A few months ago, I shared with Nurya that I was struggling to write a blog post because it I had difficulty thinking about anything except the pain I was in. She said, “Pain is something you should write about. How has being in pain challenged you as a mom and a disciple? How does it alter your family dynamics and how does your faith play into that?” That was a few months ago, and I’m still living with hip pain that requires surgery. I decided to take Nurya up on her offer to write about my experiences with pain, and how it has brought me closer to my family and friends.
Many of us live with chronic injury, or with an injury that recurs from time to time. Perhaps you have carpal tunnel syndrome that gets worse as it gets colder. Maybe your plantar fasciitis pains you more in the summer, when you’re more active. I’ve had pain of one kind or another since high school – mostly knee and ankle stuff. I’ve had surgery on my knee and elbow. I’m no stranger to pain, and have learned to live with it, with God’s and my orthopedic surgeon’s help. This hip pain is another story.
August of 2014, I remember standing up and experiencing searing pain in my hip. I hadn’t done anything to it; I couldn’t imagine what the problem could be. One xray and two injections later, Dr. Shockley diagnosed bursitis. Two years later, I’m about to have surgery to correct the bursitis. The pain has truly reached its peak; every step is painful. 10Ks and 5Ks are out of the question. Without exercise, I feel my positive mental health slipping away. It’s a difficult time.
My daughters have known me most of their lives as someone who was active in fits and spurts. I’d get active in an attempt to lose weight, not as an attempt to honor God or take better care of myself overall. In the last year and a half, though, I’ve had a much different experience with physical activity, my body, my relationship with God, and my relationship with my girls. They’re all intertwined now, in a good way. I want to be here longer to be with them longer, so I take better care of myself. I also acknowledge that God wants me at my best. As God’s creation, God wants every wonderful thing for me, but not without my participation. The best person to take care of my earthly temple is me.
When I’m in pain, I know I’m not my best self. I feel guilty that I can’t walk and jog every day. I agonize over being too tired or pained to stand in the kitchen and cook. I’d rather sit at home and ice my hip than go thrift shopping with the girls. As soon as I start feeling guilty and sorry for myself, I think of all the people living with permanent disabilities, and I feel guilty about feeling my feelings. It’s easy to lose sight of God when you’re blinded with tears you feel you shouldn’t be crying.
Thank God for my children in all of this. My children ground me and give me reasons to keep going when I get too into myself and want to quit. When they were younger, it was harder to be in pain. Now that they are older, they help themselves and me in countless ways – from cooking dinner to bringing me ice packs. My husband David has always been a source of strength, literally and figuratively. Our partnership being rooted in faith carries us through each day with God’s help.
While children don’t always heed our words, they do heed our actions. You know how it is with kids and teens – they may not listen to what we say, but they watch everything we do, especially when we don’t want them to! Now that I have an adult daughter, I hate when I see that she’s repeating one of my bad patterns. But even with her, it’s not too late to make a change for the better. Modeling the behavior you want your kids to have is critical.
So where does pain fit in with parenting? How can we be good stewards of our earthly body, and good examples of self-care as we live with pain? Here are a few of my thoughts:
- Don’t hide your pain from your kids. God gives me the opportunity to live with this pain in a variety of ways. I could sulk, cry, and feel sorry for myself. While I have the crying part down, I’m trying to be more like Jesus with my pain. I work hard to not complain excessively or host pity parties. I’m honest with the girls about my pain level, and I’m forthright about what I can and can’t do on any given day.
- Ask your kids for help when you need it. Give them the opportunity to help you. Even young children can find ways to be helpful, and believe me – they want to take care of you and show off what they’ve learned from you. God cares for God’s people in many ways, including sending Jesus to us. We have story after story of how a child came to the rescue (feeing of the 5,000, for one). The more opportunities your children have to help you, the more opportunities they will seek to help others.
- Ask your family to pray for you. As you help your kids cultivate their own personal prayer lives, ask them to please add you to their prayers. You are one of the most important people in your child’s life. What they do for you, they will want to do for others.
- Call on God whenever you need God. My girls hear me call on the Lord several times a day. As the pain tries to take over, I call on God to help me through this pain – sometimes I call on God very loudly! I believe it’s important for the girls to hear me pray because they know that I believe that God is here with me before, during, and after the pain, just as God was there for Jesus through his pain.
- Seek and find beauty wherever you can. Even though I can’t walk, I still enjoy being outside in nature. Photos from previous walks sometimes make me sad, but often remind me that what I did before, I’ll do again. The photo above of my favorite waterfall provides a focal point that helps me manage my pain. I’m in that waterfall; God’s healing love washes over me.
- Use all of your resources to manage your pain. I urge you to get medial assistance, and ask lots of questions while you’re there. Get a second opinion if needed.
God wants us at our best so we can live out God’s commandments. With God’s help, and the help of my family, I feel like I’m getting closer to a life with considerably less pain. I appreciate all prayers for healing. If you need healing, add your name to the comments and I’ll gladly add you to my prayers.
Prayer for Those in Pain
Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to your Father’s will: Be near me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me according to your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God.
Book of Common Prayer, p. 461
How do you live with pain? How do you model self-care?