As I mentioned in the introduction to my last blog, Pastor Paul had a bit of surgery last week.  It was on my right foot and gives new meaning to the ol’ phrase, “Doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”  Of course in our day and age there are many for whom that phrase is much more appropriate. I am referring to those who have given life and limb in our overseas battles in Afghanistan and Iraq where they have been killed or injured by IEDs.

That having been said, my surgery went well and my recovery has begun.  I visited the doc yesterday.  He cleaned up the remnants of the surgery, looked at the sutures (so glad he didn’t say, ‘’suture self’), re-dressed and bandaged the wounds, and then said the words every person in recovery wants to hear, “looks good!”

This process has caused me to reflect on when we confess our sins to the Lord.  We go to the doctor of our soul and say, “I need help.  My soul is injured and I can’t repair it.  I want to feel better.  I want to have a closer relationship with God.  I want my future to be everything it can be un-hampered by sin and my spiritual shortcomings.  Will you operate, take away my sins, and heal my soul?”  In our short pronouncements on Sunday mornings or in personal counseling the answer is, “Yes!  You are forgiven!  On the cross I completed the work and have simply been waiting for you to ask me to appropriate that work in your life.  It is finished.  Looks good!”

Sometimes in this process we forget that soulful surgery spelled “F-O-R-G-I-V-E-N” is just the beginning.  Yes, the bad stuff is removed but now recovery must begin.  I have been gimping around the house for a week now in a protective boot.  Why?   Because to correct one of my toes I had to fuse some bones and those bones needed to be held in a particular position to fuse properly and to do that the doc had to put a pin through the tip of my toe and through two of the three knuckles and the tip of that pin sticks out ½ inch from the tip of the toe.  Part of recovery is acknowledging this change in my life and wearing the protective boot which I need so recovery can be accomplished.

The pin will be in for 4 to 6 weeks.  The boot will be on for 4 to 6 weeks.  I will limited in my freedom to walk where I want and when I want and how I want for 4 to 6 weeks.  What the doctor also told me was that “full recovery” won’t be completed until we have reached about 12 months.  Surgery was almost immediate and appears to have been successful.  Recovery is a process that will take patience, focus, and a good deal of time.

Forgiveness is immediate.  The pronouncement has been made.  But recovery, becoming all that God has designed and desires me to be will take a lifetime if not an eternal lifetime.  It is the way it is.  All of our friends who are involved in “Recovery Groups” (AA, NA, SA, Al-anon, etc.) know this to be true.  Early on in their healing process they attend weekly meetings (I have known some that must begin with daily meetings).  Somewhere along in the process they get a sponsor who is a few steps further along the road of recovery.  At some point in the process of their recovery they too may become a sponsor and help another in need of healing walk the road of recovery.  Throughout their lives they will never stop saying, “Hi, I’m Paul. I am an alcoholic” even when they have been clean and sober for 30 years.  They know they are one drink away from falling back into the illness, the injury of the soul from which they have been healing.  Recovery takes a lifetime.

So, what is the point of this story? I hate pain.  But, if I am going to experience it I want it to be toward the best end possible.  I will submit to the pain and do the work of recovery.  I will keep in mind the why in the midst of the how.  Even when the pain is great I will stay focused on the end result.  Even when I get frustrated with the process I will stay focused on the prize.  And, when I ask God to forgive me I will understand that it is not simply getting rid of my past but committing to the process of obtaining God’s best for my future.