I am lying in a hospital bed as I begin writing this at a time in between those two pains. I am amazed by the dramatic shifts in outlook that I experience based upon the pain level I am feeling. I am also reading a pastoral-care book on hope. One thing is clear to me and that is that the higher the pain is, the less hopeful I become. Indeed the higher the pain, the more I narrow my focus and that focus is on how to relieve the pain. It makes me wonder about the hope of the poor and the hope of the pained.
People have told me they can tell by my countenance that I am doing better. It shows! And for one day or for one moment I am better and the next day or next moment I am not. When I am doing better, I can imagine a positive future. When I am doing poorly, then I don’t want to even think about what’s next. I have little patience when I am a patient of pain. One’s sense of loss of control, of vulnerability, of dependence upon others is all quite humbling and sometimes despairing.
All of this is to say that I know there are people who live daily with physical and emotional pain and that my pain is so minor compared to theirs, especially since “hopefully” I will be cured from this infection which I got from a simple arthroscopic surgery on my knee, though they tell me it will take weeks. I have a newfound respect for those who live with daily pain. I can appreciate so much more the fact that Jesus, who in the midst of the extreme pain of crucifixion, with no relief in sight, was able to say, “Father forgive them!”
On a final note, I chose to write about this pain in the midst of it rather than write a treatise on the experience from a place of no pain. I can imagine it would sound quite different. Platitudes, whether theological or social, do not sit well with me when I am in pain and I have a feeling they do not sit well with others in pain. I have also learned something more about pastoral care. I have become aware that simply carrying on a conversation while feeling in pain is no easy task. Therefore I promise to my parishioners that I will not stay nearly as long while visiting them in the hospital when I know they have been in pain.
Okay and on a final-final note, I have re-learned the wonder and love of family and friends. My wife has been awesome in sharing the pain and welcoming me home, even to having Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Coffee in the van when she picked me up! My sister drove down from Augusta to be with me when I got home. (I still have a ways to go for full recuperation.) The phone calls from friends and parishioners of St. Michael’s have been inspiring. I thank God for all of you.
For what its worth.
“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” I Corinthians 13.12 KJV.
Rev. Shumard is rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Waynesboro. You may contact him at [email protected] or at stmichaelswaynesboro.org.
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