A Much Needed Recovery Operation

I could add little to the many reports and testimonials you’ve heard about the devastation brought by last week’s storms in and around my home state of Alabama. Suffice it to say, that, after praising and thanking my God for my family’s safety, I looked around and learned a lot of needed lessons about priorities, power, and peace. It’s in the calm after the storm that introspective contemplation results in spiritual resolve.

The very best of healing for the hearts of my family in Christ at West Huntsville happened last Sunday morning. After praying for this family for 3 days of very limited contact with each other, we came together, as we always do, on Sunday morning. It wasn’t just like all the other Sundays. We didn’t get hot showers before we came and whatever we had eaten for the past three days had been cooked over an open fire. Some of us smelled like charcoal smoke and, for the first time ever, the preacher wasn’t wearing a dress coat. It was hot and there was no air conditioning. We met in the foyer instead of the auditorium where we could see one another’s faces clearly as we worshipped in the light that streamed in through the glass entry wall. Chairs were packed in the large foyer and the two huge stairways and an upper walkway were packed with people, too. Though over half of us were missing, because many had evacuated or gone to places with electrical power, it was still a big family.

And family was just the feeling we had in that room as we sang praises to our father and remembered out older Brother around that makeshift communion table. Before and after the service we hugged each other and shared our thankfulness for mutual safety. Those hugs were extra tight and there was great comfort in them. I realized as I sat there on a high stair beside four of my favorite five and six-year olds, who were all about flashlights and generators and creeks that had turned into rivers, that this fellowship and worship was really what I had needed most. The tension of the chaos and real-life drama of the past few days just seemed to lift with the echoing praises and then ascend to the throne on the wings of prayers led by faithful men. We sang about being true and faithful and trusting Him. We sang about going to a bright and blessed place on a day of rejoicing. We sang about how, in spite of the wreckage all around in our temporal worlds, that all is still well with our souls.  I have never seen a body of people more prostrate in spirit before His throne as we reckoned in our souls with His power and faithfulness to provide for us, His children. I knew that at the table with my family, I would find the first real calm after the storm…and I was right.  It was a time of reassurance and renewal.

We’ve been so blessed. It is our West Huntsville family that gets to carry the food and gift cards and chain saws and assistance to others whose lives have been damaged beyond full repair this side of heaven. It’s members of our family who’ve attended funerals of neighbors and friends, rather than those whose funerals have been conducted. We can praise Him with the prophet:

For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat (Isaiah 25:4).

 

All Pain…No Gain: Lessons from the Kidney Stone

Just how personal is too personal for a blog? I don’t know. It seems to me a blog is a little more informal than, say…my chapter in a lectureship book or even my column in the bulletin for the ladies of the church. And this space is designed for women, so I think we can touch on some things that might not be discussed in a Bible class. So, if this is TMI, perhaps I could beg license just this once.

I really didn’t feel great on this particular day, even when I left the house. My husband, Glenn, was somewhere in South America and, as I am prone to do, I had let the pantry get very empty and going to the store was becoming less optional. So there I was in Wal-mart around noon that Tuesday when it really hit me with a compelling vigor. It was a sharp pain that was both abdominal and muscular. It felt so much like labor–that hard kind of back labor– that I had experienced once in my life, when Hannah was born. Well, this time there would be no baby. That’s for sure. “Well, maybe,” I thought, “this is just the kind of pain I am going to have now that I am pre-menopausal. Whatever this is, I do not like it.” But I had made the dreaded trip to the store and I was determined to get every item on the list since this was not actual labor and there would be no embarrassing water breaking or ambulance trip. I could do this.

Thirty minutes or so passed and I had changed my mind. I could not do this. I wasn’t sure I could complete the check-out process, much less drive home. Somehow I did, though. I remember telling myself, if I could make it to the bed, take some Tylenol, and maybe even sleep a while, I would wake up and maybe this Gargantuan pain would be gone. I remember praying that the pain would stop. I went to bed for five hours. Bad proceeded to worse. I began to feel sick at my stomach and lost everything that was in my digestive system. Dehydration soon resulted. I took Tylenol and lost that, too. I took turns between writhing in my bed and walking to the bathroom for further dehydration. As I walked back and forth, I could no longer straighten my body.

Thankfully, my son, Caleb, was home from USC on spring break. I am just so thankful for this blessing of Providence. I called to him and, after a short discussion, he decided he would take me to the ER. There was no thought of even getting dressed. I went in my pajamas. As I went to the car, I thought, “This feels a little worse than when I went to the ER and brought home this baby who is now driving me there.” Well, this time, though, there would be no baby…just the pain. And the trip…well, let’s suffice it to say that there was a red light or two when we didn’t get to go when it turned green. I would be leaning out the open door, further dehydrating and turning green right along with the light. I remember the orderly who met us at the drop-off point at the ER. She said, “Honey, I think I’m going to get you a wheel chair.” She got me a little pan, too, and I did not even realize until much later that I was likely the object of pity to the 2456378 (it was a lot) people who were in line in front of me. They mostly had sore throats or sprained ankles and were laughing and talking, reading the newspaper and playing games on their cell phones. I protested in my brain that these social ER visitors were being called to the back, where the IVs with pain meds were located. But my body could not protest.

It was approximately 1:00 am when the verdict finally came in. I had signed the paperwork and given them my credit card. I was paying through the nose for this ordeal (just like when my kids were born). I’d had blood work and x rays and an IV (just like when my kids were born). But there would be no baby. At last, the pain subsided (just like when my kids were born). But it had been 16 hours of pain and travail (two to three times longer than either childbirth labor I’d endured). This time, I had no baby to show for all those hours of pain. All I had to show for them was a kidney stone. To cap the stack, the ordeal wasn’t over. Four weeks later I would return to the hospital to have surgery for its removal.

Later, I thought a lot about what my Lord said about the pain of childbirth:

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you (Jn. 16:21,22).

When the product of pain is something so wonderful as new life, the pain is quickly forgotten. Have you ever thought about the fact that, as Christians, our sorrows and pain have new life at the end? There will come a time, at the end of all the trials we face in this life, when we will see Him and rejoice.

I love the book of First Peter, the epistle of suffering. It details for the people of God all of the rewards and benefits of suffering. Notice some of these blessings at the end of trials suffered because of our faith. But remember the blessings are only for His children.

Suffering:
1. produces praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Christ (1:7).
2. makes us acceptable to God (2:20).
3. makes us happy (3:14).
4. makes us more like Christ (3:17,18).
5. signifies that we have stopped living in sin (4:1, 2).
6. allows us to be partakers with Christ (4:13).
7. shows that the spirit of glory and of God rests on us (4:14).
8. gives us opportunity to glorify God (4:16).
9. solidifies our commitment (4:19).

See, people who are without the Lord have pain, too. They get sick. They lose loved ones. They lose jobs and are involved in accidents. But, in the midst of their pain, there is no longing for heaven that grows in the trial. There is no deepening dependence on God and prayer. There is no growth of faith or intensifying sense of urgency about evangelism. There is no positive spiritual effect on those about them who are witnessing their attitudes about suffering. But for the suffering child of God, there’s all this, now, and then a new life at the end. I think it will be easy, just as Christ said, to forget about the pain when I am enjoying a new life in heaven with him.

But what of those who don’t get the new life in heaven? It’s kind of like they are at the hospital. They are having all the pain of childbirth. They are paying through the nose. They are suffering through the process. But, in the end, there is no new life. All they get is a kidney stone.

I’ll take John 16:22. Hear it again:

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.