Man Down; or, Battle of the Bulg(ing Disk)

by Greg Linscott

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Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last!

I am sitting up comfortably for the first time in a week.

Last Saturday, as happens periodically in my life, I threw out my back. I thought it would be the normal kind of experience- stiffness for a day or two, but with a little ibuprofen or Aleve, rotating ice and heat, gritted teeth and wincing, and time, it would go away.

It didn’t.

In fact, come Wednesday, things were about the worst I can ever remember. I couldn’t even get out of bed for the pain. My wife finally said that we couldn’t wait any longer, and demanded I make an appointment with a doctor (which I had been reluctant to do because of our lack of insurance coverage). By God’s grace, we found a chiropractor (who we later discovered also happened to be a believer) less than two miles from my in-laws’ home. Hobbling from the house to the van was about the most excruciating experience I have endured in recent memory. It took me over 30 minutes to roll out of bed and stand up. Trying to stoop my 6′ 2″ frame into our Dodge Caravan was pure torture. By the time I made it out of the van and into the doctor’s office, perspiration was pouring off my face.

Dr. Lambert’s initial diagnosis and treatment provided little relief. “You have an inflamed disk,” he said, “probably bulging. I want you to go home, lay flat on your back, and ice it down. Come see me tomorrow morning.” If getting into the van had been torturous, re-entry had me nearly begging for an execution. During the ride home, I couldn’t even sit up straight. My sweaty left elbow pressed rigidly against the vinyl armrest, trying in vain to keep me from moving on the short trip home.

That evening, I learned a little bit about what it means to be brought low. In addition to the physical pain, I was losing my composure. I sobbed openly in front of my wife and children (which really frightened my daughters). I felt overwhelmed, not just by the pain, but by fear and a sense of failure. Here I lay, unable to even stand up on my own, no job, no home, no immediate certainty at all.

As I struggled to sleep through the night, Wesley’s hymn raced through my mind:

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me!
All my trust on thee is stayed,
All my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in thee I find:
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is thy Name;
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Looking back at that night, was it the worst experience anyone has ever endured? Of course not. But the Lord has been teaching me something over this past week. I still have no job, no certain immediate future, not even complete relief from the back pain (though it is significantly better than it was a week ago). But I am learning what it mean to trust in His provision- what it truly means to have no other refuge than Christ. This last month has left me with far more questions than answers- but the one lesson I am learning anew is one we all must learn and prove in the course of this earthly journey:

Plenteous grace with thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within:
Thou of life the Fountain art,
Freely let me take of thee;
Spring thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.

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