Saturday, September 20, 2014

Responding to Shared Pain

It's been a little while since I posted on here.  The idea I want to talk about is one that has recently been driven home with such force that I couldn't entirely find the words or the strength to express it, but it is one that I believe is worthy of being said and emphasized.  So, diving in...Here we go.

On August 27th my cousin Don was in a very serious car accident.  I will spare the details because I know my family has seen them repeated ad nauseam on the internet, in person, over the phone, etc.   He hit a semi and was very severely injured.  He had to have brain surgery and leg surgery that same day while many of us sat in the waiting room trying to let the events of that morning process through our minds and hearts.  People flew into action, whether donating money, or starting facebook groups with support and prayer, or even just bringing in food--everybody was onboard.  This was good, this was encouraging, and I know it has helped to see people from all over the country praying for him and our family.

It's hard to describe with accuracy the bond between my cousins and I.  It's often a flexible word meaning anything from your best friend and playmate growing up to someone you may have only met once in your life.  In our case, it is definitely a case of the former.  Our group of cousins has been extremely close and for that reason this event struck a deep chord with all of us.

I don't share this account looking to drum up more support for a cause, or even to try to evoke some kind of sympathetic gesture from anybody.  I simply have been learning recently that there is a major difference between facing your individual level of pain (i.e. chronic illness) and facing pain that is so major it sends shockwaves out to an entire group of people simultaneously.  There can be a tendency to think that your own pain only affects you (even though we've already discussed how that is not entirely true) but there is no denying the impact that an event like this has on many people.

It's not always easy to find a way to help in situations like this when you already feel so weak to begin with.  When the people closer to the situation seem stronger than you are, and more able to control their emotions and face daily life, you might wonder if there is something wrong with you.  "Why can they get it together and I'm still crying?"  "Why can't I just trust God and go back to my routine without wondering about it all the time?"

What God has been showing me these past few weeks is that having a chronic illness doesn't mean you're the only person in the room struggling with something big.  And while facing that at the same time as a family crisis may add another level of challenge, it doesn't mean that you can't be used of God to comfort other people or simply just be available for them.  There is so much of living with fibro that means "you can't" but in this case, living with fibro means sometimes you can walk into this kind of situation and hold someone who's crying and feel enough of their pain to grieve with them, or share enough of the heartache that you are a safe person to be honest with.

Trying to go through life with your pain and sensitivity meters set about 50 levels higher than normal is often a very frustrating way to live, but every once in a while God gives glimpses of ways in which it is not roadblock, but a gift.  When everyone around you is suddenly facing immeasurable pain and questions, you get the chance to set aside your daily pain and focus intently on reminding them who your Savior is.  That is an awesome thing, and I think that is something I may have been much less ready to do had I not already been forced to slow down and do that to some extent to myself on a daily basis.

A side note: whether you have fibro or not, it is not a bad thing to set aside yourself for a while and enter into someone else's pain for a bit.  The Body of Christ possesses an amazing strength in its inter-connections, primarily because of the connection starting with Christ.  We lose a lot when we get so absorbed into our own routines and concerns that we only care about others when we're with them.  Also, cliches are not always helpful.  Sometimes it's hard to say the truth without it sounding cliched, but grasping for something out of the cultural tragedy box is only as helpful as the depth of the relationship.

Also, horror stories?  Why do people feel inclined to share horror stories?  If you've truly been through something like this, you have enough common ground to know you don't have to prove it by giving graphic details of other people's hospital stays...  and if you haven't, you really don't have to search for it that way... :P  Ok, that's all I have, I apologize in advance if this post makes no sense, but I felt compelled to share something and my mind and heart haven't finished the processing time yet, so it may be entirely jumbled.  We do appreciate your continuing prayers as Don hopefully moves to a Rehabilitation Hospital on Monday.  He is doing infinitely better than the doctors gave any chance to hope.  For that and for all of this pain we praise God.


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