Category Archives: pain

The Lenten writings: holding hands with sorrow

I might never have asked what could be

but for sorrow.

I might never have opened to the terrible vulnerability of love

but for tears.

I might never have begun this treacherous path to God

but for emptiness**.

I remember, as a child, being fascinated with the book “Hinds feet on high places”. Much Afraid, the main character, is invited by a gentle Shepherd to go on an adventure to the high places. She longs to go to those mountain that she can see from afar. But even the idea is utterly impossible. She has feet that don’t let her walk well. When he takes her to the foothills to begin her walk upwards, he introduces her to her traveling companions: sorrow and suffering. She recoils from their touch, tinged with pain. “Why couldn’t you give me joy and peace as traveling companions instead” she asks.

I Identified with Much Afraid on so many levels. My rheumatoid disease came early, before age two. And with it, came many rules. I was not allowed to run, or to play outside, or take PE. The idea of going to the high places would have been just as laughable for me.

My night child also carried much fear; each bedtime it permeated the air. The idea of doing something bold and brave was just as unreachable as the distant mountaintop.

I think of the girl who was, and the woman who now inhabits this body. This much stronger body can take walks, dance with my daughter in the kitchen, plant a garden, and choose to do bold things. It’s still invites care with kindness, but it is full of possibility and hope.

Would I be this woman without these journey mates?

Something to sit with on the second day of Lent.

**poem: But for Sorrow by Rob Suarez. Source: from America Magazine, Vol. 184, No. 10, 03/26/2001.

The poem is for the first Thursday of Lent from the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.


The gift of pain

I believe Pain is a gift. I have lived many years with pain as a journey companion. As a child, growing up with rheumatoid arthritis, I learned many tricks for dealing with pain.
Now, since the car accident, I have not experienced pain or feeling in my arm for 3 1/2 months. The impact of the airbags saved my life; but they broke a bone in the hand and elbow and damaged the nerves.
I grew up with a mom who avoided pain at all costs. As her pain increased, body and spirit, the pain meds required began to rule her. And the cost of that was high for those around her, as addiction always demands a price. She gave me the only gift she had, the skill of going away, in order to survive the violence of nighttime. My work now is to lean into staying present.
In a different context, we learn from our brothers and sisters with leprosy, or stroke, or neuralgia that pain is a gift. Without it, skin breaks down and unnoticed injury destroys the body.
In the church, pain appears to be an enemy. We pray for God to take it away, and sing about the day when that will occur. The longing underneath is right and good, that desire for shalom to be restored. But where is the theology of suffering?
I had pain yesterday! I was so excited I did a happy dance. I felt something in my elbow, which is healing, and went and looked in the mirror. It was swollen. It worked! The pain feedback loop worked! The message came through.
This opens all sorts of possibilities. Physical therapy has been on hold because I cannot tell if I do too much. With pain, I can hear my body’s stop signal.
Last week, I felt a Drop of water on my hand. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? But it has been 3 1/2 months since I have felt that sensation. Nerves wake up in funny ways: heat, cold, pins and needles, like a leg you have been sitting on for too long. I feel more of those things now, the arm awakening after a long winter’s sleep.
And so I ask…
To hear my body talk.
For the gift of pain.

Lenten writings: a lament for pain

The words of the Psalms roll off the tongue, the agony of the words lost in the cadence of the old English.

People say my blogs inspire them. Maybe the agony of the words gets lost in the cadence.

Tonight is A time for lament.

A lament for pain. I have lived with pain as a journey mate for much of my life, the legacy of rheumatoid disease.

Now I am wishing for pain. Two broken bones from an impact hard enough to collapse a part of my lung and I have no pain. I am in my ninth week and my arm feels like it is not part of me. I can feel pressure now if someone pinches a finger or drop something on my arm. But the pain is missing.

I lived with a parent who made pain go away. The cost of that becomes higher and higher. One of the takeaways from being a child in that chaos is that I don’t push down my pain, maybe even when it would be a choice.

Without pain, how do I trust my body. The first lesson in my trust your body curriculum is “your body talks to you.”  If the body isn’t talking, how are the next lessons true?  “You can listen to your body” and “your body tells the truth ” are hard to follow without the messages to guide.

Somehow without pain to guide me in how to use my arm I feel lost. Not because I am masochistic and wish for pain, but because I can’t hear my body talking to me. And without the ability to read those signals, I feel cut off from the essence of who I am. I have lost a sense of trust.

I said I wish for pain and someone said to be careful what I wish for. But I think they have never felt the sensation of not feeling. It is eerie at best, terrifying at worst.

So in this Lenten time I mourn for the pain that is not there.

Grief upon grief.