RSS

Tag Archives: pain

So Messed Up

“What is the most broken and messed up thing in the world?” This conversation-starter was posted on Facebook today, and the answers have kept me interested all afternoon. Poverty, sexual abuse against women and children, the inaccessibility of plentiful resources like food and clean water, greed for power and money, the value of money outweighing the value of human life, the pandemic of broken families, terrorism.

I can’t argue against any of those. Nor can I argue that one is more messed up than the rest.

The answer I would contribute is that the sacredness of sexual purity is broken. That’s almost the same answer as sexual abuse, but it’s broader than that. Abuse happens because individuals lose (or never had) a sense of the sacredness of sexuality, and their selfishness drives them to inflict their perversion on other people. That trajectory is manifested in so many ways: pornography and child pornography, prostitution and sex slavery, adultery, rape and other forms of assault… The list goes on and on, and I believe it all stems from purity not being cherished and protected.

So much brokenness. It is so heavy. And it is so close. There’s no point in deluding ourselves into thinking the mess doesn’t touch our own yard. It’s here. It’s everywhere. And it sucks.

My heart is often heavy in prayer for broken loved ones. Abusive relationships, devastating illnesses, financial blows that keep on coming. I pray for them and I pray with them. And then, so often it feels like the next wave of trauma just sweeps right over us all. And sometimes bitterness creeps into my prayers. “Really, God? This is what You thought was a good answer? Because this is kind of the exact opposite of what we were praying for.” Sometimes I’m tempted to decline praying for someone lest they be sucked into the vortex of my run of bad “luck”.

The last couple of weeks have been especially overwhelming, with waves coming from every direction. Talking about brokenness on Facebook is too heavy, too close.

But it is timely.

As Easter approaches, I think it is worthwhile to consider the brokenness. The loss. The seemingly unmet expectations of our prayers and hopes. I’m sure that’s how Christ’s followers felt 2000 years ago as they watched Jesus being arrested, tossed back and forth between governing bodies in a sham of a trial, beaten and then condemned. Hour by hour, they must have felt like “This is as bad as it can get. He’s going to show Himself strong any moment now. He’s about to do the big miracle that we’ve been waiting for.” And then, no. Crucified.

The brokenness and the desperation of such loss – it’s unbearable. Where is the hope when it feels like God is playing a sick joke? How can we continue to cry out to Him for help when we can see how He’s answered all our prayers leading up to this point? How do we trust Him when it looks like He failed?

The answer lies in Sunday morning.  We find our hope in the resurrection, the triumph over death. We cling to that reality from centuries past, but it is also a picture of a coming final victory. The mess will be eradicated, the brokenness will be fully healed.

Today, we wait in the pause of Saturday, wallowing in brokenness and pain. We may question the purpose of the pause: why is He waiting? But let us not give up entirely. He is big enough to handle our doubts and bitterness and even accusations. He is patient enough to wait out our tears. He is purposeful enough to make use of the pause. And He is already victorious in the coming dawn.

Sunday is almost here.

Advertisements
 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 22, 2016 in God, Personal Growth

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Winter of the Soul

I try not to be a complainy kind of person. “Do your best with what you’ve got” is my anthem. An attitude of gratitude, and all that jazz. When the silver lining wants to play hide-and-seek, I can find it in less time than it took for Adele Dazeem to get a Twitter handle.

I especially try not to complain about the weather. First, because it is out of my control and whining won’t fix it. And second, because I know there are so many people who have suffered absolutely catastrophic weather; I dare not compare the cold to their tragedies.

That said…this winter. Oh, this winter. The profanities are welling up within me! I am so near the point of eruption that I fear for myself and everyone around me. This bone-chilling, joy-sucking, mind-numbing, psycho-stabbing cold… When will it end?!?! Why, oh why, won’t it end?!?!

This winter sucks buffalo chips and I am so over it. I want to be Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry: “I had enough so I said ‘when’.”

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

This indefinite wait for warmth is an apt analogy for those times in life when you are so very desperate for the pain to be over – or, what some might call “the winter of the soul”. It can be absolutely excruciating to feel like you’re at your breaking point and know that you still have to get up and face the next day and it probably won’t be any better than yesterday was. Or the day before that. Or the day before that.

And sometimes when we’ve gone through all the healthy, normal and expected responses (grief, prayer, counseling, anger, Bible studies and other self-help materials, carefully constructed cheer, more anger, more anger, more anger), we find ourselves at the end of our reactionary capabilities. We have no emotional energy left to expend, and yet the life crisis is still going strong. We are empty. Numb.

What then?

I was at a conference recently, and the keynote speaker said he was angry. Actually, his wife told him he was angry, and that took him aback. Yes, he realized, he was angry. All the time.  At everything and everybody. He wanted to kill people. The conference audience laughed at that. I think they laughed because they thought he was joking. I laughed because I knew he wasn’t.

What he said next went right into my soul – yes, even into the winter of my soul. “We need to grieve. When we don’t grieve, we harden our hearts. When we harden our hearts, we refuse the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Friends, I do not have an answer that will make the winter melt. I don’t have a secret formula to make everything okay. But there is comfort in the pain. Comfort is one of God’s names, one of the attributes that makes Him Who He is. He is more than Creator, more than Redeemer, more than Holy, more than Judge…He meets us in the very deepest pain.

Whether you are already numb or still in the anger-hurling stage, it is okay to let yourself grieve. Grieve the loss of whatever it is your life crisis has taken from you. Grieve the brokenness of this world. Grieve the unknowns of tomorrow.

And be comforted.

That doesn’t mean you suddenly enjoy the winter (metaphorical or literal). It means your grief is valid and you are not alone in it.

You are not alone.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Adoption, Personal Growth

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Worst Pain Ever

When I was in high school, I broke my foot. I remember arriving in law class on crutches and my teacher (who also happened to be my gymnastics coach) took one look at me and said, “Oh caca!” I tried to reassure her that it wasn’t a big deal because it wasn’t my landing foot. I was certain that after a couple of weeks, I’d be able to get right back into training because my healthy foot was there to bear my weight through all my leaps and I could easily use it to compensate for the weakened foot for everything else.

I soon discovered that there’s only so much bar-work and hand-stand practice you can do before you eventually have to land on your feet – whether one’s broken or not. And I realized that even though I wasn’t landing on that foot for my leaps, I still needed it to be strong enough to propel my body weight into the air to perform the leap before I had to worry about landing. That sucked. I felt like it was the worst pain ever. Such an inconvenience. It was getting in the way of everything else my body wanted to do!

Over the years, I have had lots of illnesses and injuries that were also the worst pain ever.

I put my back out last summer. It was a few days before our week-long family reunion camping trip. Not fun. Crippling back pain made everything about camping so stinking difficult! It was seriously the worst pain ever.

I had chronic tonsillitis as a kid. Every time I got a sore throat, I couldn’t talk or swallow. Not being able to talk is one thing (a blessed thing, if you ask my mother), but not being able to swallow…that can be life-threatening! That was the worst pain ever.

When I was 8 months pregnant with my second daughter, and my first daughter was 15 months old, I decided to get upper-cartilage piercings in both ears. That must have been a decision borne of sleep deprivation, and let me tell you, it only bred further sleep deprivation. Both piercings got infected and I could not lay my head on my pillow. Now, I can put up with a lot of stuff when I’m well rested. But no sleep for an extended period of time is The. Worst. Pain. Ever. Plus my ears really hurt.

And this past week, I had an infected finger. Look at this.

Image

Okay, so I didn’t think to take a picture of it until it was mostly healed. But still, it was gross and it hurt. I never would’ve thought that the ring finger of my non-dominant hand was good for much more than displaying my wedding bling, but crikey! That sore infection got in the way of everything! Washing dishes, hanging laundry, doing yard work. Merciful heavens, every time I pulled my work gloves off, I inadvertently grabbed that finger. Yowsers! The worst pain ever.

Let me clarify: I am sharing with you my inner dialogue, which says, “I can’t believe this one tiny little injury can so detrimentally affect the rest of my whole body.” My external dialogue usually runs more along the lines of, “What sucking chest wound? It’s just a scratch. I’ve still got stuff to do.”

It’s true what the Bible says. (Please hold your sarcastic gasps of shock and wonder.) When one part of the body is hurting, it affects the whole body.

As members of the Body of Christ, we are designed to work together. All of the parts: big and small, visible and hidden, young and old – we all function better when we all do our part. When one of us is hurting (or just choosing not to contribute), everyone else is hampered in their functionality. All joking aside, that truly is one of the worst pains ever.

We need you. If you are new to the Body, please join in. If you’ve been around for ages, but haven’t fully engaged, now’s the time! You don’t have to be a super-star and we don’t expect you to do every job under the sun. But we want you with us. Your helpful and cheerful presence makes everyone else more efficient.

God designed you and me to honour Him with our joint efforts. We fulfill His purpose for our lives when we worship Him in service together. When you are missing from our midst, you are indeed missed. Come back. Join in.

Or maybe you’ve been part of the Body for a long time and you find yourself getting frustrated by the members that aren’t contributing. Well, friends, as much as we can lovingly encourage their participation, there is still work to do. Sometimes we have to compensate for the broken foot or the infected finger and just git ‘er done. Let’s choose to be joyful in that.

It is also unhealthy for the rest of the Body if one part is severely overworked. You may think you’re being so helpful and contributing so much because you’re capable of taking over all the jobs, but you may soon find yourself burnt out and useless.

I happen to have an example of that for you.

Due to some damage done to our yard by a construction crew this summer, plus numerous other valleys and ruts in various parts of the lawn, we had some serious repair work to tackle. Several factors (the weather, the availability of my husband’s truck during the day, etc.) aligned so that I decided to git ‘er done one day last week. Two cubic meters of dirt = 4 truckloads = 25 full wheelbarrow loads that I shoveled, wheeled around the yard, dumped, raked, seeded and raked again. Twenty-five full wheelbarrow loads, people. My arms and shoulders were somewhat immovable for a while after that. And that hampers everything else that I need to do on any given day. It was the worst pain ever. And this is how I walked for several days.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 23, 2013 in God, Humour, Personal Growth

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When God Is Wrong

I tried to write this post a few weeks ago, but it just wouldn’t come out. You call it fear, I’ll call it writer’s block – tomayto, tomahto, let’s move on.

It was going to be another post about “life is hard, but God is good”. I wanted to write (again) as (another) reminder to myself that God would continue to strengthen me to carry the burden. But the truth is I just wanted the burden removed. I felt like His decision to give me strength instead of relief was a solution resulting from distance – like He didn’t really, really understand how finished I was.

I didn’t come right out and tell Him He was wrong. My head knew better than that. But my heart felt a little bit shunned. Why wasn’t He seeing my deepest pain and meeting my deepest need? If He truly knew how battered I was, He would rescue me from the battle, not throw some more armour on me and push me back into the fray.

So I started to write (again). I hoped (again) that at the very least, perhaps being honest about my struggle would encourage someone else out there who was living a similar struggle. But it just sounded like all the same stuff I’ve written before and the lack of progress seemed more discouraging than uplifting. So instead I wrote about energy drinks, bad drivers, and James Bond.

And I started working on my exit strategy.

No, I wasn’t about to off anybody. I just needed to find a way to quit with integrity. I was on the brink, I’m telling you. And my husband was there with me. Almost. He convinced me to wait a week. I didn’t see how one week would make a hill o’ beans of difference at this point, but fine. I waited. And I read my Bible (because that’s what good Christian girls do when they’re lost) – mostly searching for passages about God slaying the bad guys, and reminders to the early church to stay away from evil-doers.  Oh, and the Psalms were good, too. David didn’t hold anything back when it came to telling God how he felt; I was on board with that!

I didn’t pray a lot. Not what we usually think of as prayer, anyway. I’d said all I wanted to say already and I couldn’t keep rehashing it. So I was just with God. Hoping that He was doing something, but kind of expecting the week to play out so I could get on with my plans.

But then something shifted. I was (and still am) hesitant to call it a turning point. We’ve hit rock-bottom too many times and desperately wanted to label it as a U-turn moment, only to find lower rocks the next week or the next month. This time feels different.

It has nothing to do with me. I didn’t find some miraculous new parenting technique. I haven’t overcome my anger issues. I didn’t log a magical number of hours of heaven-stirring prayers. I had just given up – and not a “spiritual” giving up that’s all about relinquishing control so God can take over. I was simply empty.

And it had nothing to do with the other people involved in our struggle. No one made a new commitment of faith or verbalized a resolve to do better or broke down crying about the mess they’d made of everyone’s life.

There was just a shift. It had to be God. The baking soda of His sovereignty met the vinegar of His intimacy and erupted in a fresh reality: He knows all and He knows me.

Now I’m writing from the other side. Now I can say with absolute certainty – the kind that comes from experiencing it, not just hoping for it – that when God decides to give strength instead of relief, He knows what He’s doing. And even when He only gives enough strength for this day or this hour, it is still enough. Surprise, surprise – God isn’t wrong!

I am rereading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It is an introspective comparison between the makings of a great story in a book or a movie and the makings of a great story in how we live our lives. Character development, inciting incidents, obstacles to be faced and overcome… these are necessary elements to a great story. Miller moves from writing these elements onto a page to writing them into his life. And it’s brilliant.

One of the chapters is about Miller’s trek to Machu Picchu. He and some friends took the 4-day, 45-kilometre hike along the Inca Trail through Peru’s mountains and valleys, even though they could have reached Machu Picchu in a matter of hours via train. Of their arrival at the destination, he says this:

“We didn’t hike to the Sun Gate the next morning; we ran. We ran on blistered feet and sore legs. We got there, and it was fogged in, so we sat along the rock, on the ruins, and waited for the fog to burn off. We sat and sang songs. And it was like Carlos said, because you can take a bus to Machu Picchu; you can take a train and then a bus, and you can hike a mile to the Sun Gate. But the people who took the bus didn’t experience the city as we experienced the city. The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way.”

When I read that the first time, I thought, “Yeah, that’s probably true. But I bet if a bus had been available two days into the hike, he’d have been happy to get on it and he still would’ve enjoyed the city.” When I read it again this week, I thought, “Yeah, that’s so true! It’s excruciating sometimes, that whole business of putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. But the destination makes the hard journey worthwhile. The pain actually does make it more beautiful.”

I can’t say that we’ve fully arrived at our beautiful destination. I’m sure there are still mountains to climb. But I think I can pick up the pace a bit. And I can holler to the people who are further back on the path, “Keep going! The view from here is incredible!”

 
14 Comments

Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, God, parenting, Personal Growth

 

Tags: , , , , , ,