Many of you are aware of my recent bout with kidney stones. The stones emerged last week, the day before Easter, when I prayed that Christ would allow me to identify with Him in the suffering of his passion. Eleven days later, on Monday night, I again went to bed in pain. The week has been a blur; every day with intermittent fever and the enduring the grip of sometimes nagging, sometimes crippling pain. Every night, shuffling off to bed, half asleep – half awake, while little knives stabbed into my lower back. Every morning waking up at 4 am, an invisible zombie eating into my kidney. Monday night was no exception. Before going to bed, I thought to myself, “What would it be like to live with this pain the rest of my life – to know that every day would be a battle against physical misery? There must be so many in the world who do.”
A week ago, I had prayed to identify with Christ in his suffering. On Monday night, my identification with suffering took a different turn. I thought of those who have cancer, those who suffer with AIDS, those who have MS, those who must live in a wheel chair or are bound to their beds. I thought of those who go to sleep tonight without a bed, without food, without water, children dying of starvation, and of countries ravaged by war and misery. I thought of our military, thousands separated from their families, alone and battle hardened. I though of those who live with any chronic misery. I was scheduled for lithotripsy on Thursday. My pain would most likely end by Friday. But so many others would have no such guarantee. Only death itself could be trusted to bring an end to their particular misery. I whispered a prayer for the suffering as I drifted off to sleep with an uncomfortable tightness in my back, and with my trusty “book and ball” sitting on the bedside table.
I woke up at 2:30am with sharp daggers thrusting into my back and groin. I could hardly breathe. I took a pain pill. I stuffed the book and the rubber ball underneath my back and rolled around on top of it for about thirty minutes. The pain horribly increased. Several hours later, I sat on the toilet, exhausted, my eyes closed, shivering with fever, while I pushed hard into my groin to ease the sharp hungry bites. I was soaked with sweat. Finally, I went back to bed and hurt for several more hours, then drifted off to sleep.
Yesterday, I went in to have the “pre-op” for my surgery on Thursday. I had read up, so I knew the deal. Draw blood. Take temperature. Check blood pressure. Take an X-ray. Everyone was working hard to get me prepped until we hit a small road block. The x-ray showed no sign of a stone. My urologist looked annoyed, as if I had deliberately hidden the rocks from his keen eye. “Well”, he said, “we can’t crush what we can’t see. We gotta take some dye shots.” So, they filled me with dye and took about eight more x-rays. Still no stones. Apparently, I had passed them all the night before. “Did you catch any of them in the little screen we gave you?” He looked annoyed again. “No sir. I stopped using that after I almost passed out. I’m sorry. I did the best I could.” He shook his head. “Well, keep using it over the next couple of days. There more be a stone or two in still in the bladder. If we can get it, we can tell what might be creating the problem.” “Yes sir,” I said. He’s a good doctor. After coming home, I was pain free the rest of the day. I feel great. For the first time in almost two weeks, I slept through the whole night. My pain now is completely gone. Evidently, for now at least, my suffering is over.
I don’t know why, but this morning as I write this, as strange as it sounds, I feel a sense of loss. In some ways I feel guilty. I don’t want to forget what Christ has been teaching me through this small suffering. I don’t want to forget the humility, or the sense of dependence, or the strain toward Jesus. As I said earlier, I don’t want to forget about those who will go to bed tonight in immeasurable pain, who are lonely and without a caretaker, who are praying tonight for relief. I do not want to forget the Holy Spirit who has comforted me every night, who has been closer than a breath, and speaking to me through the cracks in my hardened soul. Finally, I don’t want to forget the Cross; the passion, or the Christ who has covered my sin and rescued me from my pride and my shame and ultimately, from my suffering.
Thank you all for praying for me. Thank you to Jennifer Cronk who sent me a prayer by Pastor Scotty Smith, that put so many things into perspective. Thank you Jeff Culp, and Jimbo Booth, and Ryan Long. Thank you Karl Hubach. Thank you Surfside Church. And to those of you who read the things I write and find them helpful, I also thank you. Thank you for your encouragement, your love, and your friendship. I am truly a blessed man. Life is an adventure, is it not? We simply never know what’s coming next. Blessings to you all.
I leave you this morning with a portion of the prayer that Jennifer gave to me:
“Jesus, I pray for people with unrelenting pain in their bodies—those who no longer get any relief from physical therapy or medication. I pray for people with emotional and mental diseases—who live in the cruel world of delusional thinking and sabotaging emotions… and I pray for their families and care-givers. I pray for the unconscionable number of children in the world who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition… and for their parents who feel both shame and helplessness. Lord, these and many more stories of great suffering I bring before you…
But Jesus, I also pray for the worst chronic suffering of all… for those who are living with great pain or with great prosperity, but who are “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants and promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Come Holy Spirit, come, and apply the saving benefits of Jesus to the religious and the non-religious alike… to those who may be in the church or in the culture, but who are not in Christ. So very Amen, I pray, in your all glorious and grace-full name.
– Scotty Smith, Christ Community Church (PCA), Franklin, TN