Our youngest daughter is into a lot of things right now: Baking. Cooking. Crafting. She writes notes. Builds note boxes. Wants to do her laundry and walk the dog. She is craving responsibility and longs for opportunities to show up and be seen. To try and to succeed. To fail and to learn.
So last night, we baked. WITH A HOT OVEN.
Someday I will learn that oven mitts are my friend.
Today my right forefinger sports a raised bubble and I’m sure by evening, it will crack open and ooze and I’m not sorry for the visual because I want you to experience my pain with me. I’m that type of friend. You’re welcome.
It’s been making me think a lot about the purpose of pain. It seems like everyone is trying to avoid it, myself included, and we’ve made it out to be this bad, scary thing. Is it? Is there a purpose?
If you have been anywhere in your kitchen and have actually used your own stove, you most likely have experienced a burn at some point in your life. The more you are around one, the greater your chances…
It’s simple math.
And hopefully, unlike me, your brain has made it quite clear that touching the hot oven racks is not wise so when your naked hands instinctively go to “grab” without an oven mitt, your brain jumps in front of the moving car frantically waving its arms, reminding you that touching indeed is not wise.
As in, DON’T BE STUPID. DO NOT TOUCH THE HOT OVEN RACKS. YOU WILL BURN YOUR HANDS.
And hopefully, you change course and go in another direction. Hopefully your brain convinces your hands to take precautions, to take cover because you know…last time was kind of painful.
If you have ever experienced pain, you will understand where I am going. Pain is not always physical, like the raised little bubble of fluid on my right forefinger. You can experience emotional or spiritual pain which can all lead to a mixed bag of symptoms that aren’t so easily diagnosed and treated.
Medications can help but don’t always fix and Jesus is not a magic wand that you wave in order to live a perfectly happy life.
Both acute (short-term) and chronic (ongoing) pain can lead to emotional suffering. Emotional and spiritual pain may include sleep problems, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. How do I know this?
Takes one to know one.
It makes me wonder: Does it HAVE TO HURT in order to learn a life lesson? Not always. Not every situation or person that I learn from is tethered to a raw ache but I know from personal experience, it IS when I pay attention the MOST. I liken the times when I feel pain to feeling like I’m on fire, like I am sitting smack dab in the center of an eternal flame. One thing I’ve noticed through that heartache is my intentions are purified and I grow in honesty about my actual motives because most often, I do not pay attention to “what’s going on inside of me” till my outsides have experienced some sort of fall or failure…A FIRE.
And I have yet to fathom why this pattern is consistently true.
Perhaps it’s because I am a creature of habit and my regular, every-day-comfort is falsely reassuring. So reassuring in fact that I would make my permanent home IN my comfort if I could. Stepping forward into the unknown is unfamiliar and untested…perhaps pain is an opportunity to be “pushed” – or I would never go.
I have no solid answers, only thoughts rolling around in the big, wide open space within my head like this one:
I have grown spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.
Sorry Church. I have.
I know when I get sick and tired of being sick and tired, I find myself hanging on the fraying tassel of some rope. I try to hang on. Dear God I do everything in my power to stay attached. Every desperate measure I can muster, I do, but on occasion I have found myself not only at the end of the rope but at the end of myself. I let go of my pride thereby, I let go of that tassled rope and I fall.
I fall hard.
It is usually the pain from that fall that inspires the most change.
I hate falling so you can imagine, I do EVERYTHING possible not to. Falling is way worse than burning myself on a hot oven rack and it is way worse than feeling momentarily sad or missing my kids. Falling equates to failure. Falling leaves me feeling like my insides are broken into and splattered across a concrete floor. It is the greatest place of vulnerability and incredibly humbling to have your insides on the outsides. It can be embarrassing and shameful. Very. In the last few weeks, I have become increasingly aware of my own grotesque fallibility, which brings to the surface every potential lie possible, enticing me to believe. But the good news is, because I believe there is always good news…as hard and as painful as it’s been to fall down, the presence of pain indicates that I CAN learn better….if I can fall DOWN, I can also fall UP.
“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” – Madeleine L’Engle
So long story short, I think pain is the body’s way of “encouraging” action and the pain of facing the truth about yourself is often necessary to change for the better. Just like touching the hot oven racks is teaching me to avoid hot metal, accepting why a relationship has been falling apart will help me better understand what to do differently in the future with it.
Instead of running from or coddling pain, because pain can become an idol, I will choose to allow a healthy dose OF pain to inspire change.
What will you allow pain to do in YOU?