I am lying propped up in bed, surrounded by furniture, paintings, curtains and other assorted items which my husband carted from other places in the house into our bedroom this morning. On the other side of my door, I can hear the painters working. The paint fumes have been overwhelming for the past week. So, on this cold rainy day, I have all of the windows open in my bedroom, and a towel stuffed around the opening at the bottom of the door.
My night stand is covered with medicine bottles and “home remedies” to help combat this miserable condition of shingles with which I was diagnosed on Sunday.
As I lie here, it is hard not to think, “But Lord, why this week? If only the painters weren’t here, I could be making pots of herbal tea and eating healthier food than the stash of protein bars in my purse. If only there weren’t paint fumes everywhere, perhaps I would not have these horrible headaches in addition to the shingles’ pain.
My Jesus, surely You know that lots of rest and freedom from stress are essential for recovering from this illness. But everything about my situation is so stressful. My doctor’s office hasn’t even returned the call I made yesterday. I may have to sleep in another bedroom tonight because the painters will want to get in here tomorrow…into my little sanctuary. How inconvenient that will be! Oh, woe is me!
I’m tired Lord. I can’t sleep with the pain, and strangers arrive at 8 am every morning. All of my warm socks are in the dresser which is now encased in plastic so paint won’t drip on it. So are my warm pajamas. The temperature has been in the 70’s, but is now in the 30’s. Lord, what were You thinking?
You see, it’s one thing to be sick; that’s quite a sacrifice, You know? But I thought that I might at least be able to do it on my own terms…with satellite TV to entertain me, and my house all nice and neat, the fridge stocked with my favorite foods and maybe a fire blazing in the fireplace. And oh yes, certainly no paint fumes. You do remember those migraines I’m so prone to? I really had a plan Lord. Weren’t You paying attention? This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.
Now, I am very pleased that You have been sending my husband in with a steaming mug of tea each morning, and that he checks on me periodically and that He just brought me a cold Coke and a fresh ice pack. That’s good Lord. That’s more of what I had in mind, if I am to suffer well. But, I still think You should consider my other suggestions above.
You see, I know how I suffer best….surrounded by as many comforts as possible. I’d like my blue flannel PJ’s….if they weren’t in that inaccessible dresser. And, oh, my new cozy socks….if only the washing machine was re-connected.
I love You Lord, and I want to suffer well for You. I really don’t like having to complain about all of these things that aren’t to my liking.
Well, thanks for listening, Jesus. I think I’ll take a nap now….after I check my text messages and make sure my iPod is charged. Yes, all of this suffering has worn me out. I know You understand.
Okay, so hopefully everyone will know that most of the above was written tongue-in-cheek….sort of. I really am sick, and confined to my bedroom away from the painters..but unfortunately, not the fumes.
Everything is a wreck around here, as need be for the job to get done. And, although I haven’t been quite the protesting “princess” in the version above, I have indeed said more than once, “Why did I have to get so sick just when the painters were scheduled to start?” (As if I wouldn’t have minded at all had it been another time!)
Isn’t it so true that suffering on our own terms isn’t quite so bad? We can even imagine that our halo (if we had one!) might be glowing a bit more brightly. Everything is so much easier when we are at least somewhat in control. There can be quite a bit of pride in that.
Last week, when I kept having one mishap after the other, I was quite pleased with myself when I managed to keep a sense of humor about it all. I felt very much in control…not even the pain of a severe earache could vanquish me. I put on a brave smile.
But when I saw the first sign of shingles on my face Sunday, I thought the Lord was perhaps asking a bit too much. I already had stitches in my finger and cotton in my throbbing ear. An ugly, painful, protracted illness like shingles wasn’t in my plan....especially on my face. Ah… vanity.
It is at times like this when I turn to the crucifix for strength. When everything is out of my control, and a particular cross seems too much for me, I look at Him. There is nothing I have ever endured in my life, that I haven’t found in the sufferings of Jesus.
Looking at the raw, red, swollen quadrant of my face, I picture the face of Jesus after He was struck by His torturers.. I can still see His disfigured countenance as depicted in The Passion of the Christ. The pain I am experiencing often feels like a thousand needles piercing my scalp all at once. But He wore a crown of thorns, pressed into His flesh until His Precious Blood flowed into His eyes and down His face. And although I am confined to a room, He was nailed to a Cross…how can I complain? And my pain? Well, I have pain medicine….and Jesus had none, and He even refused what little relief was offered to Him in the drugged wine…..for love of us.
My face is wounded, but His whole body was raw. I cannot imagine how He endured so much pain. Surely it was His Infinite Love for us which sustained Him…and that makes me cry, to realize how much He loves and how little His love is returned….by me.
At night, when I awaken in pain, I am immediately reminded (guardian angel?) to pray and offer my little sufferings for family and friends who are especially in need of prayer. And, I am somehow comforted in doing so. How good God is…no little effort goes unrewarded.
He Who shed every drop of His Blood for us, welcomes every little pittance we offer to Him. How kind He is! How magnanimous! How compassionate!
Suffering is more tolerable when you know it has a purpose. I am so grateful for the Church’s teaching on redemptive suffering, and so thankful that our Savior invites us to unite our sufferings to His, so that He can infuse them with merit…..turning them to gold, as it were, by His Grace.
Yes, it has been a difficult month thus far, and I would have planned it all differently, but His ways are so far above our own. His plan is perfect….even the paint fumes.
And I just love what one of my favorite mystics, the anchoress, Julian of Norwich wrote:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”