The Apostle Paul made reference to the thorn in his flesh as a source of the suffering. For him, it was a constant reminder of the suffering of Christ and of his own persecution of the early Christians.
I am trying to be so noble.
During my visit with a doctor Wednesday morning, he informed me that as a result of the recent infection, I may be in pain for the rest of my life. Apparently following the swelling, some permanent nerve damage may have occurred.
My initial reaction has not been so gracious as Paul’s.
But I wonder if he was always so gracious or if the acceptance came after a time of learning, growth, and sheer frustration. Humans rarely choose suffering as the path we take. We seek comfort and security, and lessons from pain require time to be realized.
When I was first diagnosed with my chronic illness it took about a year before I came to accept or at least justify a purpose for it in my life. Fortunately, the illness has no daily repercussions beyond taking my medications on time daily. I do not “feel” anything though.
Pain is a little different though. It bites every time I move. It aches all the while I sit.
I do not want to make peace with it or accept it as a lifetime affliction.
Nevertheless, if the pain is to be a daily companion until my passing, then by golly, there better be a good lesson from it. Perhaps the biggest challenge I will have is coming to take the Apostle Paul as my guide. Some of his writings are used to justify the hate exhibited by so many of the most conservative Christians and I find myself drawn to the gospel of love presented by Christ.
Where in that conflict can I find my guide? Granted the prognosis for persistent pain only came today, but the pain has existed five weeks and the frustration with it has grown out of proportion to the pain over that time. Those who know me know I do not handle frustration well. I like order, answers, and certainty in my life and work even while I propose and ponder larger questions. It is one thing to think broadly but quite another to live broadly until the thoughts have somewhat gelled.
While the thoughts are still fluid though, frustration creates in me the sense that I may simply start to weep at any moment. The frustration is what I’m trying to move through now – and then I’ll be in a better place to deal with the rest.