I recently had a visit to our local hospital for a little day procedure. I was nothing too serious thankfully…just an odd looking mole that they decided to relieve me of and so, as I lay up on the bed of the compact surgical room, I bid farewell to Roger (I felt it was important to name him before he left) as a very pleasant team of nurses took him away to wherever dislodged moles go to. Too say “remove” of course is the gentle way of saying…they cut me!
I have to admit that I wasn’t quite prepared for just how big a cutting I was going to receive until an anaesthetic shot and seven stitches later I ambled out of the Day Surgery Unit gingerly holding my stomach where, underneath my jumper was a most impressive dressing which, on the down side, was definitely going to curtail any sudden or strenuous movements; but should at least, on the up side, guarantee a reasonable period of spousal sympathy. With this in mind, I headed home to take up a strategic camping position on the sofa.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, a week or so later we were at an event where a very nice man, upon hearing the whole heroic episode recounted to him (It’s of course expected that we males will embellish these sorts of things.), he asked me if I had any pain. I replied that there was a just little bit and was about to pass it off as being completely natural considering that a very nice lady had sliced me open with the surgical equivalent of a very sharp craft knife, when he suddenly became very animated with his face looking like he’d just struck gold.
“Can I pray for you?”
“I will pray for the pain to leave you!”
“You should not have this pain.”
Cue the laying on of hands and one brief but excitable prayer.
“How do you feel?”
I have to point out that by this stage we were not alone as a small audience had began to gather around us and were now looking at me expectantly, my new friend grinning from ear to ear. Not wanting to ever be the source of any discouragement at all, I smiled a friendly smile and offered a slightly hesitant: “Ummm…I’m…good thanks. Just a bit itchy.” Which was the truth actually as Roger’s previous abode had been knitting nicely over the previous week and was now at that itchy stage. Smiling broadly my prayerful friend declared “But I didn’t pray for the itch!” as if to offer himself to pray for that too. Chuckling politely I told him not to worry about my itch and thanked him for his thoughtfulness, waving him goodbye as he contentedly turned with his friends to leave us.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am ungrateful in any way at all for the very kind offer of prayer to cure the pain from the remnants of Roger the mole, but the whole experience left me thinking that we perhaps have a tendency to pray for things that actually don’t need prayed for. I mean, why are we so averse to pain? Sorry, I know that seems like such a stupid thing to say. I mean, who wants to suffer pain right? But when it came to my little wound, I’m glad there was a bit of pain. If there wasn’t at least some pain, then I’d probably have just shot off down the gym the next day and subsequently split my stitches trying to be all super manly and ended up bleeding all over the floor. (Sorry…a bit gross I know. But hopefully you get the idea.) The relatively little pain I was feeling was my body saying “Hey! Take it easy boy! We’re knitting something here.” My body…this amazing vehicle that carries me around in this three dimensional world…knows how to heal itself. It’s the way God has designed me and it’s truly amazing, and all I have to do is give some time to let it’s natural process take place. So any twinges of pain are very important signals from my body to remind me to slow down and be gentle with myself.
That’s the physical.
But now think about this in emotional terms. We all have experiences in our lives that we could describe as being painful, emotional wounds… and perhaps we would rather that some of those wounds were not there at all. But maybe we could think of it like this: these wounds can be there to remind us to walk gently through this life. To be careful with ourselves and with others. We won’t always get it right or make good decisions all of the time and we will invariably end up with more than a few emotional scars from our passage through this world full of others who have the potential to hurt us in one way or another whether accidentally or deliberately; and so we should always let the pain of those wounds remind us of what it means to be human…a condition that we all have.
These wounds are important and should be a constant reminder for us to take it easy. Not that we should perpetually live in the past, but rather to be aware of the simple truth that life happens to all of us, and that all of us are nursing wounds of one kind or another with varying degrees of sensitivity. We are all the same. We all have pain. I have pain and so do you, and sometimes my pain will rise to the surface of my life and I will feel it all too keenly…and that’s the point. My wounds…my hurts…bring me near to God.
The Bible tells us that God is “close to the broken hearted…” Psalm 34:18. Pain reminds us that we are not indestructible and that we exist in the place of weakness, but that in that weakness we are paradoxically at our strongest: “For when I am weak I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
Pain shatters the illusion of self-sufficiency and independence. None of us exist in isolation: we all need others…we all need God.
Pain is therefore not to be ignored or avoided. It was interesting to me that the guy who prayed for me desired that my pain would be taken away. A very caring and kind sentiment indeed, but a prayer for understanding and wisdom in my healing may have been better, in the knowledge that pain is part of my bodies healing mechanism and the doorway through which God draws close to me. Pain is a signal. Pain is an invitation. Pain attracts greater care from both myself and others (my wife was amazing in her care of me by the way). Pain attracts love. God is love…therefore our pain attracts God.
Of course it would be wise to point out that what I am not advocating is times of self pity. That’s a whole different ball game and one none of us can win. What I am saying is not to fear pain. Don’t glory in it, but equally do not fear it. Pain is an important part of our healing and awakening to God. If I didn’t experience pain then I would be the most careless of human beings with both myself and others, oblivious to the damage I could potentially inflict. Jesus teaches us to “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. It is the memories of some of the pain that I have felt whilst travelling through this life that can help me consider before I act in any way that could cause hurt to another human being, and in this way I am closer to God.