It’s 3:06 AM. A man can only sleep so much. I came out of surgery shortly after 4 PM yesterday, staring up at a lady that I will never remember.
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The fan in my room is constant white noise. Not distracting, though louder than it should be. The diaphragm of the IV breathes in and out like the creaking of an old door.
I’m wide awake now.
I’m recovering from a 12-year attack on my body. It was a bulging disc that was pressing against my spine. The sciatic nerve got caught in the middle, which caused excruciating pain on my left butt cheek.
One website that I read said you won’t forget the pain. That is correct. A woman in Alaska said it is worse than giving birth. (I would never say what she said because you never compare anything to giving birth.) I think to myself,
I suppose I’ve birthed ten thousand babies since 2005.
Like The Old Man And The Sea, who looked down at his hands after doing battle with the giant fish; he exclaimed, “What kind of hand is that? Cramp then if you want..it will do you no good.”
His weapons for the battle were cramping, and the line was cutting deep into his fingers and palms. The blood was dripping into the sea, and the sharks perceived the betrayal of his body. His hands committed insurrection against himself, refusing to work with him in the battle on the sea.
My body committed insurrection against me. I asked Santiago’s question,
What good are you?
Ironically, it was the pain that motivated me to keep on going. It is always the suffering that inspires me to help others. I like the way Paul talked about the “gospel irony of suffering” in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
There was a time when my dad’s physical abuse twisted me up inside. After the murders of my two brothers, I was ignorant–to use Paul’s words–about the redemptive possibilities in their deaths. I was devastated when my soon-to-be-ex-wife slept around with other men.
These stories from my past were painful mysteries (Deuteronomy 29:29). As Santiago might say, “What kind of life is that?” And that is the question Paul was answering. Behind every story is the Author. Always there. Always teaching. Always empowering.
Learning to rely on the Lord is not a one-and-done deal. We live in a perpetually fallen world that tempts us with its fallenness. Darkness always lures (John 3:19). The Light always beckons (John 8:12).
God perseveres with us by teaching how brokenness will never prevail ultimately. But more than that: He will take the fallenness, flip it on its head, and teach us to rely on Him who turned death upside down.
But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. – Paul
So I lay here in my hospital bed.
It’s 4:06 now.
I’m recovering and rejoicing. But, also, I refuse to forget the pain that remains in the lives of many who pray every day for a better life.
I Do Not Forget You
I have mixed feelings about getting better. Yes, I rejoice in recovery. It would be wrong not to rejoice. Too many people have prayed for my healing. Hundreds. Maybe more. How unkind would it be not to celebrate feeling better in light of God’s kindness and people’s prayers?
I’m rejoicing. Thank you.
But there are others who read this, and they are not recovering.
Lucia just awoke.
I was typing softly. Besides, that fan is whirring.
I told her it’s hard to talk about the mixed emotions I have right now. It’s not hard to talk about it because I can’t. Talking about it is hard because of the tears. I’m crying for those who’ve prayed about their battles.
Sometimes tears slow down and distort the words. I want to talk. I want to be coherent. But sadness for others comes over me at times.
Their bodies or spouses or situations committed insurrection against them, and their storylines are not changing. They are not getting better. These people come to our ministry every day, looking for answers, healing, a helping hand. Serving is what we do, and their suffering is why I won’t forget them.
The insurmountable difficulty is why I don’t want to forget my dysfunctional story. God wrote that narrative and brought me through it so I could minister to others who have not found release from their prison of pain (John 12:24; 1 Peter 2:21). I don’t want to forget them.
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. – Hebrews 13:3
- One member in the Northwest is in a battle for her life, hoping to kill cancer.
- There’s another member in the Southwest living with a cruel man who not just refuses to change, but blames her for all their problems.
- We have a member in the Northeast married to an unrepentant adulterer. She can’t leave. It’s complicated.
- I have a member in the Midwest whose body is gnarling under the crippling effect of MS.
- There is another member in the Midwest whose wife quit the marriage a long time ago, and no matter how much he changes, she won’t change.
- Another member in Europe fights to serve God while under the burdens of an abusive husband and physical suffering. It’s complicated too.
- And my member-friend here in our church who can’t attend church meetings, and can hardly do anything else. She’s physically debilitated, and nobody knows a cure. She rejoices in my healing.
There’s more than we can serve on any given day.
They read my story and learn about the recovery. These suffering pilgrims rejoice because they are Christians: they appreciate victory when they see it. But they are also reminded that their victory is yet to come. They are not sure if it will come in this life and they are cautiously curious about the next. And that’s why I won’t forget their pain.
I want them to know that as I recover, there is always a reminder of them that is close to my heart. By the grace of God, I will not “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14) without reaching down to help those who are finding it hard to get up because life is knocking them down.
It’s 4:35 AM.
As long as the Lord provides the grace to do so, I will not forget you, the sufferer, and by His grace, I will do all I can to serve you.
Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for rejoicing in my recovering. Please pray that it will continue.
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Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” – Luke 10:36-37