Wednesday, May 11, 2011


This past February, my eighteen-year-old had surgery to remove a floating piece of cartilage from his knee. Seems that somewhere in the past, a chip of cartilage detached from the knee-end of his femur, then built up calcium deposits until it was the about the size of the last joint of his thumb. Pretty big hunk of flotsam to have wandering around in a knee joint, no?

Nate could press the skin around his knee and move this "floater" in all sorts of gross and interesting ways. Unfortunately, it would sometimes, of its own accord, drift under his knee cap, causing his knee to lock up. Frequently, it would lodge in some less distressing place where, although it didn't disable his knee, it caused considerable discomfort.

We learned from the orthopedist that this phenomenon is not too uncommon. We also learned that it seems to be genetic. We were NOT surprised. I've heard various women in my family refer at times to having "a mouse on my knee" - a little calcified critter running around loose where it ought not be. Uncomfortable at best, disabling at worst.

February, Nate's "mouse" moved to a new home.

He keeps it in a small plastic lab jar. It looks sort of like a Mentos chewy breath mint (but it's hard). The first few weeks after surgery, Nate carried this pet with him everywhere. Rather fascinating, is it not, to have a piece of one's self in a jar, where you can take it out, set it on the desk, look at it, and talk about it like some foreign invader? Now, several months post-surgery, he's less mesmerized with the mouse - has it tucked away for safe-keeping, something to tell the kids about one day. And his knee? Nate says it feels better than he ever remembers it feeling before. He can fearlessly take steps three, four at a time. Jumping up onto our high porch, down from the bed of his pickup, attempting standing back flips...a whole new world of thrills has opened up for the young man.

So, what about the mouse?

I was thinking yesterday how Nate's mouse is so very similar to the pet sins we harbor. We play with them and nurse them, make adjustments for them and accommodate them, sometimes for years. Hopefully, we get to the place of truth, of realization, where what was once a comfortable sin becomes to us an unbearable handicap, a weight, a burden. Laid under the surgery lamps, under the knife of Scripture, the mouse has to go.

Yes, our repentance is sincere. Yes, we long to be free of what has so long enslaved us. Yes, the pain of surgery is a relief after the years-long ache of guilt and bondage.

But then there's rehab.

Rehab. A difficult place to be. Yes, finally free of the destructive influence of the floater...but not quite strong enough yet to take the stairs three at a time. Nate was on crutches for six weeks after the surgery. Zero weight on the new knee. Not an easy situation for a college freshman lugging around a backpack of engineering textbooks!

And there's the mouse.

Like Nate with his cartilage floater, we grieve in some weird way having lost something that has been a part of us for so long - even if it's something we hate. We put it in a jar on the shelf. We think about it, talk about it, pass it around among our friends. But, if our repentance is indeed sincere, the pet does eventually begin to lose its significance, to fade from the reality of who I am as a new man.

Someday, the mouse will be a memory, only a story. The reality? Nothing less than a standing back flip...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope so.