I TOLD you I’d bring it back around to religion eventually!
July sucked on a number of levels, none of which I shall talk about here because My Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much is a faithful reader of the blog, and she doesn’t need to know those particular details. Not when I can curl her hair with stories of things that happened YEARS AGO! YAHOOOOOOOOO! HOLD ON MOM! THIS ONE’S GONNA SUUUUUUUUUUUCK!
While MMTPHWILVVM and Dad, The Great Stoic Wonder were in the dark about July, my faithful friends were not, because I asked them all to pray a bunch. And a bunch more. And a BUNCH more. And things still went south. (“FOR NOW. IT WILL GET BETTER” my faithful friends, who are way more optimistic than I am, remind me.)
To which my friend Nellie sent me the good old standby verse of Romans 8: verses 26 – 27.
26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
I love Nellie. ADORE Nellie. But that verse pissed me off. Because I simply don’t believe it. Heresy, I know.
But if we believe that we have the Holy Spirit inside us, to me that means the Holy Spirit is the voice in my head that tells me right from wrong – don’t rob that bank, don’t hit that person, don’t drink that beer. I know what that feels like.
When I am in the midst of my sorrow, of my pain, of my frustration and bitter tears, I am alone in that emotion. Which makes me feel much much worse. I don’t feel the presence of ANYONE there. Where are you then, Holy Spirit, huh?
So I think that Paul, writer of Romans, was employing a bit of poetic license that has simply gotten out of hand through the thousand of years, and offers cold comfort to cranky bitches like me now.
Yesterday was a visit to Stella and Wella. Wella, one of my two honorary big brothers, was doing some check up work on Ethel the car, and Stella is the one who escorted me through the real explanation of Matthew 6:27-29 two weeks ago. Since she was so insightful about that one, surely she could offer some illumination on Romans 8: v: 26 – 27, right? Right?
Aw HELL YEAH, she did. A master class in Romans 8, it took an hour and a half, and every bit of it was fascinating. We went over Romans 1 – 7 - this is the context, this is who Paul is talking to, this is why what he was saying was controversial, he’s a lawyer, this is why he’s talking this way, when he uses this word, it means this for his audience, this is the Greek translation of the word groaning (Stenazo!, which I think you should say as a superhero word, like Shazam!), and where else it occurs in the Bible (when Jesus heals the deaf guy) and what type of groaning it means (the unique pain of childbirth, of literally being squeezed by the birth canal) and how we extrapolate it to their real world circumstance (for a semi misogynist, Paul is using an example of childbirth, which is ironic) and thus our real world circumstance (when we’re so much in pain, we can’t see our way out of it, but other people and Holy Spirit can.)
Stella then went on to relate a hilarious story about a friend of hers giving birth sixteen years ago, how refusing an epidural is a really bad idea, and the punchline to everything was “THERE’S NO BWOKING IN THIS ROOM!”
It really is a funny story, and if you know Stella, you should get her to tell it to you sometime. You should also convince her to start teaching How To Understand This Bible Verse classes, because she did all of the above while sick and looking like death. Because she is my very patient patient friend. (I should also mention that in explaining the verse to me, she stumbled over a profound truth to relate to her life, so it wasn’t like I was the only one who got something out of it.)
However, this is my blog, and it would seem silly if I told stories secondhand.
We all know that I don’t have kids, and there are zero plans for them in the future. I was not in the delivery room with Sister Agatha when Bug was born, though I do remember her describing the pain (Stenazo!) as “Nothing like you’ve ever felt in your life.” Sister Agatha did get the epidural, though, four or five hours after arriving at the hospital. But in talking to her today, she clarifies to say the pain (Stenazo!) wasn’t unbearable “Because I’m still here.”
Hey! We’re sisters! We take things SO LITERALLY!
So trying to relate to the pain of childbirth, which is what Stenazo! Is and the key to understanding Romans 8 V26 - 27 begs a bigger question: What is the most awful physical pain I’ve ever been in?
Huh. Hmmmm. Well, there’s a bunch of answers I could give if we were talking emotional pain. Emotional pain haunted me every single day of July. Wheeeeeee!
But in pursuing the Physical Pain option, I realized that ummm, uhhhhh, wow. I’ve not been in physical pain much at all in my life. Even the whole Flinch episode, where I could feel the needle rooting around in my arm, wasn’t too bad, because I knew the end would come as soon as Idiot Nurse got the needle out of my arm. Any pain I feel at the gym is more of the Chasing The Burn variety, not the same thing.
You know what this means, of course. Realizing I’ve not been in physical pain much in my life means the Fateful Car Wreck I’ve Always Suspected Will Take Me Out must be JUST around the corner! I’d better hurry up and tell this story!
SO! Some years ago, I underwent a LEEP procedure. I had a militant gynecologist who found some potentially pre-cancerous cells: on a scale of 1 to 5, it was a 2. She was super scary about the prognosis, and spooked me enough to agree to the procedure, even though I probably could’ve just taken folate pills for ten months and it would’ve solved itself. I know that NOW. Ugh.
The day of the procedure was quite possibly the second worst day of my life (the first was hitting the dog. )
One friend drove me to the outpatient clinic, but couldn’t stay during the procedure or take me home because she had to work. I called another friend from the clinic for a ride, but he was too afraid of his boss to say the very simple sentence of “I have to go drive my friend home from the hospital.”
My boyfriend at the time refused to stay with me, flying off to a film festival in Alabama where nobody asked him questions at the Q&A of his movie afterwards, and told me that if I had really wanted him there, I would’ve rescheduled the procedure for a day that he could be available.
I wasn’t allowed to take a cab home, so two of the nurses took pity on me and drove me home on their way to happy hour at Tom Bergin’s.
Ever wonder where my trust issues come from? THIS FUCKING DAY.
So the only thing I had to keep me company through the thick of things on the second most awful day of my life was this gal. Recognize her? She’s the beanie baby version of the dragon that Maleficient turned into in Sleeping Beauty. I was so scared, so frightened, and so worried that my militant gynecologist could be making a lot of fuss over nothing, and as the hours ticked by, that one thought NONE OF THIS IS NECESSARY AND YOU ARE BEING STUPID got louder and louder, with no friends around to talk to, only Maleficient Beanie Baby staring back at me, as I dug my nails over and over again into her stomach.
They let me hang on to Maleficient Beanie Baby as I was wheeled into the operating room (I thought it was gonna be a stirrup contraption like back in my militant gynecologist’s offices, but no, I’m being wheeled in, everyone’s wearing surgical masks, there’s an anesthesiologist with an indecipherable accent putting electrodes on me, this is way more serious than I ever had imagined.) And when I wake up later, all pre-cancerous cells scraped out of my cervix, the first thing I see is Maleficient Beanie Baby, sitting on top of the heart monitor, looking at me.
But let’s talk about the physical pain (Stenazo!) Oh my God, it’s awful. So so awful, because it’s internal, I can’t reach it, an itch I can’t scratch. It’s reverberating around my insides, thud thud thud. I rock back and forth, my knees pulled up to my chest, they give me a Percocet, it’s so not working. If I stay still, the thuds take over my whole body, and it feels like anyone looking at me could see me vibrating with the pain. Thud Thud Thud.
The nurses drive me home in a Jaguar, and my thoughts are: 1. How does a nurse afford a Jaguar and 2. I can’t puke in a Jaguar. So if I’m gonna puke, I’ll have to wait until I get home.
There was no puking, thank God. There is no sleeping, because the pain is so bad. A friend stops by briefly to drop off dinner, then is gone again. No one is staying with me through the pain. It’s me, the pain, and the Maleficient Beanie Baby.
Stella’s delivery room story and the explanation of Romans 8 v.26 - 27 was ultimately about how the Holy Spirit is there to nod understandingly while you scream and shout illogical things because you don’t think there’s an end to this pain (Stenazo!)
But the difference is, Stella’s friend had a roomful of people who nodded and understood her screaming illogical things. I had a Maleficient Beanie Baby. The Maleficient Beanie Baby didn’t stretch her Beanie Baby Arms around me and massage my lower back through the pain, or stroke my hair, or hold me through the long painful night. Maleficient Beanie Baby sat and watched me. I experienced horrific pain on my own, and I got through it on my own. Yes, friends stopped by, yes I spoke to Mommy Phone Harpy and Great Stoic Wonder Dad on the phone, but for the majority of the time, and during the worst parts of it, I was physically alone.
I was in church today, trying so hard to connect with God. There are further questions and issues that I’m laying before Him I’m thinking about doing this. What do you think? Yay? Nay?
My eyes are closed, I’m listening to the hymn as people are singing it, I’m focusing on connecting, please, please, this hurts, I hurt be there for me? It’s not the same kind of hurt that Stenazo! Is, but man, it blows anyway. Please give me a sign that You are there, that You’re not some distant remote God that shows up once or twice a year, that You honestly do care about what’s happening to me and that You have an opinion, if not a plan.
And I feel a quick squeeze of my shoulders. Wha-huh? Who? Huh? My eyes rocket open. It’s Flora. Flora, the most sunny dispositioned friend I know, who possesses the most beautiful bald head from the chemotherapy that is almost almost over, and we will all celebrate her victory soon soon.
Flora knows pain, pain like none of us has ever known. She has an amazing support network, she’s not been alone in any stage of her fight. And her happy nature has never dimmed one second. When she smiles, it’s like the fucking sun is breaking over you, it’s unreal.
And this happy happy Flora is smiling at me, because all she’s trying to do is get back into her seat, because it’s Communion Sunday, and I’m blocking the aisle.
Some people get a roomful of people that will nod understandingly when you’re screaming in pain because you’re only dilated three centimeters and you refused the epidural.
Some people get a support network of friends and family flying in from Texas for every new round of chemotherapy.
I got a Maleficient Beanie Baby, and then I graduated to a split second of a shoulder squeeze.
I will learn to be happy with that.