For the past sixteen months, severe pain has been my constant companion, a reality that some of you also experience even as you read these words on this page. Yes, there is a mystical koinonia of suffering, a fellowship to which only those who experience it can belong. This passive yet profound relationship requires no invitations, schedules no graduations, and defies the ability of words to define. As had Jesus the Messiah before him, the apostle Paul walked this path of suffering and found it overwhelmingly positive, filled with overtones that are redemptive and perhaps meritorious as well. Indeed, to participate in this suffering is to fulfill what is lacking in the sufferings of the body of Christ.
Since May 1, 2012, it has been my appointment at least to taste such pain and to respond to it in the grace that God provides. Above all, I have experienced even greater dependence and trust in the Lord who never abandoned me. On September 24, two Tuesdays ago, a local team of doctors performed a third surgery to relieve a recurring problem involving a particular disc of my spine. When I wakened in recovery, I felt the pain of surgery that included a fusion and hardware–but no radiating pain, no nerve pain, none of the pain of the past 16 months. In the days since, none has returned. I am not presumptuous. Jesus said we are to take each day as it comes and I am content to do that. He also said, "Ask and you will receive." We asked in hope. In faith we received. Thank you to all who partnered with us.
Your prayers have formed a mosaic of the face of Christ. A village church in Kenya tells me they prayed daily. My name has been lifted in intercession by prayerful individuals, small groups, and congregations representing denominations, movements and churches. A Church of Christ brother from Houston anointed me with oil, as did elders and groups of elders both individually and collectively. A Pentecostal pastor couple from Tennessee, in town on other business, came to our home to share prayer "in the Spirit." A long-time friend, now an Episcopal priest, drove five hours each way from Baton Rouge to bestow an "apostolic blessing," prayers for healing, and "chrism." And an Adventist pastor in California, whose friendship has grown deeper and more meaningful than I would ever have thought possible in only ten years, flew to Texas to be with me for several days during transition time between surgery and readjustment to home.
As you have been Christ’s face in asking, so I have been his face in receiving. Together we await our glorious resurrection, which, for the believer is a community event involving all of Christ’s people. It is the event that fulfills their destiny in their Savior, not an isolated event concerning individuals who simply happen to have Jesus in common. May we be sensitive each "today" to those who continue to fight the war with pain even now. Thanks be to God.