I lay on my back in a sterile room, a fancy xray machine above and around me. I am with complete strangers, entrusting myself to their care and expertise. The burgundy hospital gown I wear is a shapeless piece of cloth, fashioned not for beauty but for practicality.
I am alone and I feel vulnerable. While I trust the strangers in the work they do, they know nothing about me other than my name, my age, and my insurance carrier. Other than that, I am an anonymous body in a big system.
They don’t know that I woke up this morning thinking about my beautiful grandson and the daughter who is his mom; they don’t know that I am thinking about my parents and how aging is not for the weak, not for cowards. They have no idea that I have five children whom I would give my life for; that not a day goes by without me thinking about them and praying for their hearts and souls.
They know nothing about me beyond this procedure.
These strangers are kind, they try and make me as comfortable as possible. They explain every step of what they will do and try and buoy me with their confidence.
In the big scheme of things, this whole procedure is small. The pain is nothing in comparison to other pain that I’ve felt. It’s just that the feelings it evokes are big.
Somehow, it feels like this pain represents the pain of my world, the pain that so many I know are experiencing. It represents physical and emotional pain. It represents the deep loneliness that many live in every day. It represents the isolation within which so many live and die.
Sociologists claim that social isolation is now endemic in American society. The number of adults who claim they are lonely is double what it was in the 1980s. This affects the overall health and wellbeing of millions of people. Both physical and emotional pain are intensified by loneliness. We are hard-wired for human connection and when that is missing, we suffer.
All this I think about as I lay, watching a stranger busily prepare for a medical procedure.
I’m alone in the room now. They say they will be back soon. The Jesus Prayer is on my lips: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
There is something about this prayer, something that reminds me that all this loneliness and pain I am feeling for the world is not my burden to bear. It is too big and it would quite literally kill me. I slowly release it, offering it up to the unseen but fully present God that I trust.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me. And so it is.