Stones in the Road, part 5: “Everybody Hurts . . . Sometimes” by Margaret Plumb

ImageFor every hardship I experience, there’s an inner Catholic telling me it’s not nearly as bad as what others have faced– which makes it difficult to write about our plight. The self-censoring in my head tells me I am not worthy to consider my sufferings in light of others’. The drill goes something like this: “Who are you to tell your story? Why is yours any more special? Plenty of others have it much worse. This is the silly trial of a privileged American; some in third world countries are facing genocide.”  And so on. Add my mother’s voice to that: “There are starving children in Africa.”

To compare sufferings, though, seems as useless as comparing blessings. Hardship and suffering are all relative. One man’s trauma is another man’s mere annoyance. The fact remains that pain is pain; be it emotional, mental or physical, and regardless of whether we’re talking about a festered sliver, a toothache, or 4-stage cancer, the pain is very real to the person suffering. In light of this, I am plunging forward; hushing the voices of self-abasement that say my story is not worthy of consideration. So I’ll continue with my tale of  what may be to some, a  festered sliver.

Initially, throughout the onset of Mike’s problems– the pain, the questions, the tests, the diagnosis, the surgeries, more pain and medication complications, more questions–support poured in for us. Church friends prayed around the clock, people called and wrote with words of encouragement. Almost daily we received a call or a note in the snail-mail. We were showered with love and concern. And we were extremely grateful. But as time went on and our trials continued, we became weary and  a weariness seemed to come over others as well. What they were believing for was not happening, at least not in their time-table. From some people, there was an anger directed at Mike for somehow letting them down. They thought he should ignore the pain, confess health, and keep being the great white leader. That’s easy to say if you’re not walking in someone else’s shoes. Some people began to “suspect” that he did not have enough faith. This sentiment grew.

As appalling as that sounds, I don’t blame them, it’s human nature. Most of us build our life on a code of some sort, principles or doctrines, whether we’re people of faith or not. When someone’s plight challenges the foundations we’ve built on, it’s easier to discredit that person than to discredit our belief system. So, there were those who would rather blame Mike for not having enough faith, rather than allow their own foundational belief system (Word of Faith) to come into question, and so crumble their world. It’s what happens when we put our faith in our own faith or a specific set of promises, or our dogma—rather than in God himself. Who is, well, just bigger than all that. And he doesn’t seem to like being pinned down.

I found myself in that same predicament as well (though not over a healing doctrine). I had placed so much faith on the prophetic words that had been spoken over us through the years, and the firm conviction that we were in the prime of our life doing what we had been prepared to do. “For this time.” To quit would mean denying the authenticity of prophecy, or so I thought then. Even more so, it would undermine all that I believed God had spoken to us and prepared us for. It ultimately could undermine my entire faith in God. I sensed spiritual disillusionment lurking on the sidelines, waiting for a weakness. I felt the wolves at the door, hungry to take me out.

I set my will and  pressed forward.

You may still wonder why, in light of all that was happening to my husband, we ignored the Doctor’s imperative to step down. A little background info: prior to that time in years past, in some of the other churches we had co-pastored, I had withheld some of myself and put the people at arm’s length. I was less transparent and had much more self-interest. But I also felt deeply that we were meant to plant a work. It would be the culmination of years of “training” in the school-of-hard knocks. And we wanted to start fresh because we had a vision.

So, we came here because of a vision. We sold our lovely, just-finished remodeled home in Washington and uprooted our family and the kids from  their schools, to come back to Oregon. We sunk our investment into a much less expensive property, and the rest of the profit went into establishing the new faith community, based and founded on LOVE being the bottom line—and the highest goal. It was our life-dream. (I can feel the skepticism from you right now, I agree, that sounds naïve…like the faith of a child?) Into this new community I poured out my life and truly felt I had sacrificed all. I found a joy in giving of myself. The more devoted I became, the more ego and selfishness dropped off. I was laying down my own life and losing it for others, to see them shine and move into their gifts, and to see a bit of heaven come to earth. It wasn’t for “our church,” it was for the Kingdom of God. I was an idealist and had sacrificed much to see those ideals come to pass. We were deeply invested, financially, emotionally and spiritually. This was our heart and soul. To give up in mid-stream not only seemed incongruous, but also just downright painful. Maybe a sliver to some, but equal to 4-stage cancer to me.

Besides that, I was still somewhat in denial of the ramifications of Dr. Hacker’s diagnosis and his prognosis for our future. We’re always a bit skeptical of the medical establishment, anyway, and back then we were learning that we had to be our own advocates. (We like our doctors, but hey, they’re human beings like the rest of us) My hand was on the plow, no turning back. We were used to facing obstacles, and persevering through. My path was set, my focus was clear.  As anyone who is purpose-driven will attest to, there will always be  adversity to overcome in the pursuit of something more lofty. The path of least resistance usually is the path to nowhere.

And so, I treated this as another false scare, like a junkyard dog on a strong chain, something to divert us from our intention. I resisted the doctors’ advice, and Mike and I decided we should go forward in a more advisory role, which was where we were headed anyway. We would still be on the pastoral team: my role would be strengthened, and Mike’s diminished. We would still give counsel. Well, that was our aim, anyway. A rude awakening was still awaiting us. It took some inside and outside pressure to pry my hands off the plow handles.

…To be continued (soon) in part 6…

Leave a comment


  1. Dale Kesey

     /  March 2, 2013

    I feel like I’ve landed in chapter twelve, how come I can never pick up a book and start at the beginning. OH I look up and lo and behold I see an arrow that says Previous Post. This is good stuff and speaks to where, I and a lot of others are at. The stones in the road are actually a mosaic.


    • Hi Dale, hope you’re able to go backwards for the previous posts and forward to the rest. I am compiling these blogs altogether in order as well, for an easier read straight through.


  2. Michael M

     /  March 3, 2013

    I like you Margaret 🙂



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