Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pain in the neck

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” –St. Paul, First Century A.D. (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)
I had it all planned when I went back to teaching last fall: I’d teach in the morning and have all afternoon to write and work on my freelance projects. But, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
On the heels of carpal tunnel surgery in December was an inflamed nerve root in my neck. I spent the evening of our thirty-seventh anniversary on the love seat, fighting excruciating pain while Dean unloaded and put away the groceries I’d left in the truck hours earlier, then made supper. Christmas vacation passed in a blur of pain. After a six-day course of a prescription anti-inflammatory medicine, X-rays and an MRI revealed the problem: Of six discs in my neck, four are bad, one of which is herniated. Add to that bone spurs and a pinched nerve.
So I come home from teaching, take Tylenol with codeine, then plop on the love seat for the afternoon, barely keeping up with paying the bills and meeting freelance deadlines.
In the midst of all this, the doors to speaking and teaching are opening again—after a years-long, dry spell during which I wondered if I was all washed up. When two requests to speak in as many days came, I considered turning one down. But two friends advised me to accept the invitation—and trust God. One—another speaker and writer—chastised me. “How can you even think of turning down something God sends?” she said.
But pain has a way of skewing one’s thinking. I had my “thanks but no thanks” email all ready to send.
“I can’t drive the pickup all the way to Pittsburgh,” I complained to my husband that evening. “Shifting the gears aggravates the pain.”

“If it’s in the evening, I can drive you,” he suggested.
“I doubt it,” I said. “Most of these women’s teas are in the afternoon. It’ll be a two-hour ride one way. My neck just can’t take the bouncing around in that old truck for that long. It just isn’t fair.”
He cut short my self-pity tirade with a single question: “Did you think it was going to be easy?”
I thought of the apostle Paul, who was beaten, shipwrecked, jailed, stoned and left for dead, flogged, and run out of just about every town he preached in. While gathering firewood after being shipwrecked on an island, he was bitten by a snake. Imagine that! Here he was, being a help, serving, and what does he get for it?
I thought of Jesus’ apostles. All but one met a martyr’s death. I thought of all who’ve been persecuted and have died for their faith from the first century to today. And here I was complaining about a pain in my neck.
Did you think it was going to be easy?
I’d forgotten that when I became a child of God, I acquired a powerful enemy. I’d forgotten that when I stepped up my service to Him, I also stepped up closer to the front lines of the battle that has been waging ever since Lucifer attempted to usurp God’s throne (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Did you think it was going to be easy?

I’d forgotten that where God calls, He provides. I deleted the “thanks but no thanks” email and sent an acceptance instead. Imagine my surprise (I really shouldn’t have been, though) when I found out that the tea was, indeed, in the evening.
Forgive me, Lord, for my lack of faith. Help me to be a faithful, worthy soldier. Amen.

Special-Tea: 2 Corinthians 11:23-33

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