Thursday, December 09, 2010

City of Tranquil Light Redux

City of Tranquil Light: A NovelI had a very unusual Tuesday. It was completely normal in my life in every way but one. I worked on folding and putting away some laundry, skipped lunch, ran into town to do some quick errands then picked Mia up from school and brought her to piano lessons, then came home. All of that was completely normal except for this: I had no pain.

That was the first time I had no pain in six years, two months, and thirteen days; since Sept. 24, 2004, I have had constant pain that has been diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis. I've tried well over fifty different medications and have seen nine different doctors hoping for some relief. Eventually I came to understand that pain was to be my lot in life. I don't say this seeking pity or sympathy, but matter-of-factly. About three years ago I received a clear message from the Lord that I would not receive healing, and while I didn't come to acceptance immediately, it has come.

Most days my pain hovers around a 5-6 (on a scale of 1-10). Bad days can get all the way up to 8.5, and those happen about 4-5 days a month. Good days are when it's down to a 3, but those are incredibly rare, so when I woke up Tuesday morning and ran my mental check and discovered no pain, I just assumed that I was still half asleep. But as the day went on, and I continued running my internal check (feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, hands) and found no pain. I didn't even tell anyone in my family about it until after 4 pm, because I kept waiting for the pain to return. I called my parents and texted Jesse and Doogie. I even posted it on Facebook, because I was so joyful to experience a "normal" day.

Yesterday I woke up and discovered that the pain had returned, but it was a much lower level than what I'm accustomed to: maybe a 2 on my scale. Jesse, Mom, and Dad all called to check on me over the course of the day, each time asking, "How are you doing?" and I was pleased to say "Good!" But then last night while I was brushing my teeth, the pain came rushing back like a tidal wave. I had a difficult time finishing my task. The pain was so intense in my hands that I couldn't hold a book. Normally I wouldn't complain, because it's my normal, but after two days of relief, it felt horrible, like a dunking in ice water. My pain wasn't completely gone; I hadn't been healed. Today is another normal day. Pain at a 6, aching all over, and I can feel myself already beginning to settle back into my "old" routine.

But I'm really struggling with what happened on Tuesday. I don't understand why God would give me one day of complete relief. Especially when it wasn't on a day when I may truly need it, like baking Christmas cookies with Mom on Sunday, or getting through Christmas Day. Why not then? Why Tuesday? I definitely feel like this is a new test of my faith. After six years of pain, and three years of acceptance, suddenly I have reason to wonder what each day will bring. Waking in the morning has become a new experience as I do my internal pain check and then wait to see: pain, yes? pain, no?

I'm sure it seems strange that I am at all questioning God's actions here. I know I should simply be jumping for joy at the temporary relief and pray for more. But I'm just confused; He told me "no". He said that I would not be healed or be pain-free, and then I was. But now I'm not again. So after pouring out my heart in my prayer journal last night, I came to the realization that all I can do is take each day as it comes. If I am pain-free, then I can bless my family in ways I've missed for years. If the pain is here, then I do what I can, and try not to stress the rest. It's like that old gospel song, One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus. That's where I am. Tuesday, I was pain-free; hallelujah! Wednesday, the pain didn't really hit until the evening when I was getting ready for bed, praise the Lord! Today, it hurts. It hurts a lot; He is still worthy of my praise -Thank you Lord!  Who knows where the journey goes from here?

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell is the fictionalized version of the author's grandparents' time as missionaries in China. Will Kiehn was happy with his life as a farmer's son, until he hears a missionary from China speaking of his time over there, and Will feels a call deep within his soul that he is unable to deny. He quickly falls in love with fellow missionary, Katherine Frieson, and eventually the two marry and begin their love affair with the people of the small Chinese town of Kuang P'ing Ch'eng, City of Tranquil Light. Their ministry begins slowly as they try to overcome the distrust of foreigners, but Katherine's healing skills and Will's love for people soon allows them to make the town their true home. Through bandits, war, earthquakes, and famine, they care for these people and bring them the love of God, despite their own terrible personal losses. Caldwell's writing alternates between Will and Katherine's narration, giving the reader a true view of the couple's triumphs and tragedies. Their tenacity in the midst of unimaginable hardship is inspiring, and Caldwell's writing is evocative and beautiful. She brings to life the China this couple fell in love with, and eventually loved enough to sacrifice their own happiness for.

I was to review this book on Monday, but hadn't quite finished it. If you'd like more information about this book and to read the first chapter, click here.