22 years ago a virus attacked my spine, and my body, in an auto-immune response, attacked the myelin sheath around the nerves as well as the virus. This is called transverse myelitis, which I wrote about more extensively here. The main symptom, from a whole laundry list of them, was that I couldn’t walk on my own. With physical therapy and a lot of prayer, I progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to wobbly and then more firmly walking on my own.
Among the symptoms still remaining are lack of full feeling in my left hand and lower legs, weird nerve signals, and balance problems that are worse when I am standing still. One of the early exercises my physical therapist had me do was to stand on a pillow, close my eyes, and lean as far as I could in different directions. We did this in front of my bed so that I’d have a safe place if I fell backwards, and she promised to catch me if I fell forward. But she was a tiny little thing and I was afraid of crushing her! Thankfully that never happened.
Though the balance issues are much better than they were 20-22 years ago, they are still a problem. I’m not sure what makes them worse some days than others. But the one thing that helps most is touching something stationary, if I am standing, or firm if I am walking. Just touching something firm keeps me steady. Sometimes that means taking someone’s arm, or leaning against a wall or chair. When I was in choir, it used to be that the back of my calves touching the chair behind me was sufficient, but I had to quit when that no longer was enough to keep me steady. Even while standing and singing in the congregation, I’m usually touching or leaning against the pew in front of me. If my eyes are closed in the shower, I often have to touch the wall or the caddy holding the soap and shampoo. Stairs are almost an impossibility if they don’t have a handrail. Uneven or rocky ground requires an assistant.
Feeling unbalanced is disorienting, even scary sometimes, occasionally paralyzing. Balance is an essential part of walking. It’s hard to move forward if you’re constantly fearing a fall, but even aside from fear, without stability your mind and body can’t process moving forward.
It’s easy to feel disoriented, unstable, and even fearful in this world today. So many problems, so many issues, so many arguments without simple resolutions. The hymn echoes what Paul said, “fightings and fears within, without.”
Where can we find balance, safety, and stability? Where is something firm to lean on to hold us steady and help us move forward?
Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope. Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually. Psalm 119:116-117.
For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. Psalm 56:13, ESV.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 116:8-9.
But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped…Until I went into the sanctuary of God…
Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalm 73:2, 17a, 23-26.
“Believe God’s love and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your rock is Christ, and it is not the rock that ebbs and flows but the sea.” ~ Samuel Rutherford