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.
Anyone who has experienced a broken nose knows that it hurts. A lot.
After that, whenever an opposing player approached me with the ball, instead of attempting to steal it, I flinched. My family, friends, and teammates noticed the difference. In frustration, I tried to revive my former spirit. But I couldn't escape the reality that I really, really did not want to get a soccer ball in the face again.
Life is like that. We live in a world that has been dominated by pain ever since the fall. Men were cursed with futility and endless work. Women were cursed with pain in childbirth. Both men and women struggle against the pain of life every single day.
I have a theory that people are not so much afraid of death as they are afraid of suffering. We all know death is inevitable and we hope it will simply be quick and painless when it happens. For the Christian, death may even be longed for, not in the way that a suicidal person longs for death, as a release, but in the way that a woman separated from her husband longs to see him again.
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
But the real struggle is losing our fear of pain.
How many opportunities have we missed because we were afraid to take a risk?
How many tasks have we never attempted because we knew it might involve some measure of pain or some possibility of loss?
How many people have we failed because we wanted to "play it safe" and not open ourselves up to potential pain or disappointment?
I've been pondering my own reaction to pain. There was a time when I faced emotional pain I did not know how to process. My siblings say that I checked out for over a year; I was present, I was doing things, but I did not make myself available to them. I closed myself in a little bubble, shut people out, and grieved on my own.
Although that time was profitable because of the many things I learned and the many ways in which my relationship with the Lord deepened, I am still sorry I failed my siblings in that way. I am sorry I allowed my pain to separate me from them, even temporarily.
If we're honest, we all do that to some degree. We either carry the burden on our own--a burden the Lord explicitly tells us to give to Him (Matthew 11:28)--or we shift it onto those around us in a way that does not edify but that wounds.
As I've been considering this, I discovered something I wrote in my journal.
Here I am, all my fears and failures. Why am I afraid of this life You've given me? I am afraid of being hurt more, hurt again.
What if I looked up?
What if I looked at the pain waiting in the future and said, "You are no match for my Beloved?"
I would rather have You with the pain than avoid both the pain and You. I know You too well to run away when You beckon.
You lead me into darkness because You Yourself are my light.
You lead me into pain because You Yourself are my healing.
You lead me into loneliness because You Yourself are my love.
Take courage, woman of God. There will be pain in the future. There will be risks to take. There will be suffering to endure.
But you have never been alone in your pain.
He is worth it.
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.