As those of you who subscribe to this blog – and others who read it regularly may have noticed, I have not been writing much lately. As a matter of fact, beyond my basic pastoral duties I have really not gotten much done these last two months at all! In this blog post I want to explain that absence and enlist your aid in my audacious prayer.
For the past three years I have increasingly struggled with an intermittent neck pain that has slowly but steadily increased in intensity and frequency. Two months ago I finally received a confirmed diagnosis – glossopharyngeal neuralgia. It is something of a bummer as the surgical fix for it involves inserting a Teflon sling deep inside my head where the vertebral artery is impacting the glossopharyngeal nerve. And while I have been called a prude before, I am sure all of you would agree that fooling around in the inner recesses of one’s skull indeed constitutes “inappropriate touching.” The surgery date is being selected by the good folks at Kaiser Permanente as I type, and my surgeon has informed me that recovery will be two to three months, best case scenario.
So, what is the audacious prayer in which I am enlisting your aid? First, please join me in thanking God that the cause of the pain has been discovered and that there is a solution for it. About a year ago I began sensing that the pain was more than TMJ or acid reflux… I had that disquieting sense that something was very wrong with me, but had no idea what that something might be. Now I know, and the discovery of even undesirable news enables forward progress not otherwise possible.
Secondly, please pray with me that meds I am currently taking for pain would not take such a toll on my body. The constant nausea, dizziness, and mild headaches make simple tasks in life and work seem very large. Thus no blog writing…
Lastly, that the surgery is a resounding success and that the pain goes away entirely. As a diagnostic test, the nerve cluster back behind the back of my mouth was injected with lidocaine a month ago and for seven blissful hours I felt no nerve pain! And for you chronic pain suffers, you know what I mean. My prayer is that this constant background pain and intermittent severe pain be completely gone.
In Psalm 126, we find a pilgrim song in which the Israelites who have returned from the Babylonian captivity find themselves in dire straits. In verses 1-3 we have the people reflecting on how wondrous their past deliverance was – their God had filled their mouths with laughter, their tongues with joy. But now things are not going well. We do not know the cause of the singers’ distress, but we know that it caused them to look back on the festive times of their deliverance with longing. And we know that it moved them to present God with a truly audacious prayer:
“Restore our fortunes, O LORD, as streams in the Negev.” Psalm 126:4
The Negev was the southern, desert region of Judah. It was chiefly navigable by the dry stream-beds that offered the easiest travel through the arid and rough landscape. Until the rains came anyway. Then these stream-beds or “wadis” would overflow with a raging torrent of life giving water. The deserts themselves would bloom. This is no prayer for a gradual, limited improvement – it is not requesting such a modest trickle of grace. It is a prayer for a flash flood!
My prayer is similarly audacious. I desire a complete return to unmitigated functionality as a husband, a dad, a pastor, a coach… And my prayer is for a flood, not a trickle. This is my prayer for you as well. Won’t you join me in being audacious before the throne of grace upon which is seated “he who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20).