“Can you feel this?” The surgeon took a needle and pricked each of my finger tips. “Only my thumb. Ouch, by the way.” I scooted closer to the edge of the examination table and crinkled the paper lining. “Well Shannon,” Dr. Maxwell replied. “After seeing both the MRI and how quickly you’ve lost feeling in your arm and fingers, I recommend surgery as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more nerve damage you will cause. I can’t guarantee how much damage might become permanent.” Neck surgery? Every horror story and worse case scenario projected itself across my thoughts like a high def, 3-D movie. Paralysis went from a remote possibility, to a likely outcome, if I surrendered to surgery. “Listen!” He yanked me out of my black hole. “The cartilage has lodged itself in-between your bones and is cutting into the nerves running down your arm. If I remove it soon enough, I can guarantee that feeling will return in all of these numb areas. But if you wait, it will spread, and you won’t only suffer neck pain, you may lose all proper functioning of your arm.” I noticed he had the same vertical crease appear between his eyebrows that I did when I scowled. Despite all fear and trepidation, I ended up having the neck surgery and as he promised, all of the dead, numb spots along my arm, hand and fingers, became sensitive to touch, temperature, and pain again. I stopped dropping plates and glasses and could finally sense my husband’s hand holding mine. Dr. Paul Brand worked with leprosy patients in India for fifty years. He said “Pain is nothing that most of us would count as a blessing, but it is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It’s value becomes clearest in its absence. Those who feel no pain reap terrible consequences.”
Those who feel no pain reap terrible consequences.
No pain has consequences? Bring it! Sometimes, I long for those consequences just so pain can be a memory, rather than a reality. Sometimes…I crave to get rid of tears, heartache, sorrow, and discouragement. I long to be numb to a nervous stomach, a tension headache, and cutting words. To be able to rub my thoughts along the outlines of grief and losses and feel no twinges of pain or recoil…yes, tempting indeed. But, as I pulled my hands from dishwater that would’ve scalded them if numb, I thanked Him for the pain of His chastening as a warning of scalding to my soul. I asked Him to remove callouses from my character where I’ve become insensitive to His touch. I asked Him to make me tender to His pin-pricks in my conscience and sensitive to the hearts of others that have been placed in my hands. I so easily drop them when I am numb… The times I have been hurt the deepest were to people who were numb to their own sin. The more numb a person’s heart and soul becomes, the more dangerous they become to themselves and those around them. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul warns Timothy that there would be people he would meet who once appeared to walk in the faith, but would become hypocrites and liars with consciences as numb as cattle who have been branded with a hot iron. As that searing heat destroys all nerve endings, so people can become insensitive to the conviction of their sin, the grief they have caused the Holy Spirit and the pain they inflict upon others. There will be no humility or remorse, no apologies or repentance, no brokenness or shame; only a false sense of peace and self-righteous pride that wounds and cannot be wounded. Sin sears to deadness. I am thankful I can feel when others have caused me pain. I pray that no one is crying in their prayer closet because of “nerve damage” in my flesh. To this day, if I turn my neck a particular way, pain shoots down my arm quickly and if I don’t move, eventually all of my fingers will grow numb.
To this day, if I turn my heart and mind a particular way, pain will shoot straight to my heart from the Holy Spirit and if I do not repent or move to make things right, eventually all of my conscience, soul and spirit will grow numb…and I will be a living example of the scripture above.
Thank You Father, for the surgical works of Your hands,╬ô├╢┬╝Γö£├¡that can remove all the things that desensitize us to You, Your Spirit, and Your will.╬ô├╢┬╝Γö£├¡May we all lie still on your examination table and be grateful for the gift of pain. Amen.
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting…” Eccl. 7:2a