The Barter

Posted: March 17, 2014 in Personal
Tags: , ,


If you or someone you know is dealing with a chronic pain issue related to spinal problems, you’ll understand what I am about to write, and not think ill of me. If not, you may think me a mellow-dramatic whiner. I’m OK with either, for in reality, I am both.

My first steps after my second spinal fusion surgery in Aug. 2013

My first steps after my second spinal fusion surgery in Aug. 2013

Pain has become a faithful companion for me. I don’t know a moment without it. Original Sin and the Fall of mankind has left me with a disintegrating spine, literally, and figuratively. Two fusion surgeries (six vertebrae), and more for the future, do not leave me with much hope of improvement.

I was raised on a farm, with a strong work ethic, and a fierce streak of independence.

When I married my beautiful wife, Lisa, I got a job in a local plant, went back to school, and became a Toolmaker. I was very good at my job, and I thoroughly enjoyed my trade.

When I began to have back problems in my early twenties, I just pushed through it and kept working. When I couldn’t work any more, I nearly lost it, mentally speaking. I had been the major breadwinner in my family, and being disabled was a terrible slap to my face. It still is.

Pain Management

When my first surgery didn’t solve my pain issues, my surgeon sent me to pain management. For several years, I was mentally absent from my family, because of the high levels of pain meds I was prescribed. I became a legal addict.

God’s Grace, and the forgiveness found in Christ Jesus saved my life. I was a Christian before, but I hadn’t been thoroughly convinced of my own sinfulness, nor the prideful independence of my own sinful heart.

I quit cold turkey, nearly croaking in the process. The Lord showed me great mercy by answering the prayers of a lot of people by partially healing me. I am grateful for the period of time I was relatively pain-free.

Hard Lessons

There are hard lessons that I have learned over the years. One is the barter.

I am not an invalid. I can enjoy a good walk through our Chickamauga Military Park. I can play fetch with my schnauzer and constant companion Charlie. For these blessings, I am extremely thankful.

When it comes to work around the house, it’s a different matter. I come from a long line of carpenters. I can do pretty much anything around the house. We’re not doing well economically, so it’s a good thing I have the know-how. That is, I could do most things, in the past tense.

Now I’m a frail little girley-man. Washing the dishes can send me into a spasm.

Which brings me to the title of my post. My life has been reduced to a series of questions I ask myself when presented with a task that would require no thought from a normally healthy person.

Haggling with myself

Question #1: Can I actually, physically, do this?

This is not as easy a question to answer as you might think. I have the notorious knack for assuming I can still physically do more than a realistic assessment should allow. I bite off more than I can chew.

Question #2: What is this going to cost me, in somatic terms?

This is where the sober reality hits. I no longer take pain meds, since I hate the dog that bit me, so this question carries more weight than it would if I could take a few ibuprofen, and get on with it. There is a real physical cost that I have to assess. I recently replaced the bearings, slides, and thermal fuse in my dryer, and I was in agony for a week. Every thing I do carries a cost…even small things like carrying out the garbage.

It’s humiliating, and depressing. I also have to remember that my life is not in any danger. It’s not like heart problems, or cancer, or a brain embolism. I’m not going to die. But that doesn’t matter to me in the moment, because I still have to face that ugly thug called pain, and I’m not a particularly brave person.

Question #3: Is this problem worth the cost?

This is the barter. Do I step up to the market place and pay the piper for this endeavor…and is it even possible for me to avoid it?

This is how I now live, trying to figure out the economics of pain-how to rob Peter to pay Paul, so-to-speak.

As I said, this sounds mellow-dramatic, and I admit it, but one of the ways I have found to deal with pain, other than ice and heat, is to read and write. Thank you for allowing me to dose up-lol. I appreciate it.


One of the greatest helps for my smarting ego has been the Lutheran doctrine of vocation.

As Gene Veith puts it:

“In other words, in his earthly kingdom, just as in his spiritual kingdom, God bestows his gifts through means. God ordained that human beings be bound together in love, in relationships and communities existing in a state of interdependence. In this context, God is providentially at work caring for his people, each of whom contributes according to his or her God-given talents, gifts, opportunities, and stations. Each thereby becomes what Luther terms a “mask of God”:

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government-to what does it all amount before God except child’s play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things.

God, who pours out his generosity on the just and the unjust, believer and unbeliever alike, hides himself in the ordinary social functions and stations of life, even the most humble. To use another of Luther’s examples, God himself is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.”(1)

Some days my vocation is dishwasher, sometimes chauffeur, sometimes dog-walker, and sometimes my vocation is being bed-ridden and allowing my wife and young’uns take care of me. I’m always a husband, always a father, and always a church-goer, unless I’m in my station as patient. It’s all good now. I’m not sweating the loss of doing as much, and I’m enjoying finding God in the mask.

1. Veith, Gene E. “The Doctrine of Vocation.” Modern Reformation. White Horse Inn, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. .

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA


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