I can’t feel my fingers on my left hand.
In fact, my entire left arm is numb — when it isn’t in excruciating pain shooting down from my shoulder. This has been going on for over a week and while the painful episodes are getting further apart, it’s difficult to sleep at night and drugged sleep is not very refreshing, so I thought it would be a good idea to sleep off the narcotics.
Note to self: drool is not a good look for you.
To my surprise I awoke to an empty house. Not that it was full to begin with, but the men are gone, leaving Suki to watch over me. She seems to know something is not right and is content to settle down around my feet, looking at me every so often and then resting her head back on her paws. It’s a funny vigil, hers. She can’t do a thing for me, but she nobly sits by, watching. I think that Suki is sad for me.
Well, shoot: I am sad for me.
While I’ve experienced some seriously painful events in my life, lately I’ve been a lot like Suki, sitting by while someone else suffers, unable to do anything but hold vigil. It’s a pretty helpless place to be, especially for someone used to doing something about stuff, so to find myself on the injured list is…well…annoying.
Spending Christmas with a clipped wing isn’t exactly what I planned for, ya know? It hasn’t ruined my life, ok? It’s just slowed me down some, and then, of course, there’s the pain….
So I sit here in the big comfy chair icing my shoulder, staring at Suki staring at me and I have this little bit of a revelation. I’ve been given this little exercise in pain-management and patience as a wondrous gift this Christmas. Oh, God, you know me so well. The only thing that was going to stop me is a bazooka, right? It seems to me that the appropriate response is thanksgiving.
There’s much to be grateful for in this minor infirmity. Oh sure, it hurts like the dickens; I’m not going to deny that my eyes have crossed in pain over the course of the week, but whatever it is, whether it’s a pinched nerve or a tear in my muscle or tendon, it will pass sooner or later. It’s not that serious.
But it has stopped me in my tracks and made me think a little bit. About redemptive suffering, of all things. It’s one thing to tell others to “offer it up.” It’s quite another thing to be the one doing it.
Sometimes we just can’t fix things, or will them better. Sometimes, we just have to suffer. It’s a mystery, this thing called the human condition. It’s complex and beautiful and varied, and sometimes dirty and ugly and full of pain, but still we are a part of it and we are all called to something in it. To improve it? To celebrate it? I don’t know — I’m not being flippant when I say that part is a mystery — but we are called to share in Christ’s suffering as a way to join Him, otherwise, how meaningless our lives and our suffering would be.
This downtime has given me no choice but to sit still, perhaps appropriately during an Advent that would have had me running around like a nut. Instead, I’ve had time for more reading, time for more reflection, and time to practice being gentler with myself and learning to be patient.
It has made me think about suffering in a different light, as a way to grow closer to Christ. In this season when we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, it reminds me that His Incarnation was meant for something else — for our salvation at the hand of great suffering. If my suffering, however brief, has any redemptive qualities in it, it is this, that it has indeed brought me closer to Christ.