My facebook feed pulls up old memories each day.
It showed me a post I wrote eight years ago,
as I was close to being admitted to the hospital
for an infection I had been battling for months.
It had been a lot of severe pain,
and a lot of antibiotics,
and warm compresses,
and several aspirations and skin biopsies, and incisions.
I had been placed under the care of a specialist
who confided to me that she wished it was cancer,
because she would know exactly what to do about it.
I was drinking turmeric powder in milk,
and eating raw cranberries,
and high dosing vitamin c.
But mostly, I was sitting, exhausted and in pain, on my chair.
I was worrying about my husband being widowed
and my children without a mother when they were so little.
I had to give that up.
I prayed, and I stared at a wall,
and I stared unpraying at a wall,
and everything looked dark.
The ordeal had begun in the springtime, but it wasn't an ordeal at first.
At first, it was just a concern.
And then it grew into pain.
And all the awareness and prevention in the world didn't keep me from the trial.
See, I saw it coming.
I got help early.
I checked in regularly.
I did what I knew to do to promote health, and to prevent surgery.
And I was prayed for.
And I was still afflicted.
It wasn't my first experience.
Sixteen years ago yesterday,
I was taken to an emergency room and sent to emergency surgery
for a similar infection that had gone too far.
My firstborn was six weeks old when that happened,
and I didn't know I was in danger.
But when the doctor saw the infection, his eyes grew wide,
and he rushed to the phone to talk to a colleague,
and tried to tell me in a calm voice
that he was sending me over to see a friend at the hospital.
When the triage nurse saw it, her eyes grew wide,
and she got on the phone to call the surgeon down to look.
Papers were presented requiring my signature,
and my objections to anesthesia were overruled politely,
and I was given a few minutes to feed my baby lying on the ultrasound table.
And they wouldn't let me walk anymore.
I was put on a gurney and wheeled up to preop,
where it was discovered I was still wearing street clothes,
and another nurse promptly remedied that.
When I woke up, I felt so much better
with a gaping hole in my body than I had before surgery.
My husband was trained to pack the wound.
He packed it for ten weeks,
and I had a daily visit from a visiting nurse for much of it.
I was trying to avoid that whole situation again.
Anyway, today I was remembering these things, as I read my old words.
And there was a verse that came to mind I've been pondering over.
"Therefore we do not lose heart.
Even though our outward man is perishing,
yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment,
is working for us
a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary,
but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Affliction is an unwelcome servant, but a faithful one.
Many women would stop the pain of labor if we could.
Send affliction away.
But there comes a point when a pregnancy is overdue,
and it would be a danger to mom and to baby
to prevent the labor that brings that baby out.
Some of us suffer longer than others to gain that reward.
But I would not trade any one of my six children
to get back some pain free hours (or in the case of one, days).
Affliction is working for us.
I couldn't stop thinking about that phrase this morning.
And I kept thinking about those waves of contractions
I had to learn to breathe through.
To relax into.
To allow them to do their work in bringing forth my children.
There's another word up there to note, too.
Paul said, "Our outward man is perishing..."
One version says 'wasting away'.
Another says 'being destroyed'.
The NASB says we are 'decaying'.
There's a serious error that many buy into that rejects the truth
that Christians can be being renewed from the inside,
while also perishing in their bodies.
Like somehow an afflicted saint is not a victorious saint.
But on the contrary, affliction works for us.
It's working an exceeding weight of glory.
It's building eternity into us.
It's giving us eyes to see what is invisible.
It's training us to hope in the reality, and not the illusion.
It's working patience into us.
It's giving us compassion.
When we reject it,
we are rejecting the very servant God has sent us to make us fit for heaven.
Several weeks ago, I came across a prayer for the sick
in the Book of Common Prayer:
Sanctify, O Lord, the sickness of Your servant,
that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith
and seriousness to his repentance;
and grant that he may live with You in everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sometimes it's difficult to believe
that our sickness could be a means of sanctification.
And we don't want to submit to that.
But it would be well to lean into it, and to learn to breathe through it.