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Many have experienced periods of intense crippling pain; mothers during childbirth, people dying of cancer, soldiers with wounds, many others. I went through a period of intense pain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning which caused me to miss work yesterday. While I do not want to compare the pain I felt with those I mentioned it was significant in my life.
It began Tuesday night while I was at Community Band in Wadena. It started small. I knew something was wrong but I completed rehearsal and immediately left for the 20 mile drive home. I was uncomfortable, a bit nauseous, and very much in pain. I almost didn’t make it home. I was hurting on the left side of my abdomen and the pain came in waves. Intense, crippling pain for 10 minutes then relative ease for 20 minutes or so. Cheryl got home shortly after I did and wanted to take me to the emergency room but I said no. I took all kinds of pain relievers (at least 5 different kinds) before bed and I tried to sleep. The intense pain continued in waves. At 1:30 am I got up, took two more different pain relievers and tried to sleep in the living room so I wouldn’t disturb Cheryl. By 6 am I was willing to go to the emergency room. When we got to the Long Prairie Hospital I was in the excellent care of PA Elizabeth Clark (Thank you, Libby), the nursing staff, and the radiologist who administered the CAT scan. After getting my medical information, including all the pain relievers that I had taken that night, they administered three drugs: dilaudid for the pain, Toradol to relax the ureter, and an anti-nausea med. The CAT scan showed that I had a kidney stone that was traversing its way to the bladder. A smaller one followed after I got home.
I don’t know if there is any “theology of pain”. Does God give us pain perhaps as a punishment for something? Is there a reason for pain, beyond it being a signal that something is wrong with our body? Is there anything good that comes of pain? In my own understanding I would answer those questions “No! I don’t know. Perhaps.” The pains we inflict on others through violence and war should teach us to stop hurting each other, but we humans never learn as long as old men can choose to send young men and women into combat and as long as society allows and ignores violence in our communities. The pain of childbirth leads to the joy of a daughter or son in our arms but what kind of world are we leaving them? The pain of a kidney stone or two? Well, I now no longer have any stones in my kidneys but will something good come of it? I don’t know. Tomorrow is a new day and maybe, with the help of God’s Spirit, I can help someone else’s pain a little bit. God willing.