pastoral/spiritual care

A Heavy Burden

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – Psalm 139:14

Ministering in a hospital, I sometimes feel I’ve seen about everything. But I learned just recently from Fred Craddock in Georgia of a case of surgery so extraordinary that I assumed it was a singular case. I asked a surgeon who assured me it was not. Rare, yes, but unique, no.

 The story in brief is this: a man in his mid-fifties was rushed to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. He complained of inability to breathe. Examination revealed that the cause of his shortness of breath was a growth, a large growth, on his upper back, between his shoulder blades. The man’s mother said she first noticed it when he was a teenager. She repeatedly urged him to have it attended to, but he never did. The growth was small when she first noticed it, and on subsequent occasions she could tell it was growing. Her urgings moved from cosmetic (it was becoming unsightly) to medical (it will put pressure on your heart).

 When her son became an adult he moved away so she worried but did nothing more. The patient himself gasped to the doctor that the growth had enlarged very gradually and had been accepted as a part of his life. He grew unable to imagine himself without it; it became a part of his identity. It caused little or no pain; that is, until recently.

 The growth had to be removed; there was no alternative to surgery. A team of surgeons began at 7:00 a.m. and finished at 3:30 p.m. One or two follow-up surgeries might be required, but the patient would live. Barring unexpected complications, he should enjoy a life free of unnecessary weight; a new life, one might say.

 How much did the growth weigh? Everyone was curious to know. Slightly more that 40 pounds! How was he able to carry it, day and night? Because it grew so slowly. Would it have been fatal if not removed? No question. Did you send it to the lab for analysis, I asked? Of course, we always do. What was it? A grudge.

What if we were to give up all the feelings that we carry around that fester and grow and become a fatal weight in our lives? Maybe it’s a grudge, or anger, or jealously, or bitterness, or fear, or lust, or doubt, or pride; something that weighs you down and keeps you from being the fully alive human being God created you to be.

Give up that unnecessary weight. Your step, and your spirit, will be noticeably lighter.

O God, your loving hand has made us in your own image:  reach out your hand again and heal us that we may respond in kind, offering your hope and healing to all who are broken in body or spirit. We pray this in your holy and precious name. Amen.

-- Chaplain Reggie B. Rowell


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