I don’t remember the last time I spent a Mass in tears quite like I did this past weekend.
My scoliosis-riddled back was all seized up and I was in a lot of pain. It hurt so badly around my rib cage that I could hardly take a deep breath. Time and again, I begged God to please, please take the pain away. Please, please make me able to bear it. Of course, I knew there were people in this world in so much more pain, physical or otherwise, than I was. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want to be healed, too.
Scoliosis at 41
For the past two to three weeks, you see, I had hardly slept an entire night in my bed. Laying still in sleep made my already aggravated muscles hurt even worse than when I was up and active. Night after night, I would wake up at anywhere between 2:30 and 5:00 in the morning, unable to stay laying down for one more minute. Morning after morning, I’d spend the predawn hours propped up in our bedroom recliner because keeping my back angled in the chair didn’t hurt as badly as laying flat.
Now, I should probably mention that I am actually quite used to back pain. I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 12. I spent the ages of 13 to 17 in a back brace 24 hours a day, unless I was bathing or swimming. For my senior year, I only had to wear it at night when I slept. That bulky, awful brace did it’s job and kept my curve from getting worse while I grew, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) take away my curve.
Fast forward about 20 years. In that time, I’ve carried four babies to term, literally gaining and losing hundreds of pounds. I’ve gone through physical therapy and years of chiropractic care. There have been periods where exercise comes easily and naturally. Other times, of course, it just doesn’t happen. There are times when I feel perfectly normal and can go for months without any pain. Then, out of nowhere, something will trigger and I’ll be laid low by my old nemesis.
Which is exactly what happened a few weeks ago. And it leads me back to last Sunday, spending Mass crying in the pew.
Which leads me to Monday morning and the gift I found while reading Psalm 52.
I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good. (Psalms 52:9)
During my scripture time that morning, I read Psalm 52. I have been lazily working my way through the Take Up & Read Summer of Psalms reading list and have fallen ridiculously far behind. I honestly have no idea what psalm I should have read that day. Our Provident God knows best, though, and had just the words that I needed, ready and waiting for me when I opened my Bible.
“I will thank you forever, because of what you have done.”
No, God didn’t cure my scoliosis on the spot as the ushers were gathering the offering envelopes. No, my pain didn’t miraculously disappear when I went up for Holy Communion. Honestly, I didn’t expect those things to happen. But the number of things that did happen that day were more than enough to prove to me that I have not been abandoned in my struggle.
You see, friend, God gave me the support and the strength I needed in the moment. He gave me sign after sign that He is with me, with all of us, in our pain and in our suffering. Silly me, though, I couldn’t see when it happened. Then again, we rarely notice our special gifts the moment they come to us, do we? It took some time, a little reflection, and opening my heart to see what God had done for me.
What He Did
My friend Mike and his wife Denise were sitting behind us. Mike is a physical therapist and he noticed I was moving slowly. He asked how I was doing and showed genuine concern. I know without them even saying anything that I was prayed for during Mass.
My amazing husband quietly handed me his handkerchief. Without saying a word, he acknowledged that I was seen and that he cared.
When I excused myself to go to the restroom and wipe away the mascara smudges, I ran into an old friend. Julie is one of the most faithful women I know and she offered me her prayers. I hadn’t seen her in months. God gave me the gift of that few minutes with a friend of the heart, I just know it.
A dear friend, Marley, was the cantor that morning. Hearing her sing when I didn’t have the breath to do so myself was balm to my soul. And when, after Mass, she said, “You look like you’re in pain. What is wrong?” I felt so loved.
God gave me the humility to actually ask people to pray for me. Now, maybe that isn’t hard for you to do, friend. But, while I will say a prayer for someone else at the drop of a hat, asking for someone to spend their time with God on my behalf isn’t something I’m good at.
Seven year old Lucy rubbed my back sweetly and gently.
My children told me they prayed that my back would feel better.
I was able to take time to alternate between heating pads and ice packs to regain some mobility. And taking ibuprofen took the edge off the pain. Better living through chemistry, folks!
Well, there you have it! The psalmist said that he would proclaim the name of the Lord for it is good. And that is precisely what I am doing here. I am so thankful for each of these little gifts that made such a huge difference in my day. They each served to make me stronger, feel more surely supported. He may not have healed me physically, but He certainly healed a part of my heart that day. And I couldn’t be more grateful if I tried.