16th Air Force chaplain’s journey to recovery

  • Published
  • By Col. Andrew Thornley, 16th Air Force senior chaplain (commentary)
I chuckled when someone recently asked me to share my thoughts on “recovery.”  This person knew I just had surgery and was having to sit still to mend up. He probably figured it would be hard for me, one who is always preaching the gospel of resilience, to “practice what I preach.” He was right!
The injury itself was far more dramatic and entertaining than the recovery has been.  There I was, coming down from Mount Sinai, Egypt last year and wondering how an 80-year-old Moses could do that feat several times, when my knee started to burn like the bush he encountered.  However, unlike the unburned bush, my knee was toast.
You probably noticed that I said “last year” regarding this injury. Yes, I took far too long to tend to it… particularly since I am always telling others to pay attention to their needs. It wasn’t the surgery that concerned me, it was the recovery time. I just didn’t think I could spare it since others depend on me for their care.
Truth is, I am now learning the value of recovery in real time. Just today, I thought the physical therapist would tell me to get rid of the crutch. Well, she did and then she handed me a walking cane! “You’ve heard, ‘No pain, no gain’?,” she asked.  “Well, that does not apply here.”  Pushing through the pain without giving internal wounds time to heal could risk re-injury, she explained. 
Recovery is not exciting…but it is essential.
One last thought as I type this on my elevated knee—recovery is necessary for more than just the serious moral and emotional wounds inflicted upon us in life.  You really need to recover every week, emotionally and spiritually.  The major world religions all teach a sabbath—a day to rest the body and soul. My faith teaches that even God rested on the seventh day after creation. Did He have to? Of course not. But He seemed to know if He did not set the example to rest, its likely we never would either. 
Recover. For you have many mountains yet to climb!