By Randy Krzmarzick
"So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown." The Book of Job, 2:7.
I'm not sure whether to blame Satan, but I could sure relate to ol' Job.
Let me back up. After spending the whole winter worrying about planting in dry conditions, of course, we ended up planting between rainfalls. That's the way it works around here most years. Some corn went in around April 10. Then we received rain on 22 of the next 30 days. There were small planting windows. These were followed by long stretches of fixing things that needed fixing, checking supplies, talking to seed guys, and fixing things that didn't need fixing.
Around May 10, the weather report pointed toward a dry spell. That meant a chance to finish up the corn and make a push to get the soybeans planted. Farmers live for these times, and I was primed and pumped.
About a day in, I started to feel crappy. I told Pam that I felt like I had a hangover, this without the benefit of the night-before. For a couple days, the achiness got worse. It hurt to lift a rock or seed bag, and got to the point where it hurt to turn my head. I wasn't exactly having fun, but, hey, whaddya gonna do?
Then one night, it crossed over to becoming a biblical lamentation. I began to notice sores in my mouth. It went from a few to way-too-many-to-count in hours. For the next week, eating was unthinkable. A bit of yogurt may as well have been a cupful of glass. I had to force down enough water to keep from falling over, but not a drop more.
It hurt to talk. Thankfully I can communicate with my brother with grunts and gestures. Pam probably thought the quiet was a nice change of pace, and my 15-year-old never pays attention to anything I say anyway. For a few days, it hurt to breathe. Did you ever notice how often you breathe in a day? I did.
A day later, I also had sores all over the soles of my feet. I had something call Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. HFMD doesn't have the cleverest name. I assume it was named by someone who had it, and that's about as creative as I felt, too. It's caused by some godforsaken virus that deserves to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
If you've heard of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, it probably was in connection to a little kid, since most people who get it are under three. Most of my co-sufferers get drugged and plopped in front of Barney videos; they aren't running heavy equipment. HFMD is rare in adults. How did I end up with it in the middle of planting? Satan's about as good a guess as I have.
There were some long days with just me and my misery on the tractor. The only distractions I had were the Twins and talk radio. (Both may have made my condition worse.) I did have a lot of time to think about pain and suffering. As long as God was going to give me lemons, I sucked on a lemon.
Of course, part of our human condition is that we all will deal with some pain. Some of it may be brought on by behaviors we choose might even be predictable. But some of it is entirely random and not fairly handed out at all. A car pulls out in front of someone, a storm hits this house and not that, a rare form of cancer strikes. We can try to understand these events, and even pray to, but really can't.
In the midst of my days from Hell, I had every expectation that it would pass from me. But what if a doctor told me that it wouldn't? That happens to people every day. It happens more to folks as they get older. It happens more to those who are poor and who live in countries where they don't have our medical system. Again, pain is not distributed fairly.
Do I know how I would handle the rest-of-my-life with some sort of affliction or ailment? No. I don't. None of us does. We know those who take on their suffering with steadfastness, even nobility. Then there are others who seem to want to bring those around them down, as if sharing their pain might ease it. We all hope we'd be the former, but just don't know till given that burden.
My mother, Alyce, had more than her share of trials in her life. In her later years, she became friends with a number of young mothers in a Christian women's group. I remember her saying they often asked how she could handle all she went through. And she said, "I don't know, you just do." Or you don't. Some fall apart. No one knows till they're put on that stage, alone, and the spotlight turns on.
Christians have a concept of "offering up" our pain. There is a Catholic prayer called the Morning Offering. In it, we offer to Jesus our "prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day." Boy, those first three seem easy. There is no promise of healing or even comfort here. We're just told that we can offer it up.
Theologians talk about a "redemptive" quality to suffering. This is from Wikipedia: "Redemptive suffering is the Roman Catholic belief that human suffering when accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, can remit the just punishment for one's sins or for the sins of another." Wow, I can't say any of that crossed my mind. I spent most of my time just trying to find the position that hurt least.
No doubt, we are fully alive, fully engaged when we suffer, and there is value in that. We might have all three of these thoughts swirling around in our head at the same time: "Why me, Lord?" and "Take this from me, Lord!" and "Be with me, Lord."