it sucks!

Omega hover from the sixties
the vacuum pump is a little smaller than this one!

At the moment I have what I call a ‘sucky dressing’ on. It’s a clever dressing with a small pump that creates a vacuum to drain a wound area. Without going into gory details I have been wearing them since the beginning of May when an issue arose, and I will need them for a couple more weeks until a minor procedure in mid-July.

If I am honest I find that at times I resent the sucky dressing. Because it sucks onto my skin it feels uncomfortable (and is held on by plenty of sticky dressings that wax me each week as they are replaced). The little pump has a flashing light that indicates it’s working properly (and others that show if it isn’t) and that can be quite a distraction at night when I am trying to sleep. Furthermore, the pump buzzes quite loudly when operating and that can be a surprise for others during the day (I have to explain that it was the sucky dressing and not me) and really annoying when it disturbs sleep at night. I am really looking forward to being free from sucky dressings.

And yet… without the sucky dressings the problem I had at the beginning of May would have been a lot more difficult to manage. Without the sucky dressings it would have been a lot messier, and the yucky fluids that my body didn’t need would have remained inside me and may have led to infections. Without the sucky dressings I don’t think I would have been able to resume work (albeit on a reduced basis and phased return) and the possibility of resolving the problem surgically (the small procedure next month) would have been complicated significantly.

And that got me thinking – do we have sucky dressings in life?

A simple one might be speed limits and traffic rules on roads. Some drivers clearly find them to be an inconvenience (and some ignore them) but they have been put there for safety reasons, not to annoy us. We might want to get somewhere more quickly but we may not get there at all if we drive too fast or recklessly.

What about the sucky dressing of exercise? Some people love exercising and getting fit, but it seems that for most of us it’s something we know will do us good but we lack the motivation/self-discipline to exercise enough. It’s hard work and we’d rather not do it. And anyway a bar of chocolate while watching TV is much tastier and more relaxing.

Or there’s the sucky dressing of meetings. This is a sucky dressing for a lot of churches. I hear Ministers or Church Members talking about meetings as something to be dreaded and a ‘necessary evil’ in order to keep the church functioning. Now I know that some meetings can be bad, but that’s not an essential quality of a meeting – it doesn’t have to be boring/difficult/painful/[insert appropriate negative quality here]. I think it partly depends on the attitude of those who attend: if all participants attend wanting to get their own way then conflict may be inevitable but if they attend with the desire to do what God wants (or if in a non-church setting perhaps do what serves most people the best way) then the atmosphere changes.

I think the Apostle Paul had some experience of sucky dressings. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 he wrote:

“in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The thorn in the flesh sucked, but he learnt from it about the sufficiency of God’s grace and about how God makes up for our human deficiencies and helps us when we struggle with the sucky dressings of life – perhaps by helping us to see the blessing in the midst of the ‘bleurgh’.

How can we cope with sucky dressings?

I think part of the answer is a shift in attitude from self-pity to an attitude of gratitude. Instead of ‘poor me, having to cope with this’ what about seeing what we can be grateful for in the circumstances? Try not to see things in terms of ‘must’, ‘ought’ or ‘should’ and instead try to consider ‘want’ or ‘will’ – for example, “I want to get fit so I will exercise” is more motivational than, “I ought to get fit so I must exercise.”

Don’t try to cope on your own. There’s a wonderful wound nurse at the hospital who I see each week as she changes the dressing and checks to see that all is well. She’s a delightful person and even if I have got fed up with the buzzing she reminds me that the dressing is making a positive difference. So look for those who can encourage you, enhance your perspective and build you up. Then listen to them! And try to be that person for others, even if it’s only in apparently tiny ways – helping someone else to see things differently may also help your perspective on your own issues.

And if nothing else looks like it’s working, find some funny cat videos online and have a chuckle for a moment. Laughter is one of God’s ways of helping us to stop and look at things differently for a moment, and it makes us feel better.

Be blessed, be a blessing


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