Today I’ve been having lots of thoughts. Not long, coherent thoughts . . . those aren’t allowed with the frequent interruptions of a brother and sister who need to be constantly reminded not to tattle or whine. My thoughts are usually little snippets that add up to approximately one thought that can be finished when I’ve kissed them for the millionth time, made sure the closet doors are exactly as they should be (cracked, with the light on), and put the last load of laundry in the dryer. Some nights I let my mind wander, some nights I firmly turn it off. Today I am wandering . . . wondering.
I’ve had something rolling around in my head lately. It may make sense to you, it may not.
It started a couple weeks ago when a dear, sweet, kind lady prayed with me. She had the best intentions and it meant the world to me. But one line of her prayer– a line I’ve prayed for others countless times– struck me. She prayed that God would take away the pain. And as she prayed that, I surprised myself by disagreeing.
You see, in some strange way, I’m afraid that if the pain goes away, then I won’t miss Annie so much. When I look at her crib, when the kids talk to me about her sweet smell, when I put away a too-small outfit of Kate’s and realize it won’t be passed on to Annie, it brings me pain.
. . . I think about how the kids have their tiny Legos spread all over the living room floor and I’m not worried about them making their way into a curious mouth.
. . . I look out the window to see Peter pulling the kids in the sled and I notice there is just a little space left on the sled. It’s just big enough for a crying ten month old who would rather be inside with her Mama.
. . . I find a diaper in the glove compartment of the van. An emergency diaper I stashed there a long time ago. What do I do with it now?
. . . I see someone in the grocery store who looks just like the ER nurse who took such tender care of Annie.
These moments are constant and they hurt . . . and I’m not ready for them to go away yet. All I have left is the ache of remembering. And if I cease to ache, well, then won’t I cease to remember so clearly? And, more importantly, if I cease to ache, won’t I cease to need God like I need Him right now?
Phillip Yancey has a book that I’ve read on and off for lots of years called Soul Survivor. He writes about Dr. Paul Brand, an incredibly distinguished and gifted doctor who chose to live among the lepers.
“As a young doctor in India, Brand had made the ground-breaking medical discovery that leprosy does its damage merely by destroying nerve endings. People who lose pain sensation then damage themselves by such simple actions as gripping a splintered rake or wearing tight shoes. Pressure sores form, infection sets in, and no pain signals alert them to tend to the wounded area . . . ‘I thank God for pain,’ Brand declared with utmost sincerity. ‘I cannot think of a greater gift I could give my leprosy patients.’ . . . Most people view pain as an enemy. Yet, as my leprosy patients prove, it forces us to pay attention to threats against our bodies. Without it, heart attacks, strokes, ruptured appendixes and stomach ulcers would all occur without any warnings. Who would ever visit a doctor apart from pain’s warnings?”
I watched Oprah the other day. I can’t even remember the last time I watched Oprah, or why I decided to turn it on the other day. Her commercial breaks, among other things, drive me crazy. Can she not talk for more than two minutes without taking a break?
A mom was on the show, addicted to pain killers. Not only was she ruining her life, but she had been supplying her 20 year old son with pain killers for the past five years. Her entire day– her very existence– revolved around finding more pills to take away her pain. At one time her pain had been legitimate. But somewhere in her healing, she found it impossible to be healed.
So it forced a question on me. Do I want a pain killer? Or a Pain Healer?
C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks into our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I’ve never been here with God. I am depending on Him for more than I ever dreamed. Never have I had more questions for Him, never have I felt His presence so closely. It is an awful place to be and a safe place to be. I did not have a choice in Annie’s death, but I do have a choice in my life now.
And so today I’m struck with the paradox of pain and healing . . . and how God uses both to bring Him glory. Right now, I welcome the pain. And I also welcome the Healer.