Blog Post

Facing the Mountain

I will never forget the word my prayer partner, Judy, spoke to me just before we uprooted our lives to retire in Florida. “Are you going to leave your children and your friends and move all the way to Florida?” These words came from the heart of God and from the knowledge of being a friend who knew me like a sister. We had been daily prayer partners for almost thirty years. Those words took root in my soul.

Unfortunately, my mind was made up and I was deaf to the warning from which I later discovered came from God. My flippant answer popped out of my mouth from a heart of desperation. “Judy, I live in unbearable pain. I want to go where I will not hurt any more.” After ten car crashes and six freak falls, my body was crying out for help. My spine was wrenched, my neck disjointed, and the nerve pain was indescribable. The fact that none of the accidents were my fault did not help me bear the pain patiently. The realization that I had prayed with each person who had hit my car, except the deer of course, did not give me comfort. I begged the Lord in prayer, “Father, they were all apologetic. I forgave them with your grace, but I still hurt.” Saying, “I am sorry!” may heal a soul, but not a body.

Somehow tears gave a temporary release as I cried out in the night to my God who never slumbers nor sleeps. My gift of intercession grew. As I awoke in pain each night, I would grab my rosary and silently pray. Trying to lie in stillness so as not to wake my sleeping husband. Sometimes I would muster up enough humor to say to my Heavenly Father, “Who do you want me to pray for, I am up anyways?” God was never silent as He impressed on my heart the needs of His people.

My husband Patrick, a retired family physician, was baffled. He knew the suffering I endured. Maybe it was the tears through the night that gave it away. I knew that my “no medicine” policy, was enough to make any physician scratch their head. I faced life each day with the grace that only God could give. I persevered, complained, and preserved some more.

Friends tried to console me with tons of free advice. It did not seem to help. They say caring is sharing. However, from one who suffers, I want to encourage well-wishers that often, silence is golden. At wits end from comments freely sent my way I tried to appeal for some compassion and much coveted prayers. I began to put into effect a “no free advice zone” for those friends who did not seem to understand. I also surrounded myself with numerous "encouragers" rather than "exhorters."  Walking a mile in one’s shoes is only understood if you have done the journey and have the blisters to prove it.

Many did not know that I was suffering at all. I thank the Lord for my acting ability cultivated by years of putting on Christ. “Fake it until you make it”, I would tell myself. After almost a decade, of suffering, my “self” was not listening anymore. It was time for a health move. I was confident that I would get through this with the help of God. He has always seen me through difficulties since I was a little girl. I put my confidence in Him alone.

I was certain a health move was the answer. My husband halfheartedly agreed. He said, “If you want to move you must sell everything. Then we can move to Florida.” I was up for the challenge. Within a week the home was sold and in a short time we had lived out yet another scriptural principle, “Sell all you own and give alms to the poor.” My expectant faith grew. I learned that I was only attached to my books and my clothes of course. I gave myself a pretend pat on the back and proceeded to pack the few items that would make the trip.

Pat had done all the research about where to live with arthritis. We spent three months touring the state of Florida and finally selected Viera, Florida as our home. I want to admit, with firsthand knowledge, the research was wrong. The sunshine state has ample rain. Rain and arthritis do not mix.

Twelve months passed but the pain still resides in my body and now it had taken up residence in my soul as well. I had no recourse but to face the mountain. I poured out my heart to a priest I did not know in confession. Through tears I said, “I gave up all to move here to get better, for my health. It is very disappointing. I am not better Father; I am not better. “

I missed my confessor back home who knew me. I do not know if this priest understood, but I knew in my soul God did. I had surrendered. I faced the truth before me and began a new journey, that of reality and coping with the pain. It was difficult. I was not only not pain-free but people-free to boot. Judy’s words replayed in my mind. “Are you going to give up family and friends to move all the way to Florida?” My only desire was to live my life without unbearable pain. Why did I trade my life for this? It became evident without a doubt; pain is more bearable with the love of family and the companionship of friends. Left all alone in a world full of strangers the pain doubles and is more than one can handle. “Even Jesus needed a Simon!” I cried out.

Homesickness set in, loneliness took up camp and happy go lucky me began to disappear. Life as I knew it was absent in many ways. No matter where I went and what I did nothing seemed to help. I began to question if we had walked away from God’s will. Those who walk close to our Savior have a sense when things are off. Our inner man has a way of signaling us.

I took it to prayer and to my Patrick. Trials have a way of giving one a reality check - time to discern what things in life really count. Pain has a way of removing all masks. Facing a mountain may not make it go away, but neither does ignoring it. Prayer helps you bear it. Even though God does not always take the cross away, He always gives you the grace to bear it.

When the cross is too heavy, surround yourself with people who care. No words are needed, just love. Love is of God and those who love are of God, because God is love.

The mountain remains.

©Ellen Mongan

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