A Sermon Somewhere: Doing Drugs

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This post is the latest in an ongoing series where I try to find the hidden sermons lurking beneath everyday experiences.  .  .and fail miserably.

I am an Evangelical Christian pastor.  This means I don’t like drugs.  Actually I despise them.  True, I like coffee but I always feel guilty for liking coffee, like I am betraying some sort of hidden Bible verse, probably in Proverbs, about caffeine being associated with short life and rebellious children.  When it comes to the other drugs, though, I avoid them all like the plagues they pretend to cure.

I am also a marathon runner and athlete.  This means I respect the character forming nature of proper pain.  Pain is gain and that which dulls pain dulls character.  Anybody who takes anything other than water and sleep is a wimp and probably a Pharisee.

I really don’t like drugs whether they be the big bads (cocaine, heroin, meth) or the regular over the counter meds (ibuprofen, Advil, etc).  I will suffer with a headache or muscle pain for days before it even occurs to me that Tylenol exists.

My wife is always the one that reminds me.

She is a bit more of a wimp.  If she feels the very slightest form of nausea, she is hitting up our medicine cabinet like it holds the gifts of eternal life.  She has the pharmacy section of the grocery store memorized and is familiar with drugs that I have never heard of.  When I get near that section, I pray protection over the demons lurking within and then rush in, find what I need, and rush out before any of them get on me.

In the 8 years of our marriage one of our ongoing “debates” has been over the use of drugs.  I will say something like, “I have a slight headache today.”  She will reply, “Take Advil.”  I will reply, “That’s what the heathens do, dear.”  She will say, “If you feel that strongly about it, then stop complaining.”  I let her win there but in my head I note, “I am not complaining.  I was just making conversation about how the changing weather pattern is affecting the pressure in my head and causing unpleasantness.”  So in the end I win.

That is until this last month.

We moved to Utah a year ago and, as I have noted before, everything is different in Utah.  That apparently applies to the allergens in the air.  Those who have moved to Utah in the last few years quickly remind us that it takes three Aprils for your sinuses to adjust to the unique climate.  They may as well be suggesting you just save up all your sick leave for April.

Sure enough around the second week of April my whole family started to feel miserable.  Stuffy noses, coughs and fevers swept over all four of us, causing an incredible amount of misery.  As always I vowed to muscle through it.  Surely the pollen would eventually settle and I could go back to normal.  In my defense, my wife binged on all of her medicines and still felt miserable.

Three weeks later I was not better but much, much worse.  One Monday morning, my will and strength finally gave out and I reluctantly drove to a clinic.  I was in and out in fifteen minutes.  After listing off my symptoms they told me I had bronchitis because the pollen in my chest had sat for so long that it had become infected.  If I would have just taken over the counter meds it would not have happened.  The doctor prescribed something called “Mucinex” twice a day.  My wife had heard of it but up to that point I thought “Mucinex” was the name of a 1990s rapper.

I followed my orders like a good little obedient heathen and took the Mucinex and felt better within 48 hours.

Then this week my son developed a fever and went lethargic on us.  We chose to let him sleep it off.  Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the peace and quiet from his 4 hour long naps that he took twice daily.  Even better, when he was awake he wasn’t that energetic either, just sat in our arms staring blankly into the abyss.  He drank little and ate less.  We gave him a small dose of Tylenol once a day but it didn’t seem to help and Tuesday, after watching him moan on the couch for an hour, my dad hormones won out and I dragged him to the clinic.

They spent four hours poking and prodding and running tests only to send me home on the fool’s errand of trying to get a urine sample from a not quite potty trained two year old.

We waited all day Wednesday and I reluctantly dragged him back Thursday morning without the urine sample, knowing that now they had to extract the UA in very ungodly ways.  Luckily he had developed a skin rash and an ear ache at that point which were the final two symptoms needed for a diagnosis.

The doctor who saw him was gruff and opinionated.  I could tell he fought himself greatly to not just rage about what his coworkers had done Tuesday as he said through baited breath, “They did what!?”

Not long after, he brought out doses of both Ibuprofen and Advil and fed them to my son, who perked up within the hour.  An hour later he came back and said, “You are free to go but I am just going to have to be mean right now.”  He took a deep breath and sighed before saying through the same baited breath, “You guys have to be totally on top of this, more than you are being.  Medicine every four hours!  Force feed him liquids!  If he won’t drink hold him down and force a syringe down his throat with water or juice.  Is that clear?”

I was just happy to be talking to someone who knew what he was doing though I find the insinuation that I am a bad parent for not giving my kids drugs a bit insulting.

Maybe in the end it turns out drugs might have their purpose, not just for blunting pain but for not dying.  Or they might not.  I am not sure I am willing to let my wife truly win this round quite yet.  After all, who knows about how much integrity my son picked up from suffering so miserably?  I basically just secured him a high school award for “Best Character and Conduct.”  That is an award I never won, by the way.  Probably because my lousy parents gave me too much medicine.

It is also possible that we would have gotten better without the meds.  But now we will never know.

Invincible ignorance truly is bliss.

Either way, there has got to be a sermon in there somewhere.

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A Sermon Somewhere: Allergies? Head Cold? Maybe the Flu. . .

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The last time I went out for a run was 16 days and a century ago.  It was a rather picturesque run in the mountains of central Idaho but the scenery did little to compensate for my misery.  At that point I had a splitting headache, a stuffy nose and a congested chest.  I attributed the symptoms to allergies.  After all, every one who moves to Utah complains that their allergies are ten times worse here and the tree pollen was (and maybe still is?) at its annual high.  So I wrote myself a prescription for running in Idaho under the guise it would help clear the pollen out of my system.

It did help a bit but the headache and stuffy nose didn’t go away, even after I returned home to Utah.  As if to add insult to injury the “pollen” caused a fever of 101 degrees for a couple days.  Still I pressed on.  I preached last Sunday with a hoarse voice, a runny nose and a pounding headache.

Then I went to District Assembly.  For a pastor there is never a good week to be sick but District Assembly has to be the worst by far, unless I lived local to our district office, in which case, sign me up to call in sick.  But our district office is 320 miles away, which for me means 2 full travel days and 3, 15 hour long days with multiple speaking opportunities and few opportunities to sit down.  I did okay Wednesday.  I did worse Thursday.  On Friday I woke up without a voice and no desire to get out of bed.  For the first time it occurred to me that it might not be allergies but a head cold.

Then other people have appeared out of nowhere (also known as “Facebook”) claiming the same symptoms but throwing around the word “flu.”  The only problem is that I don’t get the flu because, you know, I am awesome and awesome people don’t get the flu.  At the very least awesome people don’t admit to having the flu.  To be fair, awesome people shouldn’t really get head colds either.  They can struggle with allergies, of course, but they muscle through it like the super heroes they are.

However, I would much rather have the flu than a head cold.  The problem with head colds is that they aren’t really all that bad.  You can work through stuffy noses and pressure head aches and sore throats.  And if you choose not to, than you are lazy, like sinfully lazy.  On top of that, with a head cold, you can lay in your bed or on your couch all day and feel energetic and great, with mild congestion.  If you choose to do that you second guess yourself constantly.  That little Protestant Guilt Angel, whom I’ll just call “Guilt”, whispers in your ear, “See you are fine, you lazy bum!  Get off the couch and accomplish something with your life!”

But the minute you give in to the temptation and pull yourself up to do anything, all the symptoms come cascading back.  Five minutes of “activity” and suddenly you can’t think or walk straight and have trouble putting together coherent sentences.  So you collapse back on the bed and listen to the Guil’s voice for another hour while you slip in and out of consciousness.

Be that as it may, I still called in sick this morning.  After all, no matter what caused the symptoms, you can’t exactly give a 20 minute pep speech if you can’t talk.  So here I sit arguing with Guilt, trying to answer his accusations with reasonable claims like, “I am doing my congregation a favor because I am probably contagious!”  “Sure my voice sounds fine now because all I’ve done is muttered two sentences this morning but a twenty minute monologue would sure bring out the coughs and croaks!”  “It is quite possible I might faint right there on the stage and I know pastors who have done that and never lived it down!” And my personal favorite, “My sermon wasn’t all that great anyway.”

That last one isn’t true at all.  The sermon was awesome, a wonderful little number on the apostle Paul’s wounds and griefs, complete with a clip from the sitcom Scrubs to bring the message home.  Sure I would have hated it after preaching it but now I get to think it is awesome forever with no proof to the contrary, or really just no proof at all.  Actually, truth be told, I have nothing planned for Memorial Day so it will probably get preached then.

Meanwhile I sit here in front of my laptop, starting to feel that my five minutes of coherency are down and that I should probably go sleep to back before ramble I to start incoherently while blowing my chest and coughing my nose while dazing into dreaming of a sermon somewhere.  .  .