That awful moaning was irritating her subconscious enough to wake her. Someone was in obvious and excruciating pain. Rain was hitting the gutter outside the window as she tried to snuggle down deeper under the warm blanket to muffle the suffering sounds which had been coming from her own mouth.
Change in the weather was offensive to what she jokingly called her barometric body. It was a crazy disease, poorly understood and unpredictable in its vicious assaults to joints, muscles, and even nerves. It made no sense.
With the cunning of an unrelenting enemy the attacks could be lightening fast, sometimes shooting to one knee and one shoulder, or to both hips. Agonizing pain could run down her spine or up through the soles of her feet. Like a cruel joke, it would hide behind a stretch of quiet and leap out with no warning.
“Thought I was gone, didn’t you?” the torture seemed to screech.
Sharp and swift, dull and aching, throbbing or stabbing, all at once or one at a time, there were no rules to this spiteful pain game. The battle was so old it could be measured in decades.
Since she was not inclined to share this agony, the extent of the suffering she endured was not widely known. “Others have their own crosses to bear,” she would say.
Except for Aspirin, medication was refused. Her answer was always “No,” to continued prescription offers for something stronger. Trial and error proved the best relief to be found in prayer, praise, and obedience.
She struggled daily though grinding years:
“Lord, help me get up. There are family needs to attend, car pools to drive, bills to pay, and groceries to buy.”
“Please, Jesus, there is so much to do and the pain is almost more than I can bear.”
“God,” she wept in discouragement “ I cannot do this anymore. Give me strength. I really want to go to church this morning.”
“Thank you, Lord that I can move. Praise your Holy Name,”she sang. “I love you, you are my rock.”
Coffee, aspirin, and the therapeutic hot shower combined to get her moving in a more normal manner. The image staring back from the mirror looked quite functional. Make-up and bright clothing seemed to camouflage the ravages of a sleepless night.
For a short while, two ugly metal crutches that encircled both arms like vices had shackled her. False pride had kept her from accepting a handicap tag but ultimately she was convinced to use the designated space without feeling guilty. The state said she could park there and she was thankful for this privilege.
Now, unencumbered by the walking sticks, she slowly strolled to the church door, purse on left shoulder and Bible clutched to her chest. In her right hand she carried keys to discourage one man in particular who insisted on shaking her hand. It hurt. The old manners of her childhood said a lady should be the first to offer that greeting, but she doubted if many men were aware of such a nicety. Holding something was a deterrent to well meaning squeezes to her tender fingers.
After a few false starts, the stiffness and aching were calmed and she made her way into the sanctuary. No one knew the price she paid to walk unassisted or the faith it took to step out with no canes. She radiated a cheerfulness born of the Holy Spirit.
The pastor read from the NKJV, II Timothy 4:2-5, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves, teachers…”
Pausing for a brief glance at his congregation, he continued, “and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, FULFILL YOUR MINISTRY.”
His stirring, searching question reverberated in the room, “ Who will witness? Who will obey the great commission to go into all the world to share the good news?”
Restless with more hateful pain, she stood braced against the seat in front of her, ignoring a tormented body’s insistence that she was useless. Tears flowed, unchecked, and from the depths of her loving and obedient spirit she cried, ‘Oh Lord, Send ME.”
Please, please, SEND ME!”
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