When we deal with painful things, do we pull away from our Lord or lean into Him?
“You’re feeling yucky today, aren’t you?” My husband asks, seating himself next to my quivering body. He reaches out and pulls me in to a warm, close embrace. I cry out in pain.
Some years ago, I read a parable of three women that became my guide for how I wanted to live Christian womanhood--but, unknown to me, that story poisoned my vision of womanhood.
This was the parable, as I remember it.
But our eyes are on you.
The Judeans were a desperate people. The kingdoms of Ammon, Moab, and others were marching against the people of Judah.
"A great multitude is coming against you..."
This was no secret thing. All of the people knew it. Imagine the panic. Work postponed for the day as the people gathered tensely to hear what their king would say to comfort, to rally. But as he looked out over the assembled families--even the children! the children!--he felt only the sick acid knot in his heart. He had to stand and he had to speak and he had only one thing to say.
It first showed up in November. I felt exhausted, crippled with aching flu-like pain, and edged with the threat of tears. At some point during the worship service, my fiance leaned forward and whispered, "Do I need to take you someplace more comfortable?"
Torn between my desire to be with the people of God, but aware that I was unable to actually enjoy their presence, at last I acquiesced.
My legs had turned to jelly and the cacophony in my head made sight difficult, so my fiance led me. As soon as he opened the outer door of the church sanctuary, a wall-blast of light assaulted me. My legs crumpled.
Paul picked me up and carried me to the closest couch. For the next hour, my entire body spasmed violently, alternating between tremors, full-body whiplashing, intense contractions forward and backward. It was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me, and yet, as my soon-to-be-husband prayed quietly over me, I felt perfectly calm. Even as a prisoner of my body, my mind felt utterly relaxed.
"She is a brave woman."
My husband spoke the words thoughtfully, knowing full well what he said, but my heart was still breaking for my friend.
"But over twenty miscarriages!" I sobbed, unable to stop the tears. "No woman wants to be brave for that reason."
He was right, and I was right. No one is ready to be brave, because bravery demands so much more pain than we ever think we are capable of enduring, and so much more trust than we dare to give. And yet we are called to be brave.
When I broke my nose playing high school soccer, my whole game changed. Up until then, people had commented that I was an aggressive go-getter. My coach assigned me as a striker because, even though I couldn't really kick straight, I could move the ball up the field so that a more accurate teammate could score for the team. I wasn't afraid to get into a tangle with an opponent in an attempt to steal the ball.
One day, I approached an opponent who had the ball and prepared to swipe it from her. She kicked--and the ball blasted right into my face.
"I don't understand," I told my friend through my tears. "I thought that I'd be over this by now. What is wrong with me, that I can't just move past this?"
"Honey," my friend replied gently. "You've been living with this situation for years. You think you're going to heal in just a few months?"
Yes. Yes, I did think I would. I didn't want to believe that I was so weak. What design could God possibly have in my weakness?
Every day of 2016, I opened my eyes to a new morning and God's Spirit whispered, "Treasure this."
He did not say why, but I sensed a preparing in my heart. I felt a whisper of change boiling in my future, like storm-clouds brewing just beyond sight. Whether weeks or years away, this change would alter the life I had built.
This post first appeared on LessonsFromPain.com on February 17, 2016.
This week my community lost a 23-year-old young man. He was ice-fishing on the lake with friends and, through a series of circumstances, was alone in sub-zero temperatures when his truck broke through the ice. He extricated himself and tried to make it to shore. He never made it.
This year I've really put effort into knowing the people in my church better. We've been going to this church for at least 8 years, but last year I realized I don't know people there very well. The distance to the church (and most of the attendees' homes) is a major hurdle for me, especially since travel is one of my triggers.
Despite the difficulties in deepening relationships, I've been persistent, and as I get to know the church women better, I've realized something important: Everyone is in pain.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.