A massage done terribly wrong...

The last two days I've been having severe lower back pain. The kind that at any moment you could collapse right where you stand. I almost did last night when turning slightly to go upstairs to bed. Even when I cough it puts such intense pressure on my lower back that I yelp a yelp of pain. Every move is labor. Every sideways motion almost impossible. Any bending is unbearable.

So my in-laws had an idea. "Why don't you get a massage at this place we go to?" I didn't argue. I don't get many massages, but when I do, I always enjoy them immensely. I wasn't expecting this massage to cure me, just to loosen me up a bit and relax the muscles that were tighter than a snare drum in the small of my back.

I walked into this establishment that was in a strip mall right next to a place called "Whole Foods" or something like that. It was called "Hands and Stones". You could get stone therapy or a traditional deep muscle massage. I chose the stone massage only 'cause I was curious as to how they pulled it off. I'm glad I did, sort of.

I was led back into a parlor of dimly lit rooms. The music was some sort of wind instrument from the middle east....perfect for this sort of setting. The masseuse directed me to a table and told me to strip down to the level of my comfort. I'm not bashful about getting naked or anything, but I just can't bring myself to shedding down to my birthday suit with strangers, so I opted for the "leave the tighty-wighties on" comfort level. This is still quasi-awkward, but I can work through it given about 10 minutes.

She went through the orientation of what I could expect with the 108 degree stones and the pressure level I chose on my application paper I filled out in the lobby. She asked me about my lower back pain and I proceeded to explain to her that I would love for her to work on that area specifically. She nodded her head gleefully. She told me to lie facedown with my head sticking through a padded opening covered with sanitary towels. My nose starts to clog a bit when I'm facedown, and the blood rushes to my lips making them feel inordinately bulbous. But that's beside the point.

She squirted some oily stuff in her hand and rubbed my back in long firm strokes. It felt like I was being ushered into heaven by St. Peter. After getting my back lubed up, she placed some heated stones on my back and then pressed them into my muscles while moving them along the contures of my body. It was then that I met the angel Gabrial and his buddy Micheal. I'm just saying heaven became a place on earth as the old 80's song attests.

Eveything was going quite smoothly. I was forgetting my back pain and was being transported to a happy place, indeed. After about a half and hour, she told me to flip over on my back for the second half of this exquisite experience. As I moved my body to reverse my position, I could feel my back tighten up with rebellion. This reminded me of my mortality once again and I was whisked back into New Jersey abruptly. This didn't bother me, because I knew I had at least 25 more minutes of sheer ecstacy awaiting me. She started fiddling with the blankets to get them just so and I closed my eyes pining for more. I knew that my facial massage was next, and for anyone who's had a massage, you know that the face is one of the best parts of the escapade. The forehead, the ears, the earlobes, the cheeks, the jaw muscles, the eyelids, the temples...I'm just sayin'.

With lightly clinched eyes I waited. I waited for those little stones to hit my longing face. I waited and waited and waited. I didn't want to open my eyes to see what was going on, but I could tell there was a break in the action that wasn't a part of the pre-game ritual. Things were getting more queer my the second until I heard a shy voice wimper out the words, "I'm sorry, sir, I seem to have some stomach issues and I need to go to the bathroom." I nodded my head agreeably as anyone would do lying there in his underware in a dimly lit room with a masseuse nursing her IBS (irratible bowel syndrome). She turned the lights up a bit, grabbed somethin' or another, and swiftly exited the room. I could tell she was bending over in pain.

I laid there for about 10 minutes stairing at the ceiling wondering why I, of all people, have to have such ridiculous things like this happen to me. I rarely get a massage, but here I am looking for one uninterupted hour of serenity and it's sabatoged by stomach cramps and diarrea.

I'm the one who is in pain looking for relief. I need someone who is healthy to administer a healing touch and here I lay in the horizonal position needing ministry and the minister is sicker than I am. I felt for her, I really did. But it's just my luck to have someone sick taking care of me in my time of need. I can't say as I don't understand. There are days as a pastor when I feel like I'm sicker than the ones I'm trying to help. Fighting back cramps while I'm feigning wisdom and strength. Fighting back tears as they shed them. Sometimes I want to stop in the middle of my own counsel and say, "Excuse me, I can't do this anymore. I don't mind wiping your butt right now, but I'm about to poop my own pants and that isn't good for either of us. Could you give me a second? I'm really sorry for this...you came on the wrong day." Anyone that is in the business of helping people knows what I'm talking about. It's inevitable.

So I'm thinking to myself, "what am I going to say when she returns?" Nothing seemed appropriate.

"Are you feeling better?"
"How's your stomach recovering?"
"What did you eat for lunch?"
"That happens to me sometimes, too."
"Did you wash your hands?"

I smirked at some of the other things I could say for the fun of it, but I'll not write those musings down for posterity.

She came back into the room with a furrowed brow and some bad news. "I'm sorry but I won't be able to finish today, sir. You can talk to the ladies at the front desk and either reschedule or get a refund." I wished her well, put by clothes back on, and made my way to the front desk to reconcile the confusion of the last 40 minutes. I ended up paying for a partial massage, they called it a "relaxation massage". As I left the premises I had to chuckle at the whole dramatic scene.

For once in my life I would love to be able to do something ordinary without it turning into a circus. Can't a guy just go get a massage without it turning into "comedy central"? Apparently not. It seems that God creates some people to go about their business with relative ease. I, on the other hand, have quite obviously been created to be his "court jester". I get the luxery of making God laugh his head off until he gets stomach cramps.

But not the kind of stomach cramps my masseuse got this afternoon.

This is what happens when the person helping needs more help than the one they are trying to help. This, my friends, is ministry.


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