I ashamedly remember my first year singing with the choir. I must have been a spry 40 years old or so. We had an elder soprano named Frances who had horrible arthritis. Her top knuckles were so eroded that her finger tips twisted sideways until they were perpendicular to the rest of her fingers.
Every once in awhile I'd glance at her fingers and think (now, shamefully): I'll never let that happen to my fingers. I figured you could tape your fingers or maybe splint them so they would stay straight. That's what I would have done, I thought all those years back.
What an ignorant fool I was.
Now I have severe "erosive" osteoarthritis. That means that the cartilage in the joints of my fingers and thumb have been eaten away, leaving the bones to grind against each other. An X-ray would reveal a haze where my joints are supposed to be.
This "bone dust" is a wonderful metaphor for fallen creation. As Paul says in Romans 7:
For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
How many times I've repented of my stupid thoughts about dear Frances! Beyond her near century of service to our church and community, two things stand out to me. She sang with choir into her eighties, and though her voice grew faint, she always sang in key. (In my spry 50s, I'm finding it hard now to not go flat.) And, though the year she died she was into her nineties, she still managed to knit something like 50 scarves, hats, and/or mittens for the children in her extended family. Twisted fingers, failing eyesight and all.
Were I only to have a portion of Frances' spirit!
I have a blessing Frances did not. About five years ago, I had two joints on my left hand fused against pain. This was the only remedy at that time. Last year I had a joint replacement in my left hand, this year a joint replacement in my right hand. I lost the pain on "mousing" and typing, and gained the ability to open jars.
In August, I had the joints in two fingers on my right hand not fused--replaced. I continue to discover the extent of this blessing. Yesterday I picked up my flute for the first time in years and delighted in pushing the keys. I can make a fist. Today I sit in my office, typing and mousing happily away. Pain-free.
There's been another blessing associated with my hand restoration.
Last winter, we kept the thermostat at 68. This was far too cold for my hands, so I wore two pairs of pants, a tee-shirt, turtleneck, and sweater to get my body temperature high enough to bring comfort to my eroded fingers.
Today the temperature in my office is 62. I wear yoga pants, a tee-shirt, and a light long-sleeve shirt. My fingers are warm and happy because Dr. Stefan Strapko of Nashua, NH restored what was eaten away.
Frances May of Dunstable, Massachusetts blessed so many with her twisted fingers. Without complaint. With conviction.
With a quiet and enduring faith.
Thank you, Jesus. Frances deserved these pain-free and functional fingers far more than I.