I’ve never really struggled with any prolonged physical infirmity until four weeks ago. With the innocuous action of depressing the clutch in my husband’s car, that all changed. In an instant, I felt this wrenching in my lower back that gave way to pain all the way down my left leg and into my foot. Two weeks later, the pain became unbearable; so I began a forced sabbatical of bed rest. Three neurosurgeon’s later and one operation for a herniated disc, I am now recuperating and asking the question, “What was that?!”
Actually, that question came early on. At the onset of my back pain, one day I remember praying and asking God “Is there anything symbolic about this pain?” “Is there anything symptomatic through which You want to speak?” That might seem like an odd question. Let me clarify. It’s not that I think God caused the back pain. Not at all. In many ways, it can’t be explained, it’s just one of those things. But it is my way to ask such questions because I believe that God uses the circumstances of my life to transform me.
As much as the pain of these last four weeks has been excruciating, my experiences with God have been life-giving. Something has begun to open and heal within me. And it began when I ask, “What does this mean?”
As I lay flat on my back, doped with drugs, I did some reading about the lower back—the sacrum. It literally means, “the holy bone.” Attached to the sacrum are the sciatic nerves going down each leg. These nerves are as thick as a thumb and connect the sacrum to the knees and feet. They ground you to the earth. They are like your roots.
I began with that image of rooting, talked with God about it, and meditated on what was happening in my body. As I did, I began to identify a painful place of "uprooting." I knew the cause. Four years ago, I experienced the trauma of being severed from my spiritual community. One of the ways I have been impacted is through feeling the loss of connection to God’s bigger story or cosmology in the world.
As I lay flat on my back, submerged in the fog of pain and vicodin, God spoke to my deep heart—not exclusively through words, but in healing, consoling ways. In some indescribable moments, He met me and began to restore my spiritual vision to see the ways He is working in the world, quietly and invisibly. What a journey these last four weeks have been and the recovery is far from over! Lying flat on my back has its advantages....it's made it easier to look up.