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Suddenly everything changed: A frozen shoulder, epiphany and what comes next

Friday, 6 January 2023  | Karina Kreminski

For most of last year I had a frozen shoulder. I had never heard of the term but apparently it’s quite common after an injury or as you get older. It happens especially to women going through menopause. Something to do with hormone levels fluctuating but, actually, no one is sure about the exact cause. After a fall I had while on holidays in January, my shoulder simply “froze”. I had limited movement and a little pain. Mostly it was frustrating not to be able to do things like reaching up and also around to my back. It was hard to do normal things. It was impossible to pick up some things, hug properly, put on a bra or attach a seat belt.

All the medical wisdom says that the only thing you can do with a frozen shoulder is wait until it decides to “thaw”. It is somewhat helpful to do physiotherapy exercises - which I did; to get cortisone injections - which I did not do; or to apply creams and heat pads and get massages - which I did do. However, ultimately nothing can heal it other than time. Sometimes it takes just a few months to thaw, other times it can take up to three years. Strangely, the shift can happen suddenly - from one day to the next. So on one day you might have a stiff shoulder, unable to move properly, and then the next day you could wake up and have full range of movement - just like that. Which is how it happened for me. One day late last year, I woke up and had full range movement after nine months of a frozen shoulder. It was nice to be able to hug properly again.

After waiting all that time, suddenly everything changed.

I’ve been thinking today on Epiphany, about how we are wired to long for more than the status quo, how we each want new things in our lives that bring life and flourishing. When I read that familiar text about how one day, a long time ago, a prophet called “John the Baptist” appeared in the wilderness proclaiming and promising something new, crowds gathered - interested, curious, wanting to join in with whatever he was talking about, as it sounded so fresh, so hopeful and life-giving. Everything had been familiar and then, suddenly, an unfamiliar voice sounded out, echoing that there is more than what we see before us. I’m also thinking about those wise men who lived with an expectation that there was something magical brewing in the world, because the stars had told them so. They travelled, searched, followed the signs in the sky and arrived at an un-extraordinary town to see a child that would be this new thing, a gift to the world. Suddenly everything changed. An epiphany - a revelation or moment of clarity shining in the midst of the humdrum, ho-hum grind of life.

We ache for epiphanies today. Something that will reveal to us what we all deep down suspect - that there is more. This doesn’t mean the removal of the darkness, pain and less-than-ideal reality before us; rather, an epiphany gives us a glimpse of what one day could be. Diana Butler Bass writes:

Epiphany is a manifestation, the mystery revealed, and an invitation to discover grace, goodness, and God. It is neither a magic fix nor a moment when utopia arrives. But the birth, the star, and heavenly glory don’t eliminate the darkness. Rather, such revelations cast the light that we need to see the way. Epiphany beckons us to pay attention and participate in widening the circle of light in the world — to push back against all brittle injustice and brutality. Whether a babe in Bethlehem or a burning bush, epiphanies are guide stars on a longer journey toward healing, liberation, and peace.

An epiphany comes as a gift, a grace-note trying to catch our attention to turn us towards the direction of the light.

And what do we do after an epiphany? We must simply get on with it as though nothing has changed, even though everything has changed. Like the iconic couple Mary and Joseph whose lives forever changed after that message from the uber-angel Gabriel. They took the extraordinary gift - a child - and presented him to the temple just like every other faithful Jew at that time would have done. Epiphanies and faithfulness go hand in hand.

Often, the most wonder-filled things come suddenly, as unexpected gifts, even though deep down we were all the time longing for change. We simply wait for those gifts to come to us; there is often nothing else we can do as it’s out of our hands. We wait, we search, we discern and then we settle ourselves to receive it open-handed when it finally comes.


Karina Kreminski is co-founder of Neighbourhood Matters and the author of Urban Spirituality (2018). She is an ordained minister, has a doctorate in missional formation and was a Lecturer in Missional Studies at Morling College.


Photo credit: Karina Kreminski.

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