i'm seriously no good at math, but i couldn't prove that to you by showing you my transcripts. i aced every class i ever took. in fact, i took a statistics class in college back in the days when you had to do all those problems manually and it would take two pages to solve one problem (yes, that was an "i'm old" reference), and even though i was terrified going into it i ended up helping other students. it always struck me as miraculous that i would come up with the right answer after all of those mathematic gymnastics. the problem is that if you tested me a month after the class ended i would flunk the test i previously breezed through. numbers don't seem to stay in my head. even simple things like the multiplication tables can't seem to stay put. i've memorized them about eight million times and they just don't stick.
that's what i feel like when it comes to pain. i've been in a lot of pain recently, and i guess you could say that i've experienced a lot of pain my whole life. (no worries, i'm not seriously ill.) if it's true that pain teaches you things (and i believe that's true) then i should be a pain genius, but i'm not. the lessons slip away so quickly and very soon after the pain subsides i forget what i've learned. so here's my attempt at capturing what i've learned from this latest run-in with my old teacher...my latest pain exam. i'd better write it down before it pours out of me like water.
- i am finite. probably all of you learned that a long time ago, but i pretty much live my life as though this was negotiable. i have limits, and i ignore them at my own peril.
- i need other people. it's hard for me to ask for help, but then pain comes along and demands that i live my life in the context of closely woven relationships. weird. but very, very good.
- the world doesn't really need me. please don't argue with me on this one...it will only sustain my poisonous illusions. the world plugged along just fine while i was sick, and it would have plugged along just fine even if i didn't recover and could never again do any of the things i'm doing now.
- my value doesn't have anything to do with my activity. i can't explain how pain teaches me this...maybe it's just that it stops me long enough to realize that i am valued apart from my contributions. it's easy for me to forget about that.
- there is something more real than pain. when i am helplessly at the end of myself, i always bump up against something larger than me. it's very similar to what happens when i go on my silent retreats, only much less comfortable. somehow, God shows up.
i just realized that i never updated you on how i'm doing...i was discharged from the hospital on tuesday and i'm feeling much better. i'll return to work on monday. thanks for the prayers and kind words. love to all of you...