First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on April 27, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/hope-is-a-muscle-we-need-to-exercise
When I was hit with intense pain from a pinched nerve and muscle spasm in my leg, I had to relinquish my to-do list.
Hot, sharp pain travelled up my leg, and I found that the most comfortable position was lying flat on the floor. I couldn’t stand to floss my teeth at night. Walking became limping. And breathing became a catch-and-release routine.
My sister helped me by making dinners, making me laugh, and supporting me on short walks. She offered her shoulder to lean on. She served up patience with my constant groans and complaints about how much pain I was in.
My hope was faltering and it started to feel like this pain would be my new reality. One night my mom played ukulele over Zoom video as I lay on my back and cried. She let me choose my favourite songs. The next night, we prayed a Rosary together on a video chat. I shifted to find the best sitting position. Her smile lit up my heart. She asked the Lord to show me how much he loves me and to show me that he is suffering with me.
There is a comfort in imagining that my Saviour is suffering alongside me. I can picture him holding my hand and giving it a squeeze when a muscle spasm shoots fiery shocks up my leg. I let my breath out that I catch and release.
I cancelled story time with my 4-year-old godson because the pain was so strong one night. The next day, we set up a new time to video chat and to my surprise he read me a story. He read The Cat in the Hat as I moved now and then to relieve the nerve pain. His bright face beamed with excitement to share his new talent with me.
The Lord is doing a new thing. Stripped of my usual comfort and the busyness of my task list, my priority becomes peace of heart, I am aware of how intertwined my mind, body, and spirit are. Amidst hot tears I sing a song I made up, “You can take all this pain away,” hoping Jesus would take the hint.
Experiencing acute back pain and nerve pain, I realize that my identity is not in all the things I can do. It’s not in what I can offer. It’s me and my toothy smile. It’s the fact that I was born and am alive. And what a miracle that is, that my parents met, and their parents met. I am a beloved daughter of God.
Accepting my sister’s help is hard sometimes. I don’t want to feel like a burden. I am reminded that I am enough. I’ve read that we are human beings after all, not human doings. We are overcoming. We will always need healing from past wounds or illnesses.
St. Paul says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10 NIV)
I have the Lord and he is everything to me. I trust that he can take care of everything. Even in my suffering, he is there.
For now I must endure pain, and with each discomfort I withstand, I am molded into something new. A strength has sprung forth in me. A fierce hope in seeing what is to come. Suffering in this day is not going to keep my spirits down. Hope is like a muscle. I choose to exercise it more than self-pity. I will not give up!