I had an appointment with an ALS specialist at OHSU last week. My primary neurologist thought that it would be a good idea to receive another opinion just to make sure that it is not, in fact ALS. The other concern that we had is with the presence of fasciculations in my hand, triceps, thigh and calf. Fasciculations are typically a sign of lower motor neuron damage, and a key player when differentiating between PLS and ALS. The ALS specialist believes that my fasciculations are benign and not as a result of ALS. The cause is believed to be caffeine and withdrawal from my muscle relaxant medication (both of which are known to cause benign fasciculations in normal people). As of right now, neither my neurologist nor the ALS specialist believe that I have ALS, and are leaning toward PLS.
More thoughts on pain
I am still struggling with the idea of how to respond to pain. We know that, in the physical realm, pain is a warning sign to our bodies that something is not right. Likewise, In the spiritual realm, it often causes us to stop and think about the dreadful state in which we find ourselves. That said, pain is not without it’s benefits. On the cellular level, regeneration and new life cannot occur without death. Each cell is pre-programmed with a suicide mission, and without the death of the cell, new cells cannot exist and life cannot continue. This phenomenon is known as Programmed Cell Death or PCD, and is just one of the many clues that God has given to teach us about pain, suffering and death. So we see both good and evil arising out of pain and suffering.
There exists a Tension
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah , and Named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” I Samuel 7.12
They come in crowds to the river Lethe, so that you see, with memory washed out they may revisit the earth above. Virgil, Aeneid 6.705
There is a very close relationship between physical pain and our spiritual condition. Spiritually speaking, pain is both our banishment from Eden and our Ebenezer. That is, it serves both as a reminder of our sinfulness and a monument to God’s ever present help in our time of need. So what are we to do when we are faced with pain? Our instinct is to shun the pain until we no longer feel anything. I’m not convinced that this is an appropriate response, but I cannot say with certainty that it is wrong for a person to relieve their pain.
When in the course of our lives, God grants to us that we should suffer, His desire for us is that we shall find in Him our Ebenezer. We are to remember that He is our ever present help in time of need, and in Him alone is our salvation. By contrast, when God grants to us that we shall suffer, and we respond by shunning the pain, have we not opted out of God’s blessing for us? Is it possible that we are drinking of the waters of Lethe without even knowing it? In other words, are we missing out on learning to depend on God by doing whatever we can to forget the very thing with which He entrusted us?
What sounds good in theory is not always the most practical option. The arguments in favor of shunning pain are legion and among them we find very noble motives. I fear this is where my pragmatism comes face to face with my philosophical convictions- and the ensuing battle promises to be bloody. Chief among the arguments for shunning pain is that of fulfilling ones familial duties. Simple tasks such as spending time with family and helping out with household chores become very difficult. Although resulting in exhaustion, mowing the lawn and climbing stairs are still possible with a couple muscle relaxants. What about ministering to others? How am I to meet the needs of the afflicted and the needy if I myself am suffering? There are many things to consider, but what is clear to me is that my decision not only affects me, but it has residual effects that touch the lives of others around me.
Pray for wisdom
I don’t have any easy answers to this dilemma. I need the wisdom that comes from the Spirit, because without Him, I am but just a sinner standing on the banks of Lethe with one hand in the water and one hand desperately clinging to my Ebenezer. I want so desperately to experience the salvation that only God offers, and yet I can’t help but wonder if he is beckoning me to drink from the waters of Lethe, and by doing so, offering me an Ebenezer. Thoughts?
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