Friday, August 18, 2017

Sabbath Thoughts: My Sabbath Tears

I'm one of those who everyone tends to come to for help-friends, relatives, strangers sent to me by friends, and acquaintances. But I tend to lose friends who are actually friends to me. Just this week, another close friend has left the country. And so, another shoulder to lean on is gone. And then everyone else's burdens overwhelm me while no-one seems to give a moment's thought to mine.

So what happens when there's no-one in my life to be strong and caring for me? No-one who will give me a physical or virtual hug and tell me they're always thinking of me? What will I do with those emotions when, like Christ, I'm craving human sympathy?

One Sabbath, I lost my composure. We were visiting a little church where I didn't know many people. Those who know me know that I've had chronic back pain since 2011 (Degenerated disch, mild scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis.) The only position that does not hurt is flat on my back. You can imagine the pain I'm in on Sabbaths when I'm anything BUT flat on my back for hours on end. (At least at home I can stop the dishes and come rest. Stop the playing and come rest. Ask the big children to feed the little ones and come relieve the pain.) But this Sabbath, like all other Sabbaths, I was faking it. Pretending I was ok. Well, I was just ignoring it really. You get to a point when pain is normal, when you stop asking God to heal you. So, there I was leaving the building, ready to get into the car. I had two friends walking out with me.

And one asked with so much concern, "How are you these days?

How's your back?"

I was touched. "No-one ever remembers my suffering because they're too busy telling me about theirs," I thought to myself. And I was in serious pain. I was tired of it. Tired of not being able to worship freely. I could not hide the pain, because her question caught me off guard and the tears came unbidden as I thought of the pain I was feeling at that very moment.

The mask fell off that Sabbath and because it did, my other friend got to see how bad it actually is. She finally realised that my life is pain. Pain is my life. And ever since then, she has mentioned it. The most recent time she wanted to come clean the house because of how my winter time arthritis "must be making your pain unbearable." My tears gave me someone who cared and did not stop caring despite her own problems. (And now she's gone. Oh dear.)

The other tears were over 12 years ago. Sabbath school in a village near Nairobi, Kenya. I'd been diagnosed with unexplained infertility. We had asked my medical doctor herbalist father-in-law to send any herbs he knew of that would help us out. But he was in rural Zimbabwe. They took ages to arrive.

(Oh first, let me say this. I believe our people have wisdom. We have knowledge of the right plants to use for different situations, just like the Amazonians do. We have wisdom that has been untapped by Western Medicine and I will never look down on our traditional health practitioners just because their natural remedies do not appear in a peer reviewed journal. I am an Afrikan.

Also. I have recently realised that maybe it was my hormones that were messed up. I did testing via an NHS GP in Britain and left the UK before receiving my results. I don't know where they fell on the continuum, when I called the receptionist she just said my levels were "ok." And the doctor in Kenya didn't test them again. A couple of months ago I requested they be tested and ja, things were not good at all but I improved them drastically in just three weeks just by using one specific tablet that I put myself on. If that can work, imagine how African herbs could help!")

Back to the story. One Sabbath, I was in a village church. No walls, no roof. Just a simple church with my brothers and sisters, having been invited there by friends we'd gone to UCT with who were Kenyan. I was infertile. Unsure what to do. Having tried and failed one type of infertility treatment (three times) and not able to do the more invasive types. I was grieving. But I hid it well. No-one knew. No-one ever commiserated with me. No-one said, "Let me pray with you." I had no Eli to intercede for me like Hannah did.

Until my tears. Little children, small children singing and reciting their memory verses in their childish voices and I thought, "But God, this was my dream. To have my children-both biological and adopted- singing for you with their voices that tug at my heart strings. Am I never to bear a child?"

I could not hold the pain in any more. The tears flowed unbidden. I was so overcome that I had to stand up and stumble out from amongst the benches so as not to call people's attention to myself. But our friends noticed. The wife later asked why I had been weeping. I told her my story. She was amazed that I was still 'functional.' "But by month 9 I could not take the burden any more! I had to get help with my inability to conceive. I went to see my husband's aunt. She's also SDA and a herbalist. Don't you want me to take you to her? You can't spend all this time in pain. Please, just try her."

And so I went. She gave us herbs. She didn't want any payment.

And a month later, I was pregnant. My Sabbath tears opened the door to my Samuel. A boy whose second name means "Jehovah heard."

If you happen to cry Sabbath tears one day, I pray that you too will receive the drying of tears that I received on those two painful Sabbaths.

Happy Preparation Day and Shabbath shalom.

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