Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Gift of Chronic Pain

I work with a good man named Mike Wallace who is a little younger than me and in a wheelchair. He broke his back in his teens (?) and is paralyzed in his legs. He lives one of those half-handicapped lives in that he drives (a "normal" car that has an accelerator/brake add-on - but anyone else could drive his car fine), etc. And he talks about the past (pre-accident) just like a non-broken-back would.

His legs hurt, though. All the time. We were talking the other day about chronic pain and he concurred - either it hurts or one is waiting for the pain to return. My lower back still hurts, usually. Sometimes a lot, but almost always at least some pain. It has become a part of my world, limiting what I can do (or at least forcing me to choose between what I want now with pain later today or saying, "no").

It has become so common for my back to hurt that when it doesn't, I notice. My back has become my vision, my world. Every thing I do or plan has to go through the "back filter" to get approval. My back is how I think. Always.

But therein lies the gift. I now know what it means to have one, single thing be the defining factor in my whole life. I am always either afraid of it, enjoying reprieve, thinking about how to improve my "back situation." Even last night as I sat with Tara talking (my favorite!), I was also thinking about my back (should I get up, should I move, is this posture okay, should I be doing some kind of ab. 'flex').

The gift of knowing what it is like to have one, solitary "thing" define my everything. Now I know, as well, what it can mean to have my one "thing" be "I am a child of the living God, I am under the mastery of Jesus."

Having lived with and without chronic pain, I am afraid I must say: for me / from my history, I don't know that it was possible for me to enter into 100%, all-day every-day Child of God without chronic pain. It is much easier, then, to be a chronic follower of Jesus because of my experience being chronic.

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