Burning and soothing
It was 5 June 2020. Life had been challenging in many ways over the last few years and nothing was any different on this day. 2020 was supposed to be the year of 2020 vision or so we thought. However, the reality was the year had been tough for many. Starting with the bushfires that had plagued much of Australia, but then came the isolation. We were told it was caring to stay away from others. Work from home if you can. No hugs or handshakes. Social activities were limited in number or canceled altogether. Yet there was a fire burning in many for social interaction. A yearning to connect with their fellow humans. Many were
left living by themselves with no meaningful interaction for weeks.
In the meantime, the media told us we were caring for others. The fire and desire to connect continued but slowly as the media told us it was for our protection it became easier to stay inside our houses. Fear became like the water to pour on the fire of desire for social interaction. It has to be asked though is this helpful and where does this leave us now? What damage has this fire done? Historically this fire would have been a warmth that enabled us to connect with other people. It would lead to us showing each other that each person is valued. But when that fire and desire to care for others are being forced to be quelled what outlet does
it have? The desire does not just go away. Or at least certainly not for me. It sits there wanting an outlet to be able to show love and care face to face. Living alone there was not such an opportunity.
The desire was still there to connect but there was no opportunity to show this to others in a socially appropriate way given the fear that has plagued the world over the last few months. How does one deal with this? Over time, we are being encouraged to put water on the fire in our souls that desire connection. Have we stopped to wonder what damage this could do in the lives of relational creatures? What is the damage of putting out the fire of relationships and connections in our society? Personally, I feel like fear has been slowly quelling the desire and fire we all have to connect and have worth. Is it no wonder that many struggle with pain that seems unbearable? Where the fire of connection has been discouraged to shine bright and help others it has still been burning. It is unquenchable but has been forced to burn in hiding. This fire was designed to bring warmth and connection. Instead, it has been hidden, given no way to spread the warmth. Yet, it still burns. The water of fear may put some of the fire out but given the fire has been burning uncontrolled and unsharable it has burned in areas we never knew. The pain
and damage of this are real. There are pain and scars where there should be a connection. Where there should be areas of connection like people around a bonfire that gives warmth and connection we instead see a parched land damaged by a fire that slowly burns and damages the dry ground. While water may quench this to a point, it is true that for many, water does little to quell the desire to connect. Fear may hide the fire of connection for a time, but ultimately, I believe the desire to connect face-to-face is still there.
So let us consider the value of fire and water. Both are vital for life but equally as life-threatening in the wrong proportions. Will you let fire or water win or will you desire to keep them in manageable proportions? Can I encourage you to keep it all in manageable proportions? Take precautions if you must but don’t let fire and water take what is important in your life. Try and maintain them in their own helpful limitations. Consider where you need connection and what ways you can connect in helpful and safe ways. Let’s have this conversation with our friends and family. We all need ways to connect.
Searching for Pain
I woke up one morning something was different within me. I became aware that my body was not giving off its usual pain responses. My body was searching for pain, but it was not finding it. My brain was scanning from my neck, down my back and into my knees and legs. It had been a few days since my back had felt sore, yet this was the first time in five plus years. It was such a disconcerting feeling as everything I had known for the previous few years appeared gone.
Days earlier I had been experiencing pain, debilitating pain, in my upper back that seemed to cry out for me to lie down and do not much. Every movement had seemed painful. Walking from one end of my house to the other in order to visit the toilet had seemed like a huge chore. My knees and legs felt weak and like jelly. It had been near impossible to get out and about. I could not pinpoint why my symptoms were so bad. I tried but it had alluded me. My symptoms had not been this bad since before my surgery about four years earlier. Before this surgery I was only able to walk 1.2 km’s at a time, but this was with pain, a feeling of jelly in my legs and weakness in my knees.
I had hoped that after surgery my back would be pain free and I would be able to do more. Thanks to God, an amazing surgeon and perfect timing my symptoms improved significantly, against all odds with surgery, as my compressed spinal cord was released and started pulsating like it should. My surgeon was amazed. I felt different and free inside as if there had been pressure that had been compressing my chest. This was a pressure I was not even aware of until it was suddenly gone. Within a short time, I was able to walk more and able to drive again. The later I had not done for months. This improvement was indeed very welcome news but as the days of rehab turned into weeks and weeks into months and months into years I started to see less and less improvement. I was left with continuing pain and limitation as part of my daily journey.
Most days I lived in pain, sometimes it was more manageable than at others but mostly I got on with my life in a normalish way albeit with limitations. It was with this background that I found myself desperate for some relief, one Wednesday morning. Ever since I had moved to rural SA I had been dealing with flare ups every time I visited my parents. This Wednesday morning, I probably would have stayed home from Bible Study due to my pain. I was however meeting with the Bible Study leader after the study. So I went, making sure I had my pain medication handy so that I could cope to the best of my ability with my time out.
I remember asking my Bible Study group to pray, on this particular morning. My request was simply that my back would not flair up on a trip to Adelaide that weekend as it was already in a flared state. My back had flared to a point where it was hard to get anything done. Even walking to the bathroom was hard and each step felt like a challenge. Sitting and concentrating on anything was like torture as my back very quickly seemed to scream at me to change positions and lie down to ease the discomfort and agony of staying in a position that was seen to be uncaring for my said back. Asking that the pain would not flare up seemed to be all I could hope and dream of after years of debilitating pain. Pain that had been like an unwanted constant painful companion in some form or other for five and a bit years. Mostly I tried to hide my pain to myself and just get on with life, but sometimes the pain and limitations I felt showed as it was impossible to hide.
On this Wednesday my pain was showing as my back was in a flared state. I had planned to go to my parents’ place to celebrate my mum’s birthday with her. At that moment I wondered if this would be a wise idea as my back was already extremely uncomfortable. I was hanging out for my next pain killer when I asked for prayer however the pain killer was never taken. Whether it was just this prayer or a conversation afterwards, giving God permission to heal my back if it was for his glory, I can’t be sure. Maybe it was a combination of the two, but I know that from that day on, my back pain and limitations were a thing of the past.
I struggled to believe this for a while as my body searched for pain. When it wasn’t there, I knew I had to start to stretch my boundaries of what I thought I could do. I consciously put activities in my life that would stretch my understanding of what my back would allow me to do. Many of these activities where activities I knew I could not even attempt before the back pain suddenly stopped. These additions to my life included extending the amount of time I was driving and extending my walks and time spent gardening. I started not resting the same. My body did not seem to need it anymore. I knew my back had been made whole again, yet I needed to be confident of this. It was such a change from the previous five plus years that it took some adjusting. My limitations had been there so long, they had become my normal. Thankfully my normal has changed but I had to consciously prove to my brain what I already knew. God had made my back better and it was no longer going to be the limiting force in my life. My brain took a while to catch up with this change in my life. After almost five years of constant pain at varying levels, my brain thankfully could not find the pain, nor could it find any limitations. My body was finally free of the pain and limitations. I was free at long last to live the life that God had designed for me with the addition of the lessons learned from my time living with my pain and limitations, but without the pain and limitations effecting my life daily. For this I am grateful.