Yesterday—on September 1—Orthodox Christians celebrated the beginning of the Church’s New Year, also known as the “Indiction.” At my parish, St. John Orthodox in Memphis, the priest led us in a special prayer at the end of the service. In addition to things one might expect to be included in this prayer—such as pleas for the cessation of wars—the priest entreated God to grant each of us “a seemly disposition” during the New Year.
The words stuck with me all during the day yesterday. I began to wonder what, exactly, is a seemly disposition? Given my physical and emotional struggles for the past two months, since my car wreck, I considered how the words of this prayer might apply to me—to my disposition—which is often unseemly. When I’m frustrated with how uncomfortable the cast on my leg is, even after having it replaced, I am more likely to cry out, “fuck!” than to calmly pray, “Lord, have mercy.” So now that I’ve asked God for a seemly disposition, maybe I should learn more about what it is I am seeking.
One dictionary definition of “seemly” is “conforming to expected notions of propriety or good taste, decorous.”
I get that. And I can do “seemly” really well when I’m in public, or even when I have visitors, well-wishers who have come to see me and maybe bring me food or flowers or just some good conversation. I know how to show good taste. I’ve got manners.
But what happens when it’s just me and my sweet husband, the one who has been working so hard to take care of me these past couple of months? Or when I’m home alone, and the throbbing in my foot or the muscle spasms in my neck and shoulders feel louder than the silence of the house? Isn’t that when I need this seemly disposition the most?
And yet another definition of “seemly” is “suitable or appropriate.”
I’m not looking for a way out, but it struck me that perhaps there are times when an honest outburst of frustration when one is in pain might not be unsuitable or inappropriate. Especially when it’s paired with a humble plea for God’s mercy. I’ve had numerous meltdowns over the past few weeks, and they usually start with an outburst of expletives. Then come the tears. And if I allow God’s grace into the moment, I end up in prayer. Usually it’s just a few words like, “help me, please, God.” Like Anne Lamott’s first prayer. (And yes, I’ve experienced her second and third prayers, “thanks” and “wow.”)
Last week my foot started throbbing so we made two trips to the orthopedic office. The first day they cut a “window” in the cast just below my toes to give my foot some breathing room. It didn’t help. So the next day we went back and they replaced the cast with a new one. By that evening it was tighter and throbbing more than the first one. The only relief was to keep my foot elevated above my heart—which means being in bed. I was just beginning to get more mobile, but now it feels like a step backwards. Thankfully, I get the cast off this coming Friday, so hopefully the throbbing will stop. I’ll get a removable boot, but I will still be non weight-bearing for a while. I’m sure I’ll struggle with unseemly behavior again once I start physical therapy. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo on my foot like this one:-)
As I continue my road to recovery during this first month of the Church’s new year, I ask God’s forgiveness for the times that I display an unseemly disposition, and grace to seek His mercy.
Bless, O Lord, the crown of the year with your goodness!