As I see it, one of human’s most common weaknesses is obliviousness. We tend to forget even the greatest gifts life has given us throughout our journey in time. So, it is no wonder that I honestly thank God for an unusual gift I was given by His all-caring and fatherly providence: pain!
Pain really is a mystery. Why some people find themselves in chronic pain after a surgery and some not? Why some people struggle all throughout their lifetime against this uninvited friend and some never even get the chance to meet him? The answer is never to be answered. One needs to find his own, very personal way to get along with the lifelong reality of pain. And for me, St Paul has portrayed the most blessed approach to this phenomenon. He writes:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh… Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses… in hardships… in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Mrs Arlys Velebir was the one to correlate this verse by the Apostle to my state. She did that when at my first year’s anniversary after my surgery in 2015 I wrote to her the following about my pain: “every day we all face what our Lord allows to come in our lives, trying to make the best of it for the benefit of our eternal existence: perfect love to God and our neighbour under any circumstances. So, glory be to God for all things!”
Yes, I would forget about that wonderful miracle that took place in the operating room in January 2015. If you read my story on the BAF’s site, you will easily understand that what happened on that day was nothing usual. If I was in the hands of any other surgeon on that day it is really doubtful whether I would be now sitting and writing this. Not to mention that I would have never even made it to surgery. So, I had to remember; I have to always remember. But for this I needed this tiny little thorn. To others such a thorn might feel like a sharp blade. Not to me. To me is a wondrous reminder. It constantly reminds me that gratefulness is human’s most noble expression of love and understanding. I am so very grateful for this friend I was given, to walk along with him the remaining of my life and every single day to acquire the most precious knowledge from my relationship with him: “when I am weak, then I am strong!”
My dear friends, I have undergone 4 open-heart surgeries up until now with the possibility of even more to come. As the second anniversary of my last surgery is approaching, this is my message to all of you for new year: accept pain, every and any kind of pain -spiritual, sentimental, psychological or physical- with one thought: Pain makes us human. And only human can love. Therefore, the more we hurt, the more we love; and love is our destiny.
I trust that since this comes from someone who really knows what pain is, it should then count a little something to you!
God’s love be with you all. Happy New Year!
Read the story of Father Prodromos' redo coarctation surgery experience here.