~~~~~~~~~ "We are here for only a moment, wanderers and sojourners in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace." I Chron. 29:15 NLT

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Pain of Heat vs. The Heat of Pain

Leaving the cool environment of our air conditioned house and tentively stepping through the door to the outside is like walking into an oversized oven where the oppresive heat smothers each successive breath. I imagine what it feels like to be a loaf of bread as it slides into the hot yawning mouth of my kitchen oven. The temperature may be only 105 degrees but with the added ingredient of humidity it feels more like the 350 degrees needed to bake me a crusty brown. Like that loaf of bread I'm trapped in an oven of summer heat.

I can't believe I grew up on a Kansas farm without air conditioning. We knew better because some business places and a few homes had air conditioning, but we couldn't afford the unit or the cost of electricity to keep it running. Besides, we worked outside much of the time and were used to the heat. I think people suffer from the heat more today because we've become acclimated to air conditioning and don't tolerate the heat as well. We've become slaves to our lifestyles and are driven to work regardless of the heat. I remember lazy summer afternoons when we ceased our labors and read a book or took a nap until the sun began its descent and the evening air became tolerable. We often slept outside on the picnic table or the swing on those nights a cool breeze failed to come through our bedroom windows. If mosquitos, coyotes howling too close for comfort, or a thunderstorm chased us indoors, we would sleep on the cool, hard linoleum of the living room floor. Our upstairs bedrooms which were under the eaves of the uninsulated roof took all night to cool off. One by one we five siblings would stumble sleepily up the stairs in the early morning hours of dawn and catch a couple hours of complete rest on our soft mattresses. A cool morning breeze flirting with the curtains at the open window finally sent a sensuous wave of cooling air over our sweaty bodies. But a few hours of sunshine would heat up the day as hot, or hotter, than the day before.

Most of August we could smell the vegetation scorching. The road passing on the south side of our farm was layered with white rock which had been pulverized into fine dust by car, truck, and farm machinery wheels. Each passing vehicle raised clouds of white dust that would race with the wind for our house and garden and spread a layer thick enough to obscure the distinctiveness of flower and leaf, and create a chalk board on every flat surface so I could practice writing my name. The dust and the packed, cracked earth under our feet had the scent of baked pottery. Cumulus clouds would gather and bump into each other splitting the air with lightening and thunder but nary a drop of rain would fall. Sometimes, a small quick shower would dump enough water to soak our clothes as we ran out and danced with the rain. The heat gave us an excuse to have water fights. Just as we walked past the corner of the house we would suddenly be hit with a blast of cold water from a well-aimed bucket-full pumped up from the cistern. No one was exempt, not even our mother, who took the assault good-naturedly. After the first shock wore off it was a welcome relief and most times we were able to forgive the perpetrator. Of course, we always found an opportunity to retaliate with the same enthusiasm.

Finally, the day came when clouds began to accumulate more frequently until they were heavy enough to dump a respectful one or two inches of rain on the parched earth. It was the first sign the summer heat was abating and we could soon look forward to cooler days and nights. The cows started giving more milk, the chickens increased their egg production, and we were all less irritable with one another. We had survived another Kansas summer.

After a particularly hot summer like the one we're enduring now, my husband and I would talk about moving somewhere else instead of enduring another summer in Kansas. Though we often vacationed in Colorado where the humidity is less and the nights are blissful, we've never pulled up stakes and moved. Our resolve weakens when the next summer proves to be more mild. Family roots are more important than physical comfort. And so we endure the pain of heat, yet not without the comfort of knowing it's temporary. Fall inevitably follows summer.

I remember walking barefoot as a child on our cement sidewalks, feeling the burning heat on the bottom of my feet. Today, I have the same burning pain in my feet, but it's not from walking on sun-baked cement. The burning pain I feel these days is from the damaged nerves of peripheral neuropathy. I'm trapped in this body of pain, and the only relief is the daily regimen of pain medications that make the pain tolerable. I'm living one long summer since there's no cure for neuropathy, and there are no seasons of spring, fall, and winter to bring relief from the burning pain. Half the battle is won since I've accepted this pain will probably be with me the rest of my life, unless the nerves completely die and numbness replaces the pain. But that doesn't seem likely since the pain is as intense as it was when it began seven or eight years ago. I'm not talking about this to elicit sympathy. That's the last thing I need to give me the strength I need to rise above the pain. Rather I talk about it to try and make sense of it, to convince myself that what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. And maybe someone else who suffers chronic pain will read this and not feel alone with their pain.

Everyday, I ask myself, "What am I learning from this pain?" "What is the purpose of pain in my life?" So far I've learned that suffering does teach us about who we are, what kind of stuff we're made of. I don't have to understand why I have painful neuropathy to endure it and learn from it. Perhaps it's been given to me to keep me from becoming proud, like Paul in
2 Cor. 12:7-10, and to depend on God's grace. Maybe, like Job, I'm being tested. Or because of my pain I can be of help to others through understanding and encouragement as suggested in 2 Cor. 1:3-7: "...for when we are comforted, we will certainly comfort you."

Living in the furnace of trial by fire we need not be without comfort, for God has promised to be faithful to those of us who have faith in His love and believe in our friend, Jesus, and the constant comfort of the Holy Spirit and The Word. There are days I feel sorry for myself. But then I read or hear of someone who experiences and triumps over worse adversities than I. (See my link to "Check This Out!") I'm reminded that we are all trying to survive whatever situations or circumstances we find ourselves in this life. Who or what we rely on for strength and comfort can make a huge difference on how we make it through each day, how we endure the Heat of Pain. Earthly pain is temporary and will be gone when this life is over and we move on to our eternal home. Here's a song that expresses my thoughts today:

This World Is Not My Home
This world is not my home I'm just-a-passing through
My pleasure and my hopes are way beyond the blue
Many friends and loved ones have gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Cho.: Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home oh Lord what will I do
The Angels beckon me to heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Over in gloryland there'll be no dying there
The saints are shouting victory and singing everywhere
I hear the voice of those who've gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

My Lord's expecting me that's one thing I know
I fixed it up with Jesus a long time ago
He will take me through though I am weak and poor
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Author: na; Version: na
Lyrics provided courtesy of Bluegrass Lyrics.Com!