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The Pain and the Horror

The Pain and the Horror

By David G. Duggan
July 29, 2016

As a high school and college gymnast, I spent a lot of time hanging from bars, building up my shoulders and core. More than 40 years later, I still retain some of that strength, but sadly age has caught up with me and like many of my vintage, I've suffered from chronic shoulder pain thanks to a torn rotator cuff incurred skiing. I guess if God had intended for men to ski, He would have given them longer and narrower feet.

After a workout, I still hang on a bar to stretch out my tendons but believe me, it hurts more than I'd like. I think about that every week as I see a life-sized ivory-colored cruciform Jesus suspended above the rood screen at the church where I worship. People focus on the nails affixing Jesus to the cross as the key element of that torture, but nobody would have died of blood loss from those wounds. Rather, His shoulders would have given out, and unable to support His weight, His diaphragm would not be able to control His breathing. Before He committed His Spirit into God's hands (Luke 23: 46), Jesus slowly suffocated, reversing the process by which God had breathed life into Adam.

The shoulder's location next to the brain amplifies the pain of a shoulder injury. If you've got knee pain, you can choose not to walk. If you've got back pain, you can lie down. But there's absolutely no way to avoid shoulder pain. It simply won't go away. Any sudden, unexpected motion can put you into involuntary paroxysms.

But the pain that I feel comes nowhere close to that which Jesus bore for me. I can release the bar, alter my grip. And no matter how long I hang, I won't die there. My self-preservation will kick in and I'll walk away.

More acute than the pain, however, is the horror that Jesus felt. Knowing that He would die could scarcely overcome His belief that He would join the repentant thief in paradise (Luke 23:43). As I look at that cross each week, I pray that I can withstand the horror of death at least as much as the pain.

David Duggan is a retired attorney living in Chicago

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