I recall sitting in my office late one afternoon in February. No one was around, and I was focusing the best I could on finishing what I needed to complete by the end of the day.
I paused. As I sat in the quiet office, tears streamed down my face almost uncontrollably.
I knew that after work that day, I wouldn’t have much energy for anything else. I couldn’t gather with friends meeting up and had to let them know, once again, that I wasn’t well enough to join them. I had little strength to spend on housecleaning. Exercising was out of the question. Every time I saw a local justice rally posted on social media, I clicked “interested” but knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to attend because my energy would be gone by the end of the day or week. My top priorities remained work (which I was still able to do) and healing with rare escapes into the world, dining out with my boyfriend or slowly strolling around a park.
The beginning of 2017 brought pain in my pelvis that grew worse and worse. No longer did it appear every few weeks, but all day, every day. As the weeks progressed so did the intensity. I could not avoid surgery anymore.
I felt misunderstood, like a failure, and as if I let people down.
“No one gets this,” I would think to myself. “Does God even understand?”
My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?
While I have loved ones and friends who care dearly, I have struggled to convey to them the depth of my chronic pain. I have felt isolated, as if no one can understand what I’m going through—of how hard it is to focus on using my limited energy most productively. Sometimes I have to force myself to work through the pain just to feel like I appear normal to others. Even now I struggle to find the words to describe this feeling of isolation. It has infiltrated my soul and robbed me of moments and connections I can never regain.
Logically, I know God has not forsaken or abandoned me—but pain lies to me and tells me I am alone.
While my pain has never been near what Jesus experienced on his last somber Friday, as I listen to the Passion story year after year, I begin to realize that Jesus absolutely understood human pain and the isolation that results from it. Through Jesus, I feel that I am allowed to live into the roller coaster of being fully human. As he borrowed the lament from the opening lines of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I am also given words to express our physical and emotional pain.
Through Jesus, we are all granted the permission to belt out our frustrations to God while in anguish.
Are you enduring the isolation of pain?
How have you vented your distress to God? What are you doing to care for yourself? To whom have you reached out? Have you lost friends in your struggles with pain because you keep having to cancel plans? In what activities can you still engage and how have you embraced what you can and can no longer do?
Both before and after my surgery, I have spent time writing about my experiences. Blogging has diminished my sense of isolation. Perhaps sharing about my painful journey will bring comfort to others who have endometriosis or other painful conditions. I know that reading others’ stories and reaching out to people with similar experiences has brought me comfort and peace.
Maybe you are not the one enduring chronic pain, but maybe your loved one is struggling. God calls us to reach out to anyone who hurts, for when the Body of Christ hurts, all of us hurt together. The Spirit calls us all to pastoral care, not only by praying, but by visiting with those who feel isolated.
My surgery was many weeks ago, so my pain is mostly gone. Slowly, I am regaining energy and reconnecting with friends.
Maybe this winter of feeling forsaken and wilderness is now turning into a springtime of resurrection and reconnection.
Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Old Blue Rock Road in Cincinnati, Ohio. Prior to ministry, Torigian worked in fundraising and marketing for nonprofits as her previous career. She graduated from Eden Theological Seminary in 2010. Torigian is the author of a number of articles on the Huffington Post Religion page including “Between Childless and Childfree,” a reflection for Mother’s Day. Recently, her essay “Always the Pastor, Never the Bride” was published in the book “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit” (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2015). Torigian regularly posts her musings on current events, justice issues, pop culture, and theology at www.michelletorigian.com.