So, it started when I woke up with jabbing pain early Friday morning. When I say early, I mean about 3:15am, which is a time when no one should ever be awake. I guess I must have slept wrong, or in the wrong position, although I’m pretty sure I slept the way that I have slept for probably the last 20 years or so. As I have stated often before, “why” is the last question answered, so it really doesn’t matter why I ended up hardly being able to turn my head to the left without it feeling like it was about to pop the screws and send my skull rolling down hallway. It just was that way, I guess.
And it hurt. You know how you can go for nearly ever without even thinking about lifting your arm, or moving your feet, or turning your head to look at something, and then suddenly, that whole range of motion takes a holiday to the south of France, and you are stuck with a body that doesn’t work right. It’s like driving on a flat tire. You can do it, of course, but it won’t get better, and you can expect it’s probably going to get worse, the more miles you put on…
So, I moved to the recliner, and put a towel behind my head to immobilize it – sort of – and then tried to go back to sleep, all the while believing that when I woke up at a reasonable time, that the pain in the neck would have gone away. The problem, however, was that I did not go back to sleep very well – I woke up about every ten minutes or so, probably because my dumb neck kept reminding me, “Uh, Randy – I’m going to keep hurting you…” On top of that, the clock I used to figure out what time is was in the dark, since after dark, everything looks the same until the sun comes up – the clock, of course, was located to my left. I would sort of wake up, and then, forgetting the whole neck thing, I would quickly turn to the left, sending what felt like bits and pieces of my head and neck cascading on to the floor. When I finally did read the clock, it would only be about 20 minutes from the last time, and I’d have to settle things down again, reposition the towel, and go back to sleep.
I have to tell you – that’s not a fun activity. I really don’t care to wake up in pain, over and over and over again. You also find out pretty quickly that there is a reason God put our heads on a swivel known as a neck – it’s so we can see more of the world. Without that swivel, you become more like a tootsie roll pop on a stick. On a painful stick, that is.
Even though it was supposed to be a day when I could sleep in, I was up at right about 6am, since I was growing tired of the stabbing pain. I took the appropriate medicine, and sat at the dining room table, sipping coffee, and trying to test and see if the neck was getting better. Now, you know how that happens: once you start moving around, it’s like the oil starts flowing into the joints, and the stiff and aching stuff kind of goes away. And it did! That is, it did until I thoughtlessly quickly turned my head to the left, and once again was reminded that “you have a pain in the neck, Buddy…”
Now, Cheri might be small, but she is also mighty. She saw my pain, and decided to help by massaging the neck and shoulder to loosen things up. Now, you remember when you were little, and you would play outside, and get a sticker or a sliver in your hand or your foot, and you would come inside seeking medical attention from the emergency medical personnel on hand – your mother? You knew she could fix it, and take what felt like a monstrous piece of sharp lumber out of the sole of your foot. Except – there was going to be pain. Mom would get one of her needles, and cook it over a match flame for a few moments. I realize now that she was trying to sterilize it, but as a child, all I could imagine was a red hot needle about to be plunged into my soft skin. Gets you a little tense.
After a while, of the surgeon picking and pricking and doing it all without general anesthesia, she would then get the tweezers and yank the monster out of my foot, letting me look at it as it shrank down to an item that you could barely see without a microscope. All this is to say that sometimes, the cure seemed as bad as the accident.
Let’s return to our story. I have to admit I always have a bit of fear when Cheri is going to go after a knot or a painful spot on my neck or shoulder or back. She just seems to summon up super strength, and starts grinding in with her elbow or heel of her hand. Does it work? Maybe, sometimes, sort of, but the pain is really intense, and it’s hard to sit still and let her pound and push away.
She has taken on the pain in my neck about four times since Friday morning. I wish I could say it was getting better, but every middle of the night, it continues to summon me out of my sleep by reminding me that it is in charge, and it wants to make my life a bit more miserable.
So now it is Sunday – always a good day for resurrection. I’m hoping that things are going to start releasing their wicked grip on my neck and let me get on with the things I’d like to do today, instead of sitting still and trying not to make it mad. It has to go away eventually, but for now, it is doing a great job of reminding me that I am human, and that I am not ten years old anymore. It’s remarkable what a pain in the neck can teach you about your own limitations and humanness.
And it does, but it’s also remarkable how quickly we forget all of that when we decide we once again are invincible, and can’t be stopped or even slowed down! When you and I forget that we live as part of the world, and instead try to believe that the world is here totally for our pleasure, then sure enough, somewhere there is going to arise a pain in the neck. Sometimes it’s pain that is inflicted on us, making us pause and be more careful and thoughtful in our living. Sometimes, however, we ourselves become the pain in the neck to the world and the people around us. How sad and unnecessary it is for you or me to inflict ourselves in any way that is painful to others. That’s especially true when we recall how painful it is when it happens to us.
My offering today is that we all might be more intentional in our actions, our words and our impact on the world we touch. There really is no excuse to become a pain in the neck. It’s bad enough I have one of my own – I don’t need to share it with others.
Word for the day: pulchritudinous. Pronounced pull-kri-TOO-din-us. This word is perhaps the most subjective word you could find in the English language. It comes from the Latin pulcher, which means simply “beautiful.” However, when something – or someone – is pulchritudinous, they are more than pretty or attractive. The definition, probably written by a romantic, is “something of breathtaking, or even heartbreaking beauty.” It is an over-the-top consideration of someone as the most beautiful one has ever seen. Of course, as has been the case for centuries, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What I consider pulchritudinous, another may not consider at all. Of course, they would be crazy…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.