I laid my head in-between the donut-shaped pillow at the end of the examination bench, my back exposed to the warm air flowing softly from the heat lamps carefully positioned to keep me comfortable. I popped my headphones in and opted for something other than Enya, although her music moves me, my fingers sliding and tapping and landing on a podcast of yesterday’s sermon we didn’t get to hear. I made my face, forehead, and cheeks as comfortable as I could, melting into the table as each little pin prick made me jump as if I were about to be tickled or perhaps, get a shot. I’ve never liked needles. I don’t think anyone does, but I am especially afraid of them and that initial poke of surprise.
This morning I had my third acupuncture treatment for PCS – Pelvic Congestion Syndrome. I have been having chronic pelvic and lower back pain for the last five, and after a ultrasound have been recently diagnosed with what is best described as severe varicose veins surrounding my uterus, most likely a result of my pregnancies and the stress that they caused my insides. I am at the early stages of figuring out how to deal with this thing, outside of being glued to my hot water bottle and ingesting silly amounts of ibuprofen, the only suggestion given to me as of now. But acupuncture has been helping.
I laid there, my ears tuned into God’s word and the passionate voice of our pastor who has just returned from the Holy Land. I soaked up each sentence and formed pictures in my mind, trying not to think about the twenty or so needles sticking out my body and the ache I feel that I want to just go away. My mind kept drifting to the protests going on around our country. To the airports. To the women who are in pain and in need of a sonogram like the one I had but cannot afford one. To my dear friend’s newborn baby who is in the NICU awaiting heart surgery. To Stella running at school. To the constant throbbing down there. To what I should make for supper. To the news. To the bird I heard chirping this morning. To the homeless man that stands on the street that I pass to get groceries. To the footage and pictures and images of those who are choosing bravery and discomfort and are standing up for the marginalized right now. To those who continue to move me to tears as they act boldly as the hands and feet of Jesus.
These images, they popped into my head like I was thumbing through a flip book, each page an extension of the one before it creating a story of my thoughts, fragmented but somehow connected. I could feel my heart beating into the table as I heard these words echoed again, familiar ones by Dallas Willard spoken now several times in our church, “How do we grow spiritually? We do the next right thing we know we ought to do.” These words washed over me and gave me hope. I thought to myself, what do I spend time avoiding because I don’t want to have a hard conversation with others or myself. How much energy do I spend steering clear of things in my life out of comfort? How do I engage in all that is going on right now, all these things that seem so big and so hard – things I know are not right or compassionate or what I believe in? What do I do next? That’s a lot to think on, but it’s a place to start.