I was on a zoom call with my good brother David in England when the dog I was caring for at my friend’s house, Tundra, needed to head outside. I stepped out into the snow, barefoot. The cold felt great. I hooked Tundra onto his lead and let him go out into the backyard behind the duplex. He loved being out there, delighted with the cold of the snow. I returned to my call. In what felt like moments, Tundra returned to the door and requested to come back inside. I excused myself, again, stepped through the door to release Tundra from his lead and get him. But Tundra, seeing a possible game, instead of waiting on the deck, raced away from me across the yard.
My next decision cost me!
Instead of just letting him return when ready, I decided to do what my friend mentioned he did: walk into the yard, grab the lead and pull the dog back. To reach the lead, I stepped off the porch barefoot, with my left foot.
I had stayed overnight one night so far with Tundra and had noticed how he had pulled a one-hinged section of the light fencing away from the back porch. My left foot landed on the 1/4″ wide, 2-3″ high iron mooring rod for the fence. It easily penetrated my foot. My brain registered this, tears sprang to my eyes, and I gasped as I placed my full weight down on my left foot and stepped with my right foot out onto the mud and grass. The shout of pain which escaped my mouth shocked Tundra. He immediately returned to the porch in quivering obedience, while I staggered after him. I glanced at the neat, round bloody hole in the sole of my foot and hobbled back to the porch. In a moment, life had changed.
Pain is a startling thing.
It registers first as shock, then, pain increases. Once inside, I grabbed a large pan, filled it with water and soap, put my foot into it as I sat back down with my England zoom call. After I explained what had happened and we had talked a few more minutes, my friend said, “Let’s end the call and you care for that foot!”
I washed and rinsed it well. I phoned my friend, Tundra’s owner, asking what first aid he had in the house, and began to work with my foot more diligently. That evening I began leadership with a weekend online retreat. I elevated my foot, soaked it, put on salves and re-bandaged it frequently. I took medicines to supplement my immune system.
I experienced pain.
Without the gift of feeling pain, I would not know what needed extra care. I would be as helpless as the leper who loses digits and limbs because of the lost ability to recognize injuries. So, it is a gift to feel pain, but often pain does not feel like a gift! It disrupts life, it hinders our ability to function at all, especially for those experiencing excruciating, chronic pain, and, understandably, we try to block it.
Indeed, according to BCC research, the global pain relief industry grossed $36 billion dollars in 2017 and is expected to increase to over $52 billion by 2022. That’s a huge industry. I took so much Advil the first day, I felt little pain. This was to my detriment, for I overused my foot. That night, without the pain meds in my system, I awoke in excruciating pain and could hardly walk. The next day, I switched to a natural pain medicine which did not block all the pain but just some of it. This helped me be more cautious and careful with my injury.
On the weekend, between the online retreat, a family gathering with children and grandchildren from out of town celebrating three birthdays, my injury, caring for our friend’s dog and the arrival of storms of snow and ice, there was no lack to activity or adventure!
But, in the middle of all this, pain kept me focused.
No matter what else was going on, I was constantly aware of a part of my foot I normally would not have noticed. The pain focused my attention, slowed me down, caused me to pay more attention than usual to my own body and its needs.
Pain forced me to rest.
I lay down Saturday for a 10-minute power nap, my usual, and slept for an hour. I had to embrace leisure, bypass outdoor walks and play times. For someone who is usually on the move, running around getting groceries or playing with the dog, and who loves to romp with grandchildren, this was a huge shift.
Pain became my teacher.
It’s taught me to focus, to embrace leisure, to rest, to invest in self care and take life with a measured gait. I understand how excruciating, chronic pain must be managed to allow a person to even think. And I wonder, if all of us have things we have learned through the pain we experience or have experienced?
How has pain been a teacher in your own life?
My foot will recover. I’ll again be able to walk at my normal pace and reenter the life race. But I hope I’ll remember this short season and delay impulsive decisions, rest, and remain focused.
For those of you experiencing chronic and unremitting pain, my prayers are with you. Yours is a difficult weight to bear.
And perhaps in the midst of all this it is good to remember a couple things. One is this: only here, in this life will we have the privilege of learning through pain.
There is a future place where pain will be only a distant memory, if that.
And, two, there is Jesus who also has experienced pain, immense pain in this life — the pain of rejection, of betrayal, of physical maiming, of abuse, of the weight of all sin for all time. He came through it and triumphed over it. Therefore, I can say with confidence:
Jesus is with you and with me in the middle of any pain we are experiencing.
What HOPE there is then in Jesus. In the middle of anything we are encountering in this life, there is Jesus.
Pain, the teacher, points to Jesus, constantly on this pathway of life.