On February 1, 2002 the Zinzendorks took the court at the Moravian College Field House. The college kids allowed the seminarians to have an intermural team. The 2002 squad featured some young guns from the Wisconsin, some just past their prime and out of seminary pastors, and a waaaayyyyy out of his age bracket, but could still hit the corner three, future bishop of the church. Intermural basketball for seminarians was good. The dose of humility reminded us that God called us to be pastors and not athletes.
On February 1, 2002, I ‘shouldered’ the load as “power forward”. Our team featured guards and centers. Someone had to pose as a forward. Early in the game—which we were already losing—one of the Dorks committed a foul. For the first free throw, I positioned myself on the low block, right side. The shooter made the first shot but missed the second. The rebound sailed out of my reach and right into the hands of some goon. He lowered his shoulder delivered the most egregious and blatant charge I have ever seen directly into my shoulder. I felt the joint separate. They called a foul against me. I was lying on the gym floor with a dislocated shoulder, BUT THEY CALLED THE FOUL ON ME!
At first, I thought, this isn’t that bad. Then I thought, this isn’t really happening. Then I thought AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! The waaaayyyyy out of his age bracket, but could still hit the corner three, future bishop of the church asked me what he wanted me to do (a pastorally correct question). I replied (with enough urgency for everyone to hear), “Call the [expletive] ambulance!!!”
The game relocated to the next court. The goon got his fouls shots. I hope he missed both of them.
I found out on my first ambulance ride that posterior shoulder dislocations account for only 10% of all shoulder dislocations. I found this out as we neared the train tracks, to which the driver said, “This is going to hurt.”
I can’t say that it hurt. The sensation that comes with a dislocation is not straight out pain. I can only describe the feeling as extreme discomfort…like, EXTREME discomfort. It is not the searing heat of a deep cut or the primal ache of a broken bone. A dislocation (as the word suggests) means something is out of place—every ligament, every tendon, every muscle, every nerve stretches to accommodate the discomfort to no avail.
I consider what we have witnessed and experienced in the United States over the past five days (and the two months prior) a dislocation. Things are out of joint. Every part of us, every tendon, every ligament of our humanity knows that things are not right. Every muscle, every nerve fights to put things right, but can’t. We are experiencing a collective extreme discomfort. We cannot find a comfortable position from which to spectate. We cannot find security or contentment or satisfaction. We have no diversions or distractions. We can only endure this discomfort until someone, something sets it right.
On February 1, 2002, after a shot of Demerol, I literally saw the doctor twisting a bedsheet to reduce my dislocated shoulder. (He also uttered the greatest line I’ve ever heard in an emergency room, “Does this man look like he cares about your paperwork?”, but that’s a story for a different day.)
I couldn’t sleep right for weeks after February 1, 2002. I had muscle relaxers. I had therapy. I had exercises. I had ice. I had heat. I had no comfort. Even now, when the weather changes abruptly, I can feel it in my shoulder. I can tell you when it’s going to snow ten minutes before the snow hits the ground.
I suspect this is our future. We can anesthetize ourselves. We can yearn for days gone by. We can learn new routines. We will always feel the discomfort of 2020. The virus upset us. The racial violence outraged us. But now we must sit with the discomfort. Someone, something will set it right. I hope that it will be more right than it was before…before the flames and the violence, before the death of George Floyd, before COVID-19, before…before…before. I rest tonight hoping that it will be more right than it was before.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.