Late on Christmas Eve 2020, which was a Thursday, I went to the ER. Since Will could not go in with me (we spent Christmas vacation in Florida), I edited a blog post I’d written that week and hit publish while I waited to see the doctor. The post was about neck pain from writing out Christmas cards, but I knew then the real cause of the pain.
A few days before that Will and I were out Christmas shopping. I had weird sensitivity on my left arm and shoulder. I told Will about it and that when I went for a long walk the day before I felt awful afterwards, like sick even. “You don’t think I could have shingles, do you?”
“No,” he answered confidently.
“Maybe it’s just from writing out Christmas cards,” I said.
“Definitely,” he said. “I’ll massage it later. You’ll be fine.”
Will worked on my neck, and I thought maybe it was better. Since the ice maker was broken and there was a block of cheese in the freezer, I also “iced” it with the cheese.
Have you ever gotten a rash on your neck from icing with a frozen block of cheese? No? Just me? Yeah, well, not even me really, but that’s what we thought. A Christmas Card injury compounded by frozen cheese. We have a lot of degrees between us — Will is a board certified MD — but somehow, in the moment, this made sense. It’s pretty funny now.
Anyway, we went to church on Christmas Eve and I was miserable. My neck was killing me. The pains in my head felt almost like electric shocks. I always watch It’s a Wonderful Life with my boys on Christmas Eve (Will is not enough of a night owl to stay up and watch). But I told them I couldn’t do it. All three of them came and told me goodnight in bed, and if felt disproportionately devastating. I mean it’s just a little tradition, but I was so dang sad about it.
I tried to sleep but eventually I grabbed my phone and did a few google searches. You know what can cause shooting pains in your head? That’s right: shingles.
I woke Will up and told him, “This has got to be shingles.”
He took me in the bathroom and turned the light on. He looked at my “cheese rash” and saw that it was going down my arm.
“You have shingles,” he said.
Hence the ER trip where I got antiviral and heavy pain meds which allowed me to sleep and wake up Christmas morning much improved.
Sometimes we are reluctant to see what is right in front of us. Our ability to manufacture alternative explanations and rationalize can be amusing, but it can also be eternity-altering. Romans 1:20 says God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Every day of our lives we wake up to the heavens declaring the glory of God, and the sky proclaiming His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1). But we can harden our hearts, and provide alternative explanations. We can rationalize away every species and the glorious diversity we encounter everyday, but if we do that we just get dumber and dumber. If you doubt this to be true, maybe do a quick check of the headlines.
Where in your life are you choosing to believe it’s just a harmless little frozen cheese rash? The first step in getting better is to admit, “Yeah, that is not a cheese rash.” Or yeah, this universe did not just happen. Or holding onto bitterness is rotting my soul or I do need to pray for those who wish me harm. Or that website is turning me into an animal. Or my envy is eating the joy from my life. Or my desire to please others is debilitating. Or my greed is causing me to rationalize being dishonest. I don’t what it is. But I bet we all have something that should be plain as day. May we ask the Lord to give us eyes to see and the Spirit-led will to act.
P.S. The random picture above of half roof, half utter glory I just snapped from our “bonus room.” It’s where the boys have foosball and video games. This week I’ve been painting up there and envisioning what it could be. I’ve also been decluttering. I’m not the best house painter, nor declutter-er. But these are satisfying endeavors, lots of time to contemplate things and tangible, gratifying results.