“Someday, somebody’s going to have to wipe your a—.” — Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays with Morrie

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
1 Corinthians 15:42-58
2 Corinthians 13:4

A friend and I visited his mom in the stroke recovery wing at the hospital. A few days earlier, a stroke impaired her ability to function day-to-day. We arrived, greeted her, then took her down the hall to the cafeteria for dinner.

Next to me sat an African-American man, shivering as he ate his dinner. I tried to strike up pleasant conversation, but each attempt was met with silence. I realized that a stroke had robbed him of his speech. He responded warmly to each attempt to communicate, especially when I offered him a home-baked, chocolate-chip cookie.

Then suddenly and with no warning, he spewed his dinner onto the tray. And again. And again. And again. He tray lay covered with the watery remains of dinner, the table covered with it also. He simply had no control over his body’s convulsing. The staff sprang into action, threw towels over the mess and whisked the embarrassed Mr. Pinkerton to his room.

My friend looked at his mom, “You know how that feels, don’t you?”

Only a few days earlier, she had the same experience. Her face revealed a stronger understanding and empathy. Around the dining room, all faces seemed to understand the plight of Mr. Pinkerton. They bore his pain.

It was later explained to me that strokes sometimes paralyze the epiglottis, a little-thought-of floppy valve at the bottom of our throats. The valve separates food and liquids from air. It ably ushers solids and liquids into the stomach and gasses into the lungs. Our consciousness pays no attention. Until the process fails.

Mr. Pinkerton’s body rejected the food from his lungs to save him from suffocation. The result was the humiliating but effective display in the dining hall.

Humiliating but effective. We’ve all endured experiences like this on one level or another. Some are in the physical realm, some in the emotional, some in the spiritual. And though it defies our understanding, others relate to us in these moments of humiliation, failure, pain or suffering.

It’s a funny thing. People love to see winners. But they can’t relate to them. Their own insecurities require a show of pain or humility before they can connect with someone in their soul. When you get such a connection, love and friendship spring up. Vulnerability fertilizes the connection. Bragging smothers it.

So don’t walk about as if there’s nothing wrong with you. If so, you’re wearing a thin façade that can’t cover your failures nor your vices. Sooner or later you’ll need someone to clean up after you. Then Jesus has room to enter in.

When and how have you suffered humiliation?
Did you tell anyone about it? Why or why not?
What weaknesses, failures or embarrassments are you hiding? 


© 2006