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Trading Ebenezer for Lethe


An Update

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?

8 thoughts on “Trading Ebenezer for Lethe

  1. Ryan

    I’m so glad that you’re back! I missed reading your posts. I always have to google weird things like “Lethe” and “Programmed Cell Death” after reading your stuff but at least I come away more educated 🙂

    I think you finally put your finger on the real issue that you’ve been struggling with. I agree with the way you ended this post. I think we have plenty of opportunities for God to be our salvation even if we relieve the suffering we have now. Just my thoughts.

  2. Do you realize that like 9 out of 10 people have no idea what you just said. Actually make 10 out of 10. But even though I don’t know about Lethe I understand what you are saying. I guess it comes to weather god is real or a delusion and if real then does he really take time to make contact with us and if he does then does he really want to concern himself with how we respond to him or is he just playing games with us and doing little medical experiments on us. I don’t know either. These are the same things that you and I have been talking about for years! Welcome back!

  3. OMG! I know this one! Lethe is the river in Hades that make you forget everything. I LOVE greek mythology! So does that make me smart now? I still don’t know what an ebenezer is. Other than the guy in the Xmas carol movie. And what that has to do with anything is not really clear. It must be a bible thing but then why is that a good thing? Wasn’t ebenezer scrooge a bad guy?

  4. Ryan, I think I agree to a certain extent, but it isn’t a matter of trading one for another. I think that a person who is suffering needs to seek God’s will in the suffering in which they find themselves. Now is the opportunity to respond to God, not when a more favorable circumstance comes up. This is the kairos, so to speak.. the coming together of events into one opportune moment in time, and God considers our response. What are your thoughts on how the Bible presents suffering? Do you see it as something to embrace or shun?

    Anthro, It’s called Google buddy… 🙂 I’m operating under the assumption that God involves himself in our every day lives and that he is deeply concerned with how we respond to Him… “from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded”. In other words, God expects us to respond in proportion to what He has given us. I can’t simply shrug off the blessings in my life because of this one incident. I have been given much, and so I want to give even more back. This is my worship to Him… to lift Him up no matter how bad things may become.

    Serena, You nailed it! Nice job! I didn’t know you had an interest in mythology. Here’s my brief summary of ebenezer… it has nothing to do with bah humbug… In the bible, we have the account of God restoring the nation of Israel in a massive turning away from their sins. As a nation, they turned from God and began to behave like the nations around them. Samuel was anointed as priest and the entire nation began to turn their hearts back to God. When they did this, God responded by re-establishing their place as a strong nation. Samuel responded by erecting a stone as a monument so that everyone who would see it would be reminded that God was their help. We have similar monuments in our own American history right? Monuments that serve as reminders of our past. This was the same thing. A reminder to every one who passed by that God is the one who provides the help in our time of trouble.

    I don’t know why Dickens used it for Scrooge’s first name. It would be an interesting piece of trivia though.

  5. Natya

    Dear Sir Teleia,

    I write now and soon take home with Jesus. My story I tell later in note on older writing of you. You remember? Yes I read by day and night to you website always. But now my breath low and lung not good. I see face of our Jesus one day. Two day if strength in last day of lung strong. I write and say we good friend on that day at heaven and I join other saints to pray to savior for you. I see Him!

    I learn Greek Myth in college well and Lethe does not harm Teleia. You take medicine help family not Teleia. I not fear you forget God. You know Shepherd voice.

  6. Natya,

    Yes, I do remember and pray for you every day. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your life with me. Your faith inspires me to press on toward the prize. I am amazed at your resolve. It has been a difficult few years for you but the healing that we have been praying for you to receive is about to come to you. Our prayers for healing seem rather short sited in view of eternity don’t they? For certainly we will all be healed for we will all be changed… in the twinkling of an eye our bodies will be raised incorruptible.. and indeed we will be healed! In many ways, I envy you. For you will truly be able to set your eyes upon the Author and Perfector of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and bore our infirmities! I am saddened by your present condition but am filled with joy for you because you leave Chernobyl behind.

  7. Natya~

    My name is Jami. I am Sir Teleia’s wife. I do not know if you will read these words, but I want you to know that your brief moments in our life have been encouraging to me. You have been a part of helping me to embrace the trials our family must walk through. I pray that now, as you prepare to meet our Maker and Savior, you feel nothing but His peace and joy!

  8. Natya

    Yes peace I feel is good. Not fear like when child. Jami I happy you to meet and joy that you love savior too! God use Teleia mighty and must encourage him as wife. Thank you for note dearest sister

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