For those of us who live with some sort of chronic, or recurring pain, some days it is hard to smile. Especially when we try to push through without relying on medication. Stretches, or a warm and jetted tub, salves and massages, and essential oils are where many of us turn for relief. There are so many ways to deal with chronic and recurring pain. And laying the pain at the foot of the cross is a huge way to gain perspective on pain.
Not many people spend time contemplating the foot of the cross. I had a dream once, and a friend actually drew me a picture of what I had seen (which I found in a box and promised myself I will frame) as I gazed up at the feet of Christ, impaled on the Cross. In my dream, I heard swooshing and loud winds. There were large drops of rain falling and splashing all around me. I could only look up, and I could not move side-to-side, nor could I turn my head. I could only see the feet of Christ. And then I felt a warm dribbling liquid surrounding me, and I immediately felt comforted, loved, embraced, and free. I could look around me and realized I was a pebble; really just a small stone; and I was holding the Cross upright, along with a myriad of other small stones. We were a part of the dirt the Cross was embedded into. And the thought came to me: “Even the dirt surrounding the Cross was sanctified by His sacrifice.” The earth was renewed by the sacrificial Blood of Christ.
This dream has been with me since my children were small. And at the time, we only had two children. Not even teens, yet. And this dream is every bit as vivid today as it was more than 20 years ago when it happened to me. The feelings return and the sounds are especially poignant. I do believe Christ was speaking to me, helping me realize that I was part of His story. I may only be an insignificant pebble, but I am part of it. And each of us plays our part in the Story of Redemption.
Many years ago, I was introduced to the concept of “offer it up.” And it was applied to pretty much anything. My father-in-law used to tell his kids when they were slightly hurt, “Rub some dirt on it.” We, in turn, told our kids the same thing. Ha-Ha. And the idea of offering something up is to apply it to all we do. What are we offering it up to? The redemptive act of Christ on the Cross. There is no way I can ever repay Him for what He has done for me. But I can offer my toils and my pains to Him in a small way of reparation, and of joining to His suffering.
It is not something most protestants and other religious ideologies embrace. It is a Catholic thing; an eastern thing. We follow the steps of Christ every Lenten observance. We entwine our lives within the context of sacrifice and service. And we participate in the redemptive action of the Cross when we unite ourselves to Christ. Our actions towards our daily lives and the issues that cause our bumpy ride, as well as how we interact with others, can all be offered to Christ in reparation for His act for us. Fasting – from foods, from language, from TV, from things that do not bring us closer to Him are all acts having redemptive value. We join our meager sufferings to His. And it is a powerful process – each Lent and each Apostles’ Fast, we can join in the redemptive action of the Cross.
I am so much like my paternal grandmother. And I strive to be like her in how I treat others and how I lovingly care for others. But physically, it’s more like I am her daughter. I have her hands and feet. I am a larger woman, which she struggled with her entire life, and which plagues me daily. I am even beginning to have her white hair – which I always loved and am rather pleased about. Grandma injured her back in a vehicle accident as a young woman and had back issues the rest of her life. A little more than a year ago, I lifted a 9-foot leather couch in order to vacuum under it, thinking I was 40 years old instead of 60+ years of age. I tore my right shoulder (which I had stem cell replacement for) and ruptured 5 discs in my spine, starting at C-3 and working its way down to my lumbar area. I have had injections in all the sites. The doctor told me I would get a year or more relief from the injections and we are coming up to 2 years. I think my relief is over. Or at the very least, severely waning.
I was doing so well I began water aerobics. Ouch. And then I rested and it was better. This past weekend I was climbing into my husband’s truck on the start of a camping journey and I wrenched my back. It’s been non-stop pain since. I spent most of the weekend propped under a tarp (it was raining) with pillows, a blanket, and Tylenol. Ugh.
And I am desperately working on my mindset. How I can align this constant nagging pain with the redemptive act of Christ. Every time He was whipped or beaten, that was because of my sins. Each cut or wound on His body, every bruise, every nail – all from my actions. How can I ameliorate His pain and use mine for something besides complaining?
There is a wonderful prayer I recite when I need solace:
I learned a slightly different wording, but this is the prayer. My favorite part is, “Within thy wounds hide me. Never let me be separated from thee. From the wicked enemy defend me, and at the hour of death call me, that I might come to thee and with thy saints I might praise thee for ever and ever. Amen”. Okay. So that is most of the prayer. Ha-Ha. But I always imagined myself hiding within His wounds, peeking out from where the soldier stabbed Him in the side, all safe and warm. Nothing morbid or gross or bloody and fleshy. Just safely hidden in the side of Christ, protected from the wickedness and snares of the devil. (A sentence from another prayer I love). And when I imagine myself safe within Him, the pain eases somehow. I feel warm, and protected, and loved. And when you have all those things, back aches are not as onerous and life-impacting. I can accomplish all the duties of my station in life, aching as I go, but smiling from within the Wounds of Christ. Does that sound weird? Yeah, it does a little bit. But being a visual person who conjures scenes using words, it works for me. And as I sit here, the pain is less, just talking about it. Yes, my knees are propped up on my recliner and I am sitting in a position to ease the cramping pain, but my heart is at rest as well.