Pain = Life

Pain = Life

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The nurse probes my wound as I lie on the table wincing with pain every time she presses down on my raw and exposed flesh.  I become annoyed as she continues to press around the edges of the wound on my right foot and then again in the center of it.  “You know that hurts, right?”

“Yes, I know, and that’s a good thing.” The nurse turns and smiles at me, “When you feel pain, that means the skin on your foot is alive, that means you’re alive.”

A few days earlier, I was involved in a gasoline fire that sent me to the emergency room and then ultimately to the burn clinic, where burn specialists took every measure to contain the burns on my right arm, my right leg, and both of my feet.  They removed the dead skin, cleaned and dressed my wounds.  Over a period of several days, I experienced several occasions where my bandages were removed and my wounds exposed.  I closed my eyes and clinched my teeth as a nurse scrubbed my wounds and cleaned them repeatedly.  The common theme throughout my treatments was that pain was good.  Pain meant I was alive and that my limbs were functionally properly.  They wanted me to experience pain.

It’s counterintuitive to want to experience pain.  I’ve lived my whole life avoiding pain.  Pain is bad and I try to escape its clutches whenever possible.  I avoid doing things, because they might cause pain.  Sometimes I live conservatively and try not to push the limits, because to do so, might cause pain.  Pain; however, is inevitable and very much a part of life as breathing, sleeping, eating, and love.

Pain comes in many forms, whether it’s the heartache of a lost love, or the embarrassment of failing publicly, or the sharp fire that resonates through your body when you slip and fall on hard concrete.  Pain is always present and threatens to rear its ugly head at any moment.

It wasn’t until I spent several days in that burn clinic that I realized the significance of pain and the important role it plays in our lives.  Everything in that clinic revolves around pain.  Are you feeling pain?  How significant is the pain?  The most important part of my experience is that my doctors, nurses, and physical therapists expected me to push through the pain.  They wanted me to acknowledge the pain, embrace the pain, and push myself past the pain.  Ultimately, they wanted me to live and to live is to experience the pain and its bittersweet beauty.

I’m expected to move my ankles, even though it hurts me to do so.  They want me to put my bodyweight on my feet, even though the rush of pain is almost intolerable as the blood rushes to my toes like hot lava.  I sweat and curse as I work through the pain, but I’m beginning to realize that the pain is good, because with each surge of pain is a signal to my soul that my body is very much alive and that God blessed me with an opportunity to continue to have an impact on the world.

I will never look at pain the same as I slowly recover from my burns.  Yes, pain hurts, but with pain comes life and I want to live life to the fullest.  I realize that to live my life on purpose, I must live with the pain that comes with every act of living.  This morning I woke to the throbbing pain in my right foot where my burn continues to heal, but instead of cursing the pain, I smile and thank the Lord that I’m alive.

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  1. Glad you are doing better and I didn’t have to come donate some skin from my backsides to you!

    I was off for summer camp for a week and then off four days the following week sick. Ended up at the hospital for blood tests and xray, going tomorrow for MRI. Every step I take is painful as well as turning over in bed and sometimes the lower back and/or left leg aches just sitting down which it is doing now.

    The pain and illness does remind us that we are alive, but also serves to take us out of our busy day to day life and we see others who are suffering. Walking through the hospital waiting room seeing people who are suffering, seeing the older people who are dealing with all of the illnesses life throws at them as they age and still managing to smile and to serve and help each other. It helps be to be more aware of the pain of others when they are injured or ill, or when they have to take a spouse or child to get medical attention. Being ill and in pain once in a while myself helps me to understand and sympathize with what they are going through rather than just go on about my busy day. It is kind of like when someone has never lost someone close to them to death seeing someone else go through that is more abstract, but once you loose a loved one or two, you can feel other people’s loss and pain in a more personal way.

    1. Great insight, Ralph, thank you!


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