So, I have a herniated disc in my neck, and when it is grumpy, it sends pain down to my shoulder blade, up to my neck, cascades down my deltoid, through my biceps, burns the shit out of my forearm, and messes up my hand.
Traction reduced it from an incapacitating agony to just a dull pain. At times, now, I don't even notice it.
If I hold still, and think about it, I can feel whispers, shadows of it all down my arm and into my hand. It's a deep pain, nothing anything I can do to touch and alleviate the sensation.
After the worst of the experience, I'm glad that I was honored to have felt that pain.
First, the pain allowed me to understand what chronic pain sufferers have to live with. It's horrible, no release, no escape, no hope. With chronic pain, you can't live well, sleep well, interact well. You long for drugs to make the pain go away, but your choices are "forget it" or narcotics -- and those fuck up the rest of your life.
I never really understood that before, but I do now. A whole spectrum of sympathy has been opened up for me. That's a good thing.
Second, faced with the inescapable pain, I had a choice: I could writhe and curse, or I could offer the pain itself up as a prayer for the good of Mankind. Let that prayer burn, that the world would someday realize that Life is sacred. The pain becomes a holy thing, not because God wants people to hurt, but because I want my hurt to be for a reason, a quest, something beyond my body. I have the choice to give that sensation up as a gift, to perhaps reduce the suffering of others.
Finally, with these realizations, the weight of the ache hanging on my shoulder and arm tonight, I don't grimace and say, "Damnit, will this ever be healed?" but instead, "Hello, old friend. The world needs our prayer."
My prayer is that those in perpetual pain may know some rest, and that the world can come to know that all life is holy, from conception to grave, in health and in suffering, in beauty and in ugliness. In the image of every living creature is the will of God, and in the face of every human is the reflection of the Christ.