Monday, April 18, 2016
So help me, I dropped it.
Until the other night I would have told you that the one time I experienced true pain was about seven years ago. It's a day which I will never forget. I had just had my spine ripped open by a doctor. Rods, screws, and various twisty pieces of metal lanced into my frame like a sadistic pin cushion. A living voodoo doll for someone very unpopular. The pain was unbearable. Then I experienced true pain. Sure, I would have told you then that I had been in pain all day. After that day though, pain had a different meaning for me.
Just after my surgery they needed an xray of my spine with 'weight' on it in order to make sure everything was bolted together properly. So they wheeled me, mostly sedated, down a hallway to a room designed to torture and haunt my dreams for years to come. Over by the wall were two bars... they told me to hang on them. That's right... put your hands on the bar, we need you to hang all your weight on your arms while we take an X-ray of your spine. They were not kidding. So I did as asked.. they lifted me up, I couldn't even put weight on my legs yet... placed my hand on this rod and said ok hang on.. and then they lowered me till all my weight was hanging there.. hanging on those freshly spiked screw holes... twisting through those muscles which had been sliced through just days before.
Everything went white. I couldn't think. I couldn't breath. I didn't know who I was.. or what I was doing.. all I knew was, "I have to hold on to this bar." So I did. I don't remember what decade it was that they came back to get me... or how we time traveled back to the present day, but eventually, centuries after the command to hold on.. they pried me off the bar and into my seat.. and I lost consciousness. Everytime I see that scene in the passion of the Christ where they give him the cross and he embraces it, holding it.. almost reveling in the pleasure of that knowledge that he is holding on... I am reminded of what that feels like.
This time in the ER I experienced a glimpse at the living stations of the cross. Up until this point it had hurt.. it had hurt bad.. enough that this man asked to be taken to a hospital... asked to be moved into a room with needles.. like a vampire asking for daybreak. I shuffled in towards the room, a familiar one.. it's our date room... some how they always put us in there... as we drew closer the pain hit. I gasped a few times, moaning out loud. Then I couldn't see. My eyes had become overwhelmed. I felt the tears going down my face. I felt the shame of crying out loud like a child, weeping in front of all these people... I gasped out something to the effect of, "I can't do it." So help me God.. I dropped my cross. Everything was white again with pain. I couldn't think. I couldn't move. I couldn't speak or breath. All I could do was stand there and exist.
Then my wife, the living Simon of Cyrene, put her arm around me and said just walk with me. She moved me into the room and onto the bed. For eternity I lay there waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for pain pills, waiting for something.. Then the nurse informed me she couldn't give me the medicine they had prescribed because I was allergic to it. I was going to have to hold this cross again.. guess what? I dropped it again. I begged her for it. Please just make it go away! Do something! She told me she couldn't give it to me because I could stop breathing.. I didn't care, I said.. that'd be better than this..
Sunday my wife brought me the Eucharist and I felt unworthy. I received Jesus asking him to forgive me for carrying the cross so poorly. For giving up. You see, I now know the answer to what I would do if I were on the cross... would I go to my death? I've always said I hope so.. but Jesus took more pain than me.. and begged for forgiveness... he suffered willingly for others, refusing the wine to numb his pain. Me? I cried out for anything.. sure I tried to offer it up.. I tried to pray a rosary.. but the words wouldn't come.. an our father? and nothing but moaning escaped my lips. I sat musing over this while praying my morning office.
Then he showed up. At the door. Offering me communion. His name was Deacon Mike, but I knew him the moment I saw him.... Jesus was there before me. I felt shame. Misery.... I told him that I had already received and he said, "Can I bless you then?" I acquiesced and he placed his hand on my forehead. He said in a gentle voice something that I will not forget any time soon. God has created you unique.. so go forth in comfort living your life with joy as the person he created you to be. No one else can do it the way you do. Then he blessed my wife in a similar fashion. Warmth flooded through me.
Yes, I dropped my cross. I'm not Jesus.... but you know what? I've picked it back up.. because he's making me more like him. I am going to try to carry it with joy.. knowing that through this pain and this suffering I learned first and foremost.. who I am not... but secondly, I am more aware of who He is... and even if I have to drop it 100 times more... I will do so.. if only to glimpse Him for a moment saying how much he loves me.. as he helps carry the load I am unable to.
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."