I don’t ordinarily chew gum. The only time I ever chew gum is when I am sitting on a plane for the take off and landing. It protects my ears. Other than that, chewing gum has no appeal to me whatsoever.
I am traveling with my husband Keith at the moment and we have been away from home for over six weeks with two more to go. We have done a bit of flying, so I have chewed more gum than usual.
Keith has a peculiar and debilitating health condition called trigeminal neuralgia. If you have never heard of it, you are blessed indeed. The trigeminal nerve is a three pronged nerve in the face that goes to the eyes, the nose and the mouth. Neuralgia means nerve pain. When this particular nerve has pain, it is terrible, searing pain. It is like having an ice pick stabbed into your cheek, or like continual electric shocks. He had not had an episode for fifteen months and we were beginning to relax. He had even reduced his medication by half and we were filled with thankfulness for good health and no pain.
Suddenly, last week while staying in Washington DC, it returned, a bit like a thunderstorm. It erupted out of no where and created havoc. This episode is different to the last one. The pain is constant making eating and speaking almost impossible. I had to ask the question “Why Lord? Why now? Don’t you realize that next week we have all these meetings with people over meals? He needs to eat and speak!” We both felt overwhelmed with not knowing how we would cope so far from home. I could feel panic welling up in my insides.
I began to read Psalm 27 (one of my favorites) each day and reminded myself of deep rich truths about what God is like.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? “
Three things I know to be true about my God – he is my light, my salvation, He is the stronghold of my life. Reminding myself of these truths is a great counter to fear – and I had much fear rumbling and tumbling around.
I was also challenged by David’s single longing – to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life and gaze on His beauty. My longing at that moment was for healing – complete healing for Keith. This made me stop and think about what really mattered to me.
The conclusion to this Psalm is both soothing and challenging.
“I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
We had met with this wise and godly man earlier in the week, Curt Thompson, a Psychiatrist and a Christian who has written a couple of books. We met at a Starbucks and had an amazing conversation with him. I mentioned in passing about learning to wait for the Lord. He stopped and asked me to elaborate. Before I knew it, I had shared briefly but deeply about my personal experience of pain and difficulty. He sat and listened. Keith then shared about his health condition and how it looked like it was returning. He sat and listened. We spent an hour together, and he asked if he could pray for us and he did and then we parted with hugs. A Christian brother on the other side of the world was there for us to help us unpack “waiting for the Lord”.
We were staying with very dear Christian friends when Keith’s pain erupted spectacularly. The three of us sat and watched Keith as he valiantly and bravely attempted to eat and continue to speak normally as if nothing was wrong. Oh it was hard to watch. We joined hands and Melinda prayed.
On our last night with our friends, they invited another couple over to pray over Keith. This couple have a unique ministry of prayer. It was an amazing and incredible experience. We prayed for healing, we prayed for mercy, we were reminded of deep truths from the scriptures, we were held, we were loved.
I returned to my original question about “why now” and could see the why clearly. We were staying with friends, we were in a safe place where we were loved, and with people who walked with us. They listened to us. They prayed with us and for us. My heart was filled with thankfulness at His amazing provision and reminder that He loves us and that we have an abundance of blessings to be thankful for. I felt like I had been given a taste of gazing on the beauty of the Lord.
So why did I begin by writing about chewing gum? We left Washington DC early the next morning. As we sat on the plane, I got out the gum and offered a piece to Keith, little thinking he would accept it as chewing is like eating shards of glass. He took a piece and began to chew. After twenty minutes, he realized that the pain had eased sufficiently that he could eat. Speaking is a different matter, however, that is why we are a team, as I can speak, I can ask the questions. I am his helper and friend.
In three days, Keith has chewed more gum than his previous lifetime. Who would have thought that the Lord would answer our prayers so creatively, by giving him a lifeline of managing his pain.