“How do you live with the pain?” he asks.
While I don’t remember exactly where I started or in what order all my meanderings spilled out, this was my first key point:
Deep into twelve rounds of chemo in 2012, my wife saved my life. I just didn’t know at the time that’s what she was doing. It felt like nagging. Or a brawl, to be more precise. She had been invited to a line dance lesson and wanted to go. And she wanted me to go with her.
The half-dead man.
One week in the tomb, one week out.
The man who couldn’t feel his feet half the time anymore.
The man possessing a sense of rhythm like Steve Martin in The Jerk.
Introverts don’t belong on dance floors – and I was pretty sure pastors aren’t allowed, either.
I wouldn’t go.
But she did.
She didn’t wait. She danced. And danced. Good for her.
I stayed home and slept, mostly.
Good for me.
There were no naggings, no beratings, no pleadings.
Just a smile on her increasingly glowing face and an extended hand.
But it took the subtle arm-twisting of Mother’s Day the following year to get me on the dance floor just this once. That’s all she wanted, she said.
So I went and stumbled through the night on introverted, neuropathic feet.
The next month it was Father’s Day.
The month after that it was our anniversary.
The month after that I started line dance lessons with her.
Never believe anyone who says “just once.” Never.
But in this case, it was a good thing.
I increasingly realized that in dancing I was literally learning to dance upon my own pain. Feet that would normally be shackled by neuropathy were doing the two-step, dancing grapevines, and doing the Bombshell Stomp. I still welcome prayer when offered for the pain that is always there, sometimes as background noise, sometimes searing as a knife.
But dance is itself prayer for me, a tangible expression of hope.
As is wearing springy shoes.
I am not fighting you. My goal is not eliminating you, for if you leave, another pain will simply, ultimately, take your place. If a pain-free existence were the point of life, we would not still be on a planet with thorns and thistles and sweaty brows struggling through all of life to make ends meet. If the Gospel of Christ were the ticket out of such a thicket of pain and struggle, then trusting ten-year-old girls with thousands of believers praying over them would not still die after struggling with cancer for two years.
I will never love you, pain, but I’m learning to fear and fight you less. I’m learning to be obsessed with you less, because I’m learning to dance on you – even though the dance be a dirge, it is a dance, still.
Yeah, I said something like that to him.
And then I took another breath…