How’s my big toe doing after a rather intense bout of gout?
But the rest of my foot looks like a hyper-pressurized balloon, especially at the base of the first and second toes.
And the pain. Ahhh, the pain! The continual reminder that the urate acid crystals are still storming the gates of the pedal Bastille. No, pedal (long e) doesn’t refer to a bike. It means pertaining to the foot (TYL – Today You Learned).
I can’t get comfortable. No matter how elevated my foot is, the pressure persists. Every time I take a step on my right foot, with the flash of pain my good ol’ gout reminds me, “Hey! I’m still here, ya beef-eatin’ dummy!”
Ibuprofen offers modest relief, but the pain suppression soon surrenders faster than feckless leaders of the free world to the Taliban.
My friend has been mocking me. He says I walk like Igor (it’s pronounced Eye-Gor!) in the movie Young Frankenstein. You know the gait. Step, drag foot sideways. Step, drag foot sideways.
Funny guy, my friend.
Why do I have this unique limp? Because gout swells joints. Directly beneath the two affected toe joints is the ball of my foot. And boy, does it ever feel like a ball! More specifically, it feels like half a burning golf ball embedded in my foot. Yup, “every move I make, every step I take, it’s watching me” (hat tip to The Police, Every Breath You Take).
And so, The Limp.
The limp comes from the pain. If severe enough, there can be joint damage that will affect one’s gait for a while. I still notice the little changes I made since my first flare-up six years ago.
It reminds me of the gout attacks brought on from past mistakes, like the time I ate too much red meat and seafood, well-known instigators of gout. It reminds me how easily disabled I can become if undisciplined. When people ask about my limp and I share the reason, I find out many others have had gout and the same limping experience. Gout slows me down and causes me to walk more thoughtfully and carefully. Don’t want to damage myself further, do I?
After wrestling with gout, there is always a bit of a reminder. I realized I’ve changed a little. I walk differently because of wrestling with my “nemesis.” I have to retrain myself to walk flat-footed with a slight readjustment, rather than with my foot rolled to the outside. The residual effects remind me to temper my life and watch my daily “walk” to make sure I don’t end up in trouble again. I need to remind myself of the right way to live to avoid another flare-up.
So, let’s talk about limps.
The great Old Testament patriarch Jacob was a man blessed by the Lord. But he had a problem.
When you read the story of his life (Genesis 25:19-32:32), you see he kept trying to leverage things to his benefit. He took advantage of his brother, Esau, and his father, Isaac, to get what he knew God had foreseen for him. But rather than do it God’s way, he did it his way, with his own cleverness.
Jacob gained the family birthright (the firstborn inheritance double portion and family leadership when dad died) from his older brother Esau in a sneaky way. He took advantage of a fool’s craving for food. Esau laughingly traded off his birthright for soup (Genesis 25:29-34). Esau was kidding, but Jacob wasn’t. Furthermore, the father’s firstborn blessing must be attached to the firstborn’s birthright. This was the double portion of the father’s estate along with the father’s request that God bless the firstborn with everything he needs to fulfill his duties as family leader, protector, and provider. So, with his mother, Rebecca’s, help, Jacob again took advantage of a vulnerable person, his blind father, to gain his blessing (Genesis 27).
God had already said Jacob was going to be elevated above his brother (Genesis 25:23). So why did Jacob feel he had to connive to get what God had already foretold? It was in his nature. The name “Jacob” means “supplanter.” To supplant means “to take the place of (another), as through force, scheming, or strategy” (Source – Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. S.v. "supplant." Retrieved August 31, 2021) Jacob was born clutching Esau’s heel, a symbol of tripping someone ahead of you to move ahead or to gain an advantage. That was Jacob’s nature.
To God, this would not do.
Therefore, God sent him to Yehovah’s University of Dependence and his only professor would be his uncle Laban, the master schemer. To escape Esau’s fury over the stolen blessing, Jacob fled from Canaan to what is now Syria where his mom’s side of the family was living. There he met Uncle Laban and his beautiful daughter Rachel. Oh, and Leah, the older and not so pretty daughter (actually, “homely” per the Hebrew idiom).
Laban used the lure of a beautiful younger daughter to unload his less-likely-to-be-proposed-to older daughter. Laban wasn’t dumb. It was either that or he would be forced to support two unwed daughters for life. And that was just the start of Jacob’s training.
Over the next 20 years, Laban changed Jacob’s wages 10 times. He continually tripped up Jacob to keep the Supplanter in his service and under his control. But God stepped in to protect Jacob by sovereignly turning the tables on Laban. Read for yourself (Genesis 30). Long story short, when God told Jacob his schooling was done, Jacob secretly fled from Laban with his family and flocks. Uncle Laban pursued and caught up with them. He threatened Jacob, but finally came to terms and sent his nephew on his way. Jacob’s graduation day, right? Wrong.
Now Jacob had to face God Himself (Genesis 32:24-32).
Jacob’s life with Laban was a form of exile caused by his weak character traits, a character God would have to transform if Jacob was going to fulfill God’s plans for him and his descendants. This character flaw of “working things to his advantage without God” had to be broken once and for all.
God showed Jacob that he didn’t have to wrestle with people to get God’s blessing. Wrestling with people was actually Jacob wrestling with God. So, God Himself took Jacob to the mat. God in human form wrestled Jacob for an entire night. This amazes me because 1) God could have pinned Jacob instantly, and 2) Jacob wrestled for the whole night! I’m bushed after 15 minutes with my grandchildren.
God let Jacob fight to the end of his strength to show Jacob Who was stronger. Yes, Jacob can prevail in his strength. He can make things happen for himself, but he’s not God. A wrestling match with God will always be, at best, a draw… if He lets you.
When God decided it was time to show Jacob who He was and who Jacob was, He reached out and with just a touch, instantly dislocated Jacob’s hip. It was so bad, Jacob walked with a limp (Genesis 32:31).
I’ve often thought about this incident between God and Jacob and the parallels about how God teaches and trains us.
He lets us do things with our strength and cleverness until we hit the wall. Sometimes He has to “take us to the mat” to make things clear and to change us. This often happens during times of failure when our lives are “put out of joint” due to lack of discipline or driven off the cliff by foolish, sinful desires. No matter how we finagle to try to get things to work out, all we’re left with is hand-to-hand combat with God.
God lets us wrestle Him and it’s in the wrestling that we gain perspective of Who He is and Who we are compared with Him.
When the right time comes, God disables our “flesh” with just a touch. These are the moments of pain, sometimes excruciating pain, where we see how wrong we’ve been, how selfish, self-serving, and manipulative we’ve been in the drive to make sure our lives are “blessed,” even though blessing comes only from the Lord.
And after the “touch from God” we’re left with a limp.
Every time I treat my wife, Jeanne, poorly, I’m painfully reminded of how I destroyed relationships with pre-Jeanne girlfriends. Every time I get crabby about spiritual leaders with whom I disagree, I twinge with the memory of how I got fired from my first ministry position for undercutting the senior pastor who “just didn’t know as much as me.” And so on. Truly, the list is extensive.
A limp is a painful reminder, but it’s not all bad. Here is a list of how a limp from God benefit us:
· “Limps” remind us we should never rely solely on our strength. It’s good to know and accept our weaknesses. They move us to rely on stronger things – like God! We can never be proud. We all have limp-itations. (See what I did there?)
· After wrestling with God, limps remind us that God is always in control. Out of compassion, He can disable us at will to keep us from imploding our lives.
· God can create a limp in our lives at any time and in any way He sees fit for maximum effect. As a wise friend of mine says, “God has a higher calling on my life than my comfort.”
· Limps prove undisciplined lives cause pain.
· A limp slows us down so we can keep pace with God and not run ahead of Him. They cause us to walk more thoughtfully, carefully, and prayerfully, mindful of God in a more real way.
· A limp reminds us of past mistakes so we can avoid that which created the limp.
· Sometimes, the only way God can bless us is when we have the limp that tempers us and makes it safe for us to have His blessing.
· Our limp resonates with people who have similar limps. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Those with the same limp are often the best to help each other because we know. Let’s be empathic. Let’s support each other, lean on each other, and encourage each other to lean on God.
· A limp reinforces corrected character traits that have caused stumbling in the past. They remind us to walk right.
· A limp is evidence God loves us and won’t leave us alone until He has our attention and dependence.
· Lastly, many of God’s most notable, godly people walk with the most pronounced limps. This is called a testimony. It shows they’ve done business with God and received His blessing, His way, even if it means a life-long painful reminder. Remember, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
And here’s a lovely closing thought. We won’t need the limp after death because we’ll be perfect.
And I’ll be happy to kiss gout goodbye as well when I get Body 2.0!
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts