Sunday, August 28, 2011

One Body in Christ

Two summers ago, I injured my lower back by straining my lumbar muscle. With a combination of different medicines, physical therapy, and some minor lifestyle changes (i.e. watching my posture!), I was able to get the pain under control. Since then, I barely have any back pain and very rarely have bad days.

Until two days ago.

That's me on the left. I should've been the one on the right.
Apparently, lifting a toddler multiple times, improperly bending over to grab huge stacks of files, and leaning over a computer typing data for four hours straight put a lot of strain on one's lower back. I could feel the twinges of pain that evening, but I was hoping that a good night's sleep would give my body the rest it needed.

Unfortunately, I woke up the next day in more pain than I had been when I first strained my back two years ago. I couldn't sit or stand for more than a few minutes, and even lying down didn't relieve all the pressure from my back. The pain got so bad throughout the day that I ended up sobbing on the phone to my mom, who told me I needed to get to a doctor right away.

I was in the "danger zone"!
Faced with the prospect of getting to a doctor on a Saturday, with my family 500 miles away, and a hurricane blowing outside my window, I started to feel very alone. How could I get to the doctor? I don't know anyone here with a car. How could I even begin to ask someone to brave the storm to drive me? Why do I live so far away from home? I wish I wasn't single, so I had someone to be there for me. Why is this happening when there is a hurricane storming its way along the coast?

That's when God started reminding me that we are never alone here on earth, because we are "one body in Christ" (Rom 12:5). I set my irrational worries aside, and started to cash in on the interconnectedness in which we all share.

I called my car-less friend, who upon hearing my explanation through my sobs, dragged her boyfriend out into the storm, hopped onto the metro, grabbed a cab to my doorstep, and drove me in my car to the ER, waiting with me while the nurses went through the process of getting me muscle relaxants (which included taking a pregnancy test... that was a cause for some laughs between us!) and a shot of intense pain medication (in the bum, nonetheless!). After depositing me safely home, with a new supply of drugs and my heat pack, she and her boyfriend once again braved the public transportation in the tropical storm to get back home.

Gotta love the communion of saints!
Later that night, while trying to fall asleep, unable to get comfortable from the pain, I remembered a while back when I discovered that there is a patron saint of back pain. Without leaving my bed, I was able to pull up a novena to St. Gemma Galgani on my handy dandy iPod touch, and I started praying for healing, or at least the grace to offer up my suffering for my special intentions. My pain hasn't miraculously disappeared, but with St. Gemma as a guide, I know that my suffering is not nearly as bad as it could be, and it most definitely is not in vain.

Unable to drive myself to Mass today, much less sit in a pew for an hour, I texted my priest asking him to pray for me. He quickly offered to bring me Holy Communion, even though I live outside the city and Sundays are pretty busy for priests. He arrived a couple of hours later, prayed with me, and gave me the Eucharist, which I know has and will continue to provide healing in ways I can't even begin to understand.

Yes, there are definitely deeper theological implications when St. Paul repeatedly speaks of the body of Christ. It is a reminder to us that Jesus did not leave us to fend for our own selves on earth, but to support each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually, even when it is unexpected or makes life more difficult. From friends here on earth to those that have already passed on to their heavenly existence, we are all connected in Christ and thus, we are never alone.

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