My Pain … Your Pain

Sue and I were returning from an anniversary getaway. Not quite ready to jump back into the fray, we dragged our tires slowly through the Mississippi River Valley. A pristine almost empty highway snaked beneath majestic limestone cliffs. We drove to the top of a cliffside park and enjoyed the spectacular views.

That’s when I first noticed some discomfort and commented to Sue that lunch wasn’t agreeing with me. By the time we had gone a few more miles towards home, discomfort had turned to pain … and then alarming pain. I pulled over and let Sue drive. The ache grew by the second and we quickly decided we needed to have someone check me out. The GPS showed a large city on the other side of the river. The bridge finally came into view, but as we swung onto the road to head across, we encountered a row of construction cones. There was no roadbed across the bridge and nothing like civilization for miles on our side of the river. We finally rolled into a little town and Sue hastily parked next to the local fire station. When she emerged with an EMT, he didn’t even get to the car … just looked through the window and got on the radio for an ambulance.

Once in the ambulance, I got the classic question, “Sir, on a scale from one to ten, how would you rate your pain?” It was the worst pain I’d ever experienced, so I said “Ten!”  After they quickly ruled out a few things, they got permission to do some pain management. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would utter the prayer, “Father, thank you for morphine.” I won’t leave you hanging … it was a kidney stone.

Physical pain is hard to quantify. People have different pain thresholds and diverse pain experiences. My “10” might be your “6” and someone else’s “20.” I don’t think it’s that different with how we experience things emotionally. Some of us have simply suffered more and built up a certain immunity. Others have suffered too long with no respite and their emotional reserves are depleted. They are one giant frayed nerve. Still others have little experience with emotional suffering and recoil from the test of our times.

It’s been interesting to see the breadth of response from people to the Covid-19 crisis. Some are almost in tears with fear, while others laugh the whole thing off. What’s disturbing to me is how harshly both groups are judging one another. At least as Christians, one barometer for how well we’re handling the crisis should be how we’re handling the people God places in our path.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1–3