Recently I was reading a book and this passage really touched me as I work with so many women who experience pain as part of their daily lives.
(Excerpt Taken from A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser)
“I have often told myself, not always convincingly, that pain is a gift, a sure sign that we are alive. Only the dead feel no pain, and that includes dead people who, though still alive, have rejected love and goodness and sorrow for so long they have lost the ability to feel anything.
Pain is a gift because it shows we have the capacity to feel, whether pain in the body or pain in the soul. Physical pain demonstrates the capacity we have in our senses to experience the negative side of life in the world. Our nerves give us messages about the world, warning us of dangers as well as informing us of its delights. Pain therefore is the flip side of pleasure. The nerves that tell us of one also tell us of the other. The eye that blinks under the glare of a bright light also gazes in wonder at a mountain peak or meadow of wild flowers. The nose that signals the scent of a dead animal under the crawl space of our house also draws us into the kitchen where bread is baking. The mouth that makes us spit out spoiled food also relishes the taste of our favourite ice cream. Ears that cringe at the wail of a siren also listen with pleasure to a Beethoven symphony.
The index finger is a marvel of well-tuned nerves, an instrument of remarkable precision. It can, for example, produce a wide variety of sounds on a violin under the guidance of a virtuoso. It can give us an infinite range of sensations, from the softness of a feather to the prickle of a cactus. It can communicate love when it strokes the hair of a lover or rubs the back of a friend. But the index finger can also scream at us. Its capacity for pleasure is equal only to its capacity for pain. The same nerves communicate both sensations. A sliver in the foot may hurt, but nothing like a sliver in the finger. A burn hurts anywhere on the body, but in few places will it hurt as much as it does on the index finger. It commands us to do something to mitigate or eliminate the pain.
Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) is deadly because it keeps the nerves from informing the person of pain. Thus a sliver under the nail of a person afflicted with this disease does not make the nerves scream. The person does not know enough, consequently to remove the sliver and cannot favor the sore finger as it heals. Little injuries can therefore become big ones over time. Sores become infected, infections turn ugly, and soon the finger is gone – all because the nerves fail to communicate pain.”
Next time you experience pain, don’t ignore it or numb it but stop and listen. Can you describe it? Observe it – are their specific activities or positions that make it better or worse? Try to work as a detective with your body to find what might be causing it. Can you be thankful for this highly specialised system?