Recent photo of my parents in my office

Recent photo of my parents in my office

August 26, 2007

Another Overdue Report

Thank you for your prayers, your gifts, your faithful willingness to give to me when I've lost so much of my capacity to give as I used to. For all of those e-mails that I wish I could respond to more individually, I also give thanks.

Increase in pain. That's the primary description of my recent health. This is graduate, though, and alternates between days of freedom and days of near crippling sensations. I've begun to take a very mild dose of the anti-pain drug that the doctor has prescribed for me. It combines acetaminophen with a small bit of norco -- the one I'd been avoiding when I last wrote. This helps, but, of course, I don't want to become dependent on it, if possible. Nonetheless, it does enable me to focus on activities other than pain, so that's better (such as WRITING about pain :-)). It means that I can work, that I can help out at home some, and that I can drive, type, read, and so forth.

When I compare the energy that I used to have with the current energy I now have, I am a bit stunned, however. I used to be able to process activities and ideas more speedily, and LOVED doing that! Now, I have to be more cautious, and move more slowly, especially in walking or bending over. Sleeping can be a challenge -- not once I've fallen asleep, but to get into a comfortable position IN bed.

On the personal and more inward side, I have been challenged to trust in God's love and goodness. I have seen that I am must take more authority over this situation than I ever have. It reflects the authority that I have long needed to take in other aspects of my personal development.

This shows up in certain well-intended models of Christian prayer. Someone can pray for another who is ill by saying something like this: "Lord, we know you can heal, and we ask for that, but whatever your will is, we know that you will always be present." This is not entirely theologically amiss, but I am beginning to sense the means whereby such prayer can open a door to despair for someone like me. In other words, if I begin to believe that God wants me to begin planning my death ceremony based on a prognosis given me by a doctor, I wonder as to the justice and meaningfulness of my life. If my life is to end, I think I must at least go through the battle that Jesus had in the garden, in which he bled in "fighting it out", so to speak, with his Father. He still ended saying, "Not my will, but thy will be done," but he never accepted that conclusion passively.

This has called me to a deeper level of prayer that takes much more energy. I would say that in my early childhood, and consequently through the rest of my adolescence and adult life, I never learned well how to cry out in anger, in opposition, or in conflict that was appropriate, holy, and ultimately resolved in a restorative way. So now, here's the opportunity, indeed the NECESSITY to do so. And sometimes there are people present here to help me do that, and sometimes not. I think I understand a bit more why Jesus went back to the slumbering Peter, James, and John a couple times, asking for their presence in the battle. Of course -- they didn't understand at all what he was fighting, and neither have I in the past, especially in the case of so many others who have deserved my help and intercessions in time of need.

And yet -- it is only by those times alone that I think my faith is able to grow. If I had people with me all the time, comforting me and "solving" the spiritual complexity of pain, where would the questions be that I have to fight out with the Lord?

If it occurs to you, pray for me as I seek willingly to look in the face of whatever pain comes, and then to break through the passivity I would be tempted to accept -- that God didn't care, that I wasn't wanted anyway, that my life was over with and I might as well accept that injustice now and become embittered. (Believe me, these are easy temptations some days).

Rather, pray that I could step into the the authority I have to resist the battle, crying out with whatever needs to emerge from my soul, but in a holy and worthy fight -- perhaps like the anger toward death that Jesus himself displayed at the tomb of Lazarus. In those few times where I've been able to reach this point of freedom, I have sensed new energy and healing also flowing into my bodily illness. I'm able to hear the voice of the Lord, and know that Jesus really does love me.

And only THEN if no healing comes -- only then will I know that I have fought the good fight without becoming a whiner or a complainer.

God, forgive me for the numbers of times I have pitied myself, and whined against your provision. Help me to accept the discipline that you bring to refine my character, as a loving Father does to his son. I choose to live and to grow more into the image of your own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.