September 17th, 2017 marked the two year anniversary of the most life altering event of my life. I had just finished visiting with several hospice patients inside a nursing home facility. I was walking towards the cafeteria for lunch. Next thing I know I’m three feet in the air right before pounding the cement floor with my lower back.
Next, I’m face to face with a lady from housekeeping I had never met before. She says after reading my badge, “Chaplain, I think you just broke your back.” I quickly responded by saying, “No mam, I just broke my pride and made you a good YouTube video. She said, “Well, do you mind staying right here for a moment while I get something to clean this mess up.” It was only then I realized I had just walked through a huge, lengthy spill on the floor that had no warning signs anywhere near it. While she was gone I heard a voice coming from behind me. This man says from his wheelchair, “Reverend you know a fall like that could have killed one of us.” Having seen that actually happen before I knew what he was saying was very true.
Now, at the moment I just felt very sore and I prayed that doctors would discover that I did just brake my pride. However, within a short period of time I had nerve pain raging through my body. And, I remember telling my wife “I know you don’t want to hear this, but something is really different back there. Something I’ve never felt in my life.” MRI results would go on to reveal that I had a very significant tear and damage to my L5 S1 disc. Time would also go on to prove that my nerve pain would turn my life upside down.
Probably one of the most telling moments was just a few weeks after this incident. With my nerve pain running throughout my body I traveled desperately to an after hour medical facility. The lady said, “What should we tell them you’re here for this evening?” I said, “Tell them I’m going crazy!” The look on her face was priceless, but at that time I was not joking in any fashion. For the first time in my life I was dealing with pain that sent me somewhere physically, mentally, and emotionally I had never been before.
Speed forward to two years later to where I am today. Almost seventeen months ago I had major surgery to replace the L5 S1 disc in my back that two doctors told me just could not be repaired, but only replaced. Then, almost three months ago, I had surgery to implant a spinal cord stimulator into my back. This is a device that was made to deal primarily with nerve pain in the lower or upper body. However, it can take a while to find a setting that helps you best over time. Well, I’ve had numerous adjustments to my implanted device and I’m still waiting to see what can change over time.
I’m not going to lie. This past week alone was one of the darkest weeks of my life. Why? Because on two different days I dealt with a level of pain I never dreamed possible again for countless hours. Why? Because even after both surgeries my nerve pain is still raging. I presently take four times the amount of nerve pain medication I was ever taking prior to any surgeries. I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve cried and how many desperate prays I’ve prayed over this time of my life. I’ve not been able to work full time in nearly twenty months. Which for a man who was used to helping people day and night it’s quite the humbling experience.
Now, as I write this my mind is clear and my heart is right. I can clearly see how God is using this never ending storm. One, I’m closer to the heart of God than I’ve ever been. Two, I’m more compassionate and understanding than ever towards others who battle life altering chronic pain. Finally, I can see how God is using my pain not only to grow me, but to glorify Himself. Not only to speak to me, but to speak to so many others through my pain. Now, I don’t have many physically comforting moments awake. But, I am comforted in knowing that God is still God. That God still knows what He is doing and has amazing plans for my seemingly endless pain and suffering.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)(NLT)