I am a denier.
Or at least I used to be.
I’m one of those people who others always thought was just fine, maybe even more than fine. I’d smile real big and say, “I’m great!” and quickly move the conversation to how they were doing.
I thought that was my job. I thought that I was supposed to do that. As an encourager I enjoy making others feel good, better. I love to make people laugh. That’s how God made me.
He never meant for it to cost me, though.
That was all me and perfectionism working really well together. I read a quote recently that washed all over me.
I had this idea of what people needed from me and it cost me a lot. In order to be the happy person all of the time you have to deny your feelings of sadness, anger – anything that gets in the way of being perceived as happy. Some of it was a coping mechanism to get through really Hard Times. Sometimes faking it is all you can do.
I had given myself the wrong idea that believers don’t struggle, and that if they do it was in private. One of the biggest things counseling did for me was teach me to mourn. While I have not had major losses of people I have suffered pain at the hand of the church, had to say goodbye to friends, watch my kids go through serious loneliness, observe my husband’s family relationships unravel, stand by as he leaves a career that he loves and navigate the difficult waters of finding a new one, put all of my most beloved possessions in a storage unit…you get the picture.
It’s a lot.
Life is a lot.
I was shocked at the depth of my sadness and I will tell you that giving myself room to be sad was uncomfortable. It hurt. I’d spent YEARS pushing that crap down and allowing it to come up to the surface was painful. That’s the thing about pain, though, isn’t it?
Pain will demand the spotlight. In the moment, or years later, it must be dealt with. Denying only delays the inevitable.
While acknowledging the difficult junctures was distressing it all it was also refining. I felt myself becoming a new thing, being transformed.
That’s the beauty of struggle, isn’t it? You do not come out of it unchanged.
He makes all things new.
Suffering leads to endurance, which leads to character which creates HOPE.
Hope is the thing with feathers, the thing that reassures us that it will all be okay.
Without suffering, can we even have hope?
I don’t think so.
Pain is a process that has to take place in order to make us new. It’s how we get stronger, it’s how we become usable. Without going into the kiln pottery won’t hold their shape, won’t hold water, and won’t look as pretty.
Pain is not a thing to be avoided OR embraced. It’s to be accepted and allowed. It’s not our job to do anything with the pain.
After my Dad’s open heart surgery a couple of years ago he was uncomfortable. He told me there was a pain in his ribs. I didn’t tell him it was the huge chest tube. We made the unfortunate discovery that his i.v. pain meds had run out. I remember looking into his ICU room and thinking, “Well, crap.”
I couldn’t tel him that the pain wasn’t there. I couldn’t tell him that it would never go away. Neither of those things were true.
I could only tell him the truth: the pain was going to be there for a while, and that it would get better. Eventually.
Dad could only breathe through the pain and accept that it would be there for a while. Consenting to the pain it seemed to help ease it up a little. After breathing for an hour or so he was able to sleep. If he had fought the pain the distress would have only increased. If he had tried to ignore it, pretend it wasn’t there for my sake or his, the torment would have driven him mad.
Acceptance of any type of struggle, physical, spiritual, or mental gives you permission to deal with it.
I don’t know why we have pain, why we have to have struggle to have hope.
What I do know is this: Jesus will call to you even in the struggle.
He will call you out of that pain.
Again and again, for as long as it takes.
It’s not a one time get-of-jail-free card with Jesus. It’s an every time, all the time kind of love.
It’s a my-life-for-yours, resuscitating, rescuing love.
Perfection and paralysis don’t have to be your companions.
Accept the things you cannot change. Allow Him to change you.
There is no end of the story.
Be brave misfits, even in the process of pain. Especially in the process of pain.