Faith / prayer / problem of pain


Last week I wrote a blog entry describing problems with my bowel and “small moments of grace.” As I reread that blog from a different vantage point today, it really does seem like the author is a super spiritual sanctimonious twot. Isn’t he wonderful, such a man of faith in the face of hard times? Vomit.

The author of this current entry (perhaps an alien has exchanged the brain in the body that looks like Shane Clifton) cannot see any grace in the midst of godforsakenness. He spent three days last week in bed and thought the issue was over. Monday, he went to Prince of Wales (outpatients visit with Dr, physiotherapy, MRI, x-ray – nothing like a day at hospital to turn the skin green). Tuesday he went to college, taught a class in the morning, but at two o’clock in his office his tummy rumbled and out came the poo. Off he went to the train, but missed it by 15 seconds. Another half an hour wait on the platform, and for good measure his bum opens again. Gets the next train, and of course the movement brings more crap – which manages to find its way onto the floor of the carriage. He stinks to high heaven, and like the toddler who covers his eyes and imagines he is alone, he pretends that the carriage is empty. He makes it home eventually and his carers turn up at 5 for a horrendous cleanup.

Wednesday (today) he is woken, taken to the toilet, showered and put back into bed. Two hours later he is on the phone to his friend and, surprise surprise, the body leaks. Another surreal experience, a phone poo.

Providence? Faith? Moments of grace?

And as he finishes another appalling blog post (sorry if it hits your inbox when you’re eating), he asks again, why is he writing and publishing this? I suspect he just needs to vent, to shout into the void. So don’t pity him and don’t kid yourself that he is anywhere near being an inspiration. Just pray a quick prayer (Daniel and Bianca, you can light a candle). He doesn’t have the faith right now to hope it will make much difference, but he likes to be prayed for. There is something comforting in the thought of friends in prayer, whatever its connection to the providential workings of God.

About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Tanya Riches
    May 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I LOVE your new look blog!!! And I’m also sorry to hear you’re still not well. Feels like the understatement of the century, however luckily I don’t have to pray politically correct prayers for you. Because I don’t, I just pray whatever comes out at the time. Hope that’s OK. 🙂

    • Tanya Riches
      May 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      oh and that’s SO wierd it put a big number #1 next to my comment…. I suddenly feel like a winner.

  • Shane Clifton
    May 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    That you are

    • Tanya Riches
      May 15, 2012 at 7:38 am

      Just reread the post – sorry my tone & grammar was so perky at your distress, I think I was delirious on research porposals or something. Been praying for you today … hope you’re OK.

  • Craig Benno
    May 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    The experience of being Godforsaken is the most horrible experience one can every imagine. I remember in my own journey, a time where I prayed…God, I need joy. I have no joy. Return a sense of joy to me. And during that time, I had no sense that God had even heard my prayer. I even screamed out to him once if I had truly lost my salvation….and again the heavens seemed to be silent.

    Since then I discovered that near 1/3 of scripture talks about lamenting and the feeling of being forsaken. And that no amount of platitudes can bring encouragement to the soul.

    I have also learnt much from one of your colleagues, who mentioned a time where she said to her church in a time of crisis, “I have no faith, but I need you to have faith for me!”

    Brilliant stuff!

    Within that vein, I pray that the Lord will give you a sense of joy, a joy which will strengthen your heart, soul and mind. Even in the midst of poo, smell and embarrassment.

  • Rob Nicholls
    May 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I really appreciate your bluntness Shane. Fading your blog reflects real life to me. I imagine your life of extremes that I don’t share but also feel the community that I do share. Thanks & I hope I can meet you on a visit to Sydney soon. How can I arrange that? Rob.

  • Deborah Bond
    May 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Dear Shane, as I read this my eyes watered. How much more must God weep to see his precious creation suffering frustration, indignity, assault to the senses?

    Don’t feel you have to pretend to be faithful and joyous when you’re not. The injunction to “mourn with those who mourn” shows it’s OK for people in the faith community to be down, and that instead of us expecting them to jolly up, we should actually join them in the weeping, because sometimes it really sucks to live in this messed-up world, especially if you’re also in a messed-up body. As we acknowledge you, your pain, your frustrated venting and join you in weeping and petitioning for something better – we affirm that you were made for something better.

    I pray for better days ahead, and know that one day, someday, the prayer will be answered beyond all we can ask or imagine. But in the meantime, I’m still weeping with you.

    • Elly Clifton
      May 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks Deb, you always know the right things to say! I’d have to say it’s been the worst two weeks since he’s been home. It was the one thing I most dreaded and it seems to be unending.

  • Shane Clifton
    May 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    thank you Craig Robert and Deborah for your thoughts and prayers, Shane

  • mpjensen
    May 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I add my prayers, too.

  • Samuel Hill
    May 2, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    A great (!) post Shane. I’m sorry it this comes across as me being entertained by your suffering, I can assure you this is not the case! However, I appreciate the honesty and humanity of these posts, it cuts through the notion of life being a graceful stroll through the fields of Gods abundant blessings. 

    My wife and I will be praying for you Shane. We will pray that Gods peace will give you some time to chill out.

  • Anthea
    May 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Shane, I can’t begin to comprehend your thougths, feelings etc at present, although from I beleive I may understand more than most. But form a spiritual point of view, I can remember a few years ago when God just didn’t seem to be changing anything or speaking to me about the situation I was in at that time, I came across a book called “The Silence” by Endo. It was heavy reading but it spoke to me in a very real way and challenged me in a way that no one or no thing else could or had done at that time. So without being patronizing or over simplistic I just want to say I adn so many others are standing with you, and value your posts as the writings musings and questionings and of a very genuine and real person navigating the highway of life. Anthea

  • Anne
    May 2, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Praying for an end to your distress with these horrific bowel problems. I can’t possibly say it any better than Deborah Bond did….

    “As we acknowledge you, your pain, your frustrated venting and join you in weeping and petitioning for something better – we affirm that you were made for something better”.

    2 Corinthians 1:10-11 means a lot to me… will continue to join with others in prayer for you.

  • Sarah
    May 5, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Sorry, I warn you in advance I have written a small novel.

    Shane, I don’t know you at all, but do you think that maybe you are being a bit too hard on yourself? I won’t tell you that I think that you are amazing, awesome and an inspiration; I know that you don’t want to hear it, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are, from what you have written on your blog, all those things. I particularly love that you can be so open and honest; and I value the insight you have given me into your world. Sometimes life just sucks. We all have our crappy days, it’s just the depth that varies.

    As a nurse, particularly when I was a student nurse; I have had my own fair share of crappy moments. Getting spewed on was an all time favorite. I can handle my own level of grossness, but someone else doing it is a whole other story. Looking back on the early days, most of my memories make me laugh, and occasionally cry; but at the time I seriously didn’t know how I was going to make it through another moment. As a student nurse, one of my placements was on the gastro surgical ward and lets just say that during those two weeks I think I developed an immunity to the smell of poo. Most of my time was spent moping the corridor between the patients bed and the toilet and shower. Most nurses will tell you there is so many worse things than poo. The smell of some of the wounds I have dressed would knock your socks off.

    A lot of people when they find out that I am nurse, always say you know it must be so great to be a nurse and be able to help people. The truth is that most of the time it is not so great… and too often we are left powerless. We witness our patient’s suffering and we often don’t know where to start to begin to help them, we just have to take it ‘one moment at a time the same as everybody else’.

    One of the most difficult moments I have faced was on a shift I worked once. I was chatting to a patient I was looking after. I left the room and returned a few minutes later to find the patient who I had been talking to blankly staring at me. I just knew something was wrong as soon as I stepped into the room. In just the few minutes I had been gone my patient had had a massive stroke, she was conscious and breathing, but could no longer move a muscle. As stupid as it was I blamed myself for leaving the room. I still had to get to the phone and try and find the words to explain to her family what had happened.Two days later my patient died. I was angry and hurting and I had to try not to show it and get on with my job looking after my other patients. And it was so hard for me to accept just how fragile life truly is. Some moments last a heartbeat and some moments can last an eternity… we are all only human, none of us can control the uncontrollable; whether it is our emotions, our bowels or something else entirely.

    When I am whinging about all the little things I am going through personally, God always manages to find a way to put things into perspective. When I am crying over all the big things that are going wrong in my life God just tells me that all my big problems really are in fact quite small compared to who He is. It is so easy to praise God when things are going well, it is so much harder to do it when you are discouraged and feeling like even the little things are a struggle. Reading about Paul in the bible and all the obstacles he faces is hugely encouraging to me at the moment. I try and find one thing to be thankful for each day. Sometimes its drinking a cup of tea, sometimes its listening to a song, or a chatting to friends and spending time with family. Now I hope that doesn’t sound too super-spiritual.

    If you get a chance (and I hope this link works) watch this clip. I will be praying for you, that you have a better week and I hope you will pray for this kid and his family:–look-after-my-dad

    Shaun Wilson-Miller should be outside of a hospital today. He should be sitting his final year of school, maybe throwing his hand at an apprenticeship or maybe he could wag a day and head down to the skate park.

    This week, he has recorded his last goodbye. Not many kids his age are doing this today. That’s not what being 17 is about.The Melbourne teenagers suffers from a chronic heart condition and his body has just rejected a second heart transplant. He has been told he will not live for too much longer.

    Shaun’s final wishes echo what we all feel and want in life, a sense of peace. He wants his friends and family to look after his Dad and wants the rest of the world to enjoy everyday of their life.

    It doesn’t mean going bungee jumping, curing cancer or becoming the next prime minister. It simply means waking up, taking a breath and embracing what the day brings, good or bad.

    • Shane Clifton
      May 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      Dear Sarah, I’m so sorry to take so long to approve your comment on my blog. In the stupidities of my last week I just missed the comment. Yours was such a thoughtful and meaningful response – and I really appreciated your insight. I confess I often tell nurses that they do a beautiful job, but I also recognise that it is most times just hard work, without enough pay, under stressful conditions – made more challenging by the fact that you see some of the hardest parts of life. Thank you so much for sharing – it was not a novel but a very meaningful response, Shane

      PS, I just watched Sean’s video log. Somehow heartrending and beautiful at the same time – I love this concluding comments that everything would be all right because he had a girlfriend. Very hard to get your head around

  • Shaun
    May 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    We missed you in class today — but Andrew is a star.

    Hope you’re feeling better!


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