If the emergency room folks had asked me to rate my pain that day on a 1-10 scale, I would have said "22." It was the worst pain I'd ever had.
My shoulder had "exploded." My rotator cuff was totally wrecked, and that day the pain suddenly erupted.
That led to multiple replacement surgeries, from which I am fully recovered today. Although I'm still tempted to start sobbing every time I see one of those "shoulder work ahead" signs on the highway.
My other shoulder must have felt a little neglected. So he started hurting for months. Until the pain and dysfunction announced, "It's time for surgery, boy!"
In a few minutes, I'll be driven to physical therapy for today's ordeal - I mean, treatment. Lots of fun exercises. Just like I had with the other shoulder. The motto of this place is "specializing in great comebacks." I'll keep that in mind today when they're pushing to keep doing things that hurt.
I've been thinking about this painful journey of two shattered shoulders. And I realized that a lot of my life - and just about everybody's life - is about two kinds of pain.
The pain of injury - sometimes physical, sometimes emotional. And the pain of healing. They both hurt. But they are oh, so different.
The pain of injury just keeps hurting, no end in sight. Whether it's part of your body that's broken, or part of your heart.
So today I'm hurting. But it's because of exercises I need to do for the next few weeks. It's the pain of healing.
Sadly a lot of us carry needless pain because we won't do what it takes to heal the injury. Healing can be a painful process. Just ask someone who for years has stuffed the pain of the abuse they've suffered - and has finally found the courage to face it. To work through it with a caring counselor.
Does it hurt to revisit the darkest moments of your life? Oh, it does. But if dragging it out of that closet and into the light can ultimately enable you to move past it, isn't a lifetime of emotional freedom worth it?
People with the pain of injury may avoid seeing a doctor because they fear what may be a painful healing process. A couple with a breaking or broken marriage may just keep hurting rather than face the self-disclosure and self-exposure of allowing a counselor into their brokenness. Or someone may choose the guilt and disintegration of running from God because they're afraid "coming home" may just be too hard.
Sure, I could have left my shoulder a mess. Hurting more and more often. Increasingly decreasing my ability to reach or lift. Or I could submit to surgery, then tackle many weeks of a daily - and often painful - regimen of physical therapy exercises.
Both choices hurt. But one is hurt with no hope. The other is hurt that leads to healing. Brokenness that finally becomes wholeness.
I guess we should get a glimpse of how God's purpose is in our pain by how we come into this world. In preparing His disciples for the dark chapters coming with His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus said: "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come: but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you" (John 16:21).
A painful process that produces a beautiful result. That's how God births a lot of good things in our lives. Including healing from a brokenness that has possibly tormented us for years. And no amount of stuffing it, sedating it, denying it, or running from it has stopped the pain.
That's going to require some "surgery." Some hard work that will hurt. Maybe the abandonment of some things that we'd like to keep but can't afford to keep. Not if we want the pain they cause to stop.
Until May 16th four years ago, I did my whole adult life with my wise and wonderful Karen by my side. When there was pain, we shared it. Then, suddenly, it wasn't "RonandKaren" (one word!) anymore. It was just Ron. It was the day of her Homecoming in heaven. Glorious for her. Devastating for the guy who loved her beyond words.
It was the deepest wound my heart ever felt. And the ultimate test of a faith that had carried me - had carried us - through the darkest days of our life. Actually, it wasn't faith that had carried us. Or a religion. It was Jesus. Who the Bible says was "a man of suffering, familiar with pain" (Isaiah 53:3). He had always been good for His promise to be "close to the brokenhearted" and to "save those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
And now, facing life without the light of my life, would Jesus be enough? All I can tell you is that He has picked me up in His arms, carried me when I couldn't walk and brought unexplainable peace and joy to my shattered heart.
And now, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4).
There is no pain for which there's not "amazing grace" to bear it. So even if healing is a long time coming - or may never come in this life; or if I must find the courage to embrace the pain that healing requires - I have nothing to fear.
Not with Jesus there, telling me again - "I've got this, Ron. And I've got you."