It doesn’t have to be grand. I don’t need smart locations or sweeping drives. In fact, I don’t give a damn what it looks like. I just want to be looked after. I want to stop fighting my body and trying to defeat the odds.”


It makes hard reading.  “I’m tired at the moment, I’m aware. It makes independence harder to value. The past couple of weeks have been draining, the weather callous in the face of vulnerability.” 


No putting on a brave face here, just complete honesty – life as it is, tough and dispiriting for someone with a profound disability. 


Like today’s Psalm.


For some years now I aim to read a Psalm each day, working my way through all 150 (although I allow myself three days to read Psalm 119).  Then start again.  And one of the key features of this collection of hymns for the restored Jerusalem temple is their sheer honesty, sharing with God our everyday fears and hopes.


Some are confident, trusting in God’s provision and protection: uplifting. That’s why Psalm 23 is so popular: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”


In complete contrast, others psalms are dark and depressing.  Psalm 88 is particularly black, as it concludes “You have taken from me friend and neighbour—darkness is my closest friend.”


Today is Psalm 55.  Not a well-known Psalm, except for verse 6, which thanks to Felix Mendelssohn has become a stock piece for the solo soprano.


I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

    I would fly away and be at rest.

I would flee far away

    and stay in the desert;

I would hurry to my place of shelter,

    far from the tempest and storm.”


For this Psalm, “troubled and distraught,” is not unlike today’s column from Melanie Reid.  The writer has been sorely let down by a close friend and as a result feel totally abandoned and vulnerable. And they need to get away, to a place faraway.


If an enemy were insulting me,

    I could endure it;

if a foe were rising against me,

    I could hide.

But it is you, a man like myself,

    my companion, my close friend,

with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship

    at the house of God,

as we walked about

    among the worshipers.

(v12 -14)


The point is – and this is the whole point about the Psalms – is that the writer shares their experience with God.  This is life as it is lived, no affectation here.  “Evening, morning and noon. I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” (v17)


For this particular Psalm, God’s help is still in the future.  God hears their voice but he is still to act.  We are not there yet.  All we are left with is a resolve to keep goiing,  Therefore, the final verse:  “But as for me, I trust in you (v23).


For this is the “but” of faith.  Everything seems to be going the wrong way with the only light in the tunnel is the headlights of the approaching train bearing down on us.  Even so the Psalmist makes the decision, possibly through gritted teeth, to trust in God and in his promises. 


For we are called to trust God even in the direst of situations.  This is no easy way out but often a courageous resolve to meet life head on, undaunted and undismayed. 


Joni Eareckson Tada, herself a tetraplegic, continues to have a remarkable ministry of encouragement following her accident in 1967 when she was just 17.  Above all she is realistic about her trauma and yet she writes: “When we hurt, God doesn't always give us lots of words; he gives us the Word; the Word made flesh who is intimately acquainted with our grief and suffering. That's what helps the most.”


That’s Jesus, God with us wherever we may be. 




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