A few months after my tenth birthday, I was desperate for roller skates. My parents were dubious. But they knew that the quickest way of making sure that I definitely want to do something, is to tell me I can’t do it, so they let me be. I saved up weeks of pocket money. And I bought roller skates. Purple shoes, with green wheels and luminescent pink laces. I loved them.
I put on my cycle helmet, and headed for the back garden. It wasn’t easy. But there was a lawn, and after a few hours, I could, albeit unsteadily, move around on it unaided, and skid to a halt, rather than fall headlong into the rosebushes. So I headed for our patio. I got over to it okay. I was supposed to wait for my brother to help me. But, with new-found confidence from the balding lawn, meeting fresh defiance (you’ll never be able to use them) I started to skate. One foot moved off quite easily, and I urged the other to follow. Apart from it didn’t. I ended up skidding onto my back, bruised, my head cut below the level of my helmet.
I skated off again, unaided, on one foot, this week. In the space of two days, I submitted a paper for review, re-drafted an entire grant proposal, wrote a research presentation, taught PG students, raised money for charity. On Thursday, I felt I had all the energy in the world. I had been offered a place at Taize for this year. Right then was what academic productivity is supposed to feel like, and I was doing it. I wasn’t ill at all. I felt fine.
I only got so far on that one foot. Friday evening, my leg was beginning to hurt, from being over-stretched, where the second foot had gotten left behind, wedged in the concrete. It was stuck in the concrete of the prospect of church on Sunday. Of anger and hurt that I dared not voice. Of realizing that I could not pray as I was being asked. I tried my best today. But it was not what was asked. I couldn’t do that. And now, I feel broken, and useless. My head is pounding, like it has been split open.
God, accept the prayers I cannot offer.