Friday, April 8, 2011


"Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone."  Ken Chlouber, Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100.

As my friend Barbara and I are in the last stretch of training for our upcoming half marathon, this quote is timely.  Our training runs are getting longer and longer.  9, 10, 11....This Sunday we will do 12.  And with each new mile, come a new batch of aches and pains.  We limp and stretch and take ibuprofen and band aid our blisters and limp some more.  "Embrace the pain",  I hear.  I'm not quite convinced.

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor is one of those books I want to read a hundred times.  Her chapter, The Practice of Feeling Pain is powerful and inspiring to me as a chaplain, a runner and a human.

Pain makes theologians of us all.  If you have spend even one night in real physical pain, then you know what that can do to your faith in God, not to mention your faith in your own ability to manage your life.

I think about my patients who endure such pain.  Every nursing report includes the doses of tylenol, morphine, roxanol or ativan.  Every visit from each team member includes questions or indicators of pain.   But, despite all this, most patients struggle through, finding meaning and bits of joy in their remaining days.  I think of Clarence who postponed his med times so he could have a clearer mind to talk with his family.  I remember Emily, whose pain superceeded the meds.  She just squeezed my hand tightly.  I see families regrouping after a loved one dies.  They leave hospice to refashion their lives.  There is no medicine for their pain.

So, reluctant as I may be, I am going to learn from pain.  My pain, their pain, your pain.  It's an unavoidable teacher. With invaluable lessons for me. 

There will always be people who run from every kind of pain and suffering, just as there will always be religions that promise to put them to sleep.  For those willing to stay awake, pain remains a reliable altar in the world, a place to discover that a life can be as full of meaning as it is of hurt.  The two have never canceled each other out and I doubt they ever will, at least not until each of us- or all of us together - find a way through. Barbara Brown Taylor.


  1. Seems like this planet provides us with Pain 101 classes regularly. And you are in the graduate program!! XO

  2. First of all, I want great running legs like your photo- :o)
    Second-- thanks for sharing your thoughts, insight and quotes on pain. As I limp along through this training, I will think about what I can learn from it physically and mentally. I read a quote this week... "Pain is weakness leaving your body."

  3. ah... pain. i'm not so good a befriending her. thank you for the reminder, for she has some helpful responses (or at least companionship) to life. - yaarvicki