Inspired by an early Sunday morning in September 2013.
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It was dawn on a Sunday morning. The bedside clock said half five. I tossed and turned, becoming more and more aware of a sharp discomfort in my right side. Below my ribs, it was sore. Sore in a place that shouldn't be sore. I melodramatically announced to my wife that I was going to drive myself to Casualty. By the time I reached Broadway the pain had become more acute.
Triaged and given a couple of pain killers which might as well have been Smarties, I sat a while on the uncomfortable plastic chairs violently jiggling my leg, before pacing up and down the waiting room like a caged animal. My groaning must have sounded like a mother in labour.
My name was called. The doctor listened to my gasping explanation of the symptoms and nodded his head. "I bet it's kidney stones" he said. "You sure? Not my appendix?" "Nah, totally the wrong place. I had them a few years ago. Agony. Let’s get you something for the pain and then I'll prove it's stones."
Pain killers were injected into the line in my hand, a saline drip went up and the acute pain along with the I'm-going-to-die feeling began to subside. An X-ray showed a stone, just a few millimetres in diameter, blocked on its way to exit my body. Tablets would widen the tubes, and more tablets would manage the pain. I should go home to bed and see if it would clear. And later that day it did.
I was lucky. I walked in and walked out of Accident & Emergency. A painful episode, but short-lived and curable. But while I hung around the waiting room it took such effort to lift my head and see the other people around me.
An older couple sat holding hands, the lady in her dressing gown, her partner ashen with concern. People sleeping off hangovers in the entrance porch. Ambulances bringing urgent cases into A&E. A young man with a badly cut face brought in by his mother.
Ambling around like a wounded bear I tried to pray for my fellow sufferers ... and myself. I don't think I finished many sentences in my on/off pleading with God. Their backstories were unknown, but their need for relief, reassurance and results was obvious. It wasn't all about me.
In the midst of all our own pain, it is sometimes possible to think of others besides ourselves. To some we can offer direct assistance and reassurance like my doctor did with me; for others the least we can do is to pray on their behalf and ask God to intervene.
Somehow for me the discomfort and the remaining pain vanished. Just like that. One tiny stone had moved away. Freedom from pain.
Christ has risen. He is risen indeed.
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The third last sentence “Freedom from pain” is deliberately ambiguous!
In one sense, the small stone moved and I was free from pain. I’d be quick to point out that Christianity doesn’t offer instant freedom from pain in this life. Though I might argue that in an eternal timeframe it does.