I’ve been wanting write this piece for some time. I don’t usually write about my ongoing health issues because, well, truthfully the less mental real estate they take up, the better. But sometimes the hardest won silent battles are the things that shape us the most.
Let me be really clear. I do not EVER believe God sends sickness or tragedy to teach us a lesson. That’s like saying it would be OK for parent to hold their five year’s hand down on a hot burner to teach them a lesson about obedience. That’s not love. It’s abuse. But I do believe God never wastes our pain, the challenges of a broken world, the tragedies that split lives and families open wide.
Four and a half years ago I came back to the USA from Africa with my health unraveling in almost every direction. I was looking to hopefully find some answers that would put me back together. While here, I had a routine dental check up from a former dentist who was substituting for my then regular dentist. I had one questionable iffy spot so he suggested filling it as a precaution.
He did an old-school silver amalgam filling, right next to a molar with a gold crown. That began a descent into hellish amounts of pain. He unwittingly created a battery in my mouth and refused to fix it. For three weeks, I had current running between those teeth. I called and called in agony as the galvanic response was frying my trigeminal nerve. First they told me to eat boiled eggs. Then they stopped taking my calls at all. Finally I found a new dentist who knew exactly what was happening and immediately switched out the filling for a non-conductive porcelain alternative.
But the damage had been done.
The second branch of my trigeminal nerve was fried. A few weeks later I was in the ER after almost collapsing with the pain in a department store. And this monster got a name. Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia. a.k.a. the worst chronic pain disorder known to medical science.
Almost five years later, my mouth still feels like it has been scalded with burning hot coffee, some of my upper teeth still feel like they are abscessing and often it feels like I have an electric cattle prod jabbing my cheek. Sometimes all at one time. My face has fits and flares and there are days all I can do is take one moment at a time because that is all I can handle, and that barely.
And yes there are days I am angry. Angry at the injustice and the arrogance that left me with yet another thing to deal with. Frustrated that there was no legal recourse because our state laws seem to protect doctors more than patients. There are days I want to pound my fist on the ground and rail against the pain and the fallen, broken cosmos that let it happen and trite platitudes thinly-veiled in spiritual veneer.
But fortunately that’s not most days. I have to make a decision every moment to trust in God’s absolute goodness in between the now and not yet. To focus on the beautiful unfolding around me. To stake my very existence on a radical stance of gratitude.
To choose to let that pain for as long as it is there drive me deeper into what I’ve started calling the sacred now. Tomorrow has no grace. Next week and month and year suck the grace and joy and strength out of today.
But by His strength, I choose to stay grounded in the sacred now. Because present in this moment, in Him is an eternity of grace. And I am learning that is enough.
Do you know the present is? It’s a gift.
Staying present to the gift unfolding around me is one of the most profound journeys Jesus and I have ever taken.
“Now” sparks, burns brightly and then is gone. It is fleeting, frail and fierce all at the same time. It is the gift of the sacred, infinite and yet so very fragile.
For me, it is no longer a question of what will I do with my one and precious life. It is a question of what will I do with the only moment any of us ever truly have? This one precious moment. This sacred now.
What will we do with the present we are given?
I want to unwrap it, savor its marrow, explore its depth, capture it in pixels and letters and learn every lesson it can teach. To live boldly with no space for regrets. To live fully, not frantically.
So that my friend is my prayer for you. That in the middle of this moment you find the ocean of love and grace found in His eyes.
You who walk with chronic pain of any kind. I’m still standing for healing for both of us. You are not alone or weak or in any way less than. You wage a silent war every day and all of heaven cheers you on. And so do I.
Always remember. No matter what. You. Are. Loved.