Tag Archive | pain

A Remedy for the Regular

Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for Joy. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and joy you have not yet begun to live. ~ Thomas Merton

Pleasure, however grand, isn’t sustainable. It wasn’t meant to be. If it were, we wouldn’t experience it because there would be no ordinary and no pain to give it definition. Yet, there’s a persistent temptation to measure ourselves or to measure the quality and value of our lives by our varying degrees of pain and pleasure.

Just as everyday life can seem mundane after experiences of pleasure, it comes as a sweet relief after periods of pain. Pain always seeks a remedy and when I experience it, I’m momentarily grateful for the ordinary.

On the rare occasion that I have a terrible sore throat, or a bout with the flu or a period of heartbreak, I long for the regular. But once my throat or my stomach or my heart are back in place, it’s the regular that seems to be in need of a remedy. That’s the pull of pleasure. But pleasure wasn’t meant to be a full course, only a taste.

Joy is something altogether different. Joy comes in and remakes me. Joy is my traveling companion through both pain and pleasure. Joy sustains.

I’m learning to see pain as God’s megaphone (C.S. Lewis); pleasure as God’s gift; and Joy as God’s grace!

Key Moments

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.  ~ Frederick Buechner

There have been moments that I can readily point to and say things like: That was that day that I…  It was in that moment that I knew…  For the first time, I understood what it meant to feel…  We all have defining moments, where, whether due to choice or to chance, something happened or was said or heard or seen, that has marked us with indelible ink like a tattoo.

But there are millions of unremarkable moments where the waters make a slow, steady rise, eroding the shoreline and leaving debris that we can’t account for. There are countless moments lost to weariness or want or worry where we completely forget about touching and tasting.

I’m realizing that I’m in a constant process of making miniscule choices. They don’t feel like choices because they’ve become as reflexive as blinking or breathing. This is how I react to fear. This is how I react to pain. This is how I react to grace. If I stay stuck in the this is just how I am, then, yes it is.

Or I can choose to taste and touch and smell my way to the holy and hidden heart of it by inhabiting my life, eyes open, listening. Plato wrote: An unexamined life is not worth living. Listening to my life is a lesson that I’m learning because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

In each moment I can choose to revel or rebel. I can risk or run. I can choose grace or guilt. With each choice, I’m determining the key and the tone of my life. Stringing together like a score that builds to a crescendo of gloom or glory, every moment is another note in the symphony I write by how I choose to live.

Gift Wrapped in Grace

I couldn’t have asked for more than God in deliberate grace has surprised me with!   ~ Jim Elliot

We live in a world of unanticipated moments. When I think of the word surprise, I think of laughter and joy and unexpected gifts. But not all surprises are so pleasant. Some come wrapped in ribbons of defeat and pain and betrayal.

I expect that’s why most children love surprises so much more than adults. The ribbons are always right. As the world expands to include more and more experiences, we become more cautious about what lies beneath the wrappings. We learn that pretty packaging tells nothing about the present.

It’s different with God. He’s the giver of all good gifts. His intentional, deliberate grace is the most remarkable surprise of all!

Grace – re-gift it!

Sea Walls

We all build internal sea walls to keep at bay the sadnesses of life and the often overwhelming forces within our minds. In whatever way we do this—through love, work, family, faith, friends, denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication—we build these walls, stone by stone, over a lifetime. One of the most difficult problems is to construct these barriers of such a height and strength that one has a true harbor, a sanctuary away from crippling turmoil and pain, but yet low enough, and permeable enough, to let in fresh seawater that will fend off the inevitable inclination toward brackishness. ~ Kay Redfield Jamison

If you’ve spent much time by the ocean, you understand the importance of sea walls. If the walls are too high, they prevent the tidal influx of new salt water replacing the old and the harbors and coves become brackish. But to live without the sea walls altogether would mean certain devastation.

Part of maintaining the shore line is to build sea walls. Part of maintaining the heart is to build healthy boundaries. It’s tricky. One of the most difficult problems is to construct these barriers of such a height and strength that one has a true harbor …  but yet low enough, and permeable enough, to let in fresh seawater that will fend off the inevitable inclination toward brackishness.

When we shut ourselves off from the insight and input of others, we become brackish. Brackish water is the habitat of creatures like catfish and gar and eel and puffer fish. It has a peculiar smell.

I returned from a week without internet to some distressing emails. We all know about online bullying. There’s also online God-ing. Some of my blogger friends have been crushed by people speaking to them for God, exhorting them for God, correcting them for God.

While most of us are interested in other perspectives and welcome a lively exchange of ideas, we’re also rather vulnerable to the unanticipated rogue wave that crashes across our sea wall. Just like after a Tsunami, the natural reaction is to build higher and higher walls, or to give up and walk away, devastated and discouraged.

I’ve found God to be not only willing, but insistent, on speaking for Himself. It requires my full attention to sail my own ship. I won’t tell you how to sail yours.

Dear Melissa @ iamnotshe has nominated me for the 7×7 Link Award (I’ve accepted it before but I didn’t do the linking part). I’ve decided to fulfill the linking to 7 of my posts in the following way: when there’s a topic that 2 minutes won’t accommodate, I’ll link to a previous post to supplement my thinking, beginning with one for this post: You’re Not It.

May we all be mindful of crashing through another’s sea wall.

I’m Sorry for Your Loss

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.  ~ Henri Nouwen

This is going to be a rather odd little post. I’m writing for your help. This is the time of year when both joys and sorrows are magnified by the expectations of the season. For those who are grieving, over and over you hear I’m sorry for your loss.

I don’t like that sentence. This is likely just my own personal quirk since I’ve never heard anyone else object to it. I don’t know exactly why I don’t like it. I guess it seems like such a platitude to me. It doesn’t feel like going with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. It feels more like fleeing from another’s suffering or applying the obligatory quick cure.

It’s what every one says on TV when delivering news that a loved one has died. Actually, it’s what everyone, in real life, says whenever someone else is sad. I’ve heard it applied to the death of a spouse, a child, a parent, a marriage, a pet, a career, a dream, to bankruptcy, to theft and to competition. It’s on Hallmark cards, Law and Order and the lips of our neighbors.

However well-meaning, I don’t like it, but I don’t know quite how to replace it. It’s a different message than I’m praying for you. It doesn’t have the same intent as I’m thinking about you.

I know sometimes there aren’t words, but when we’re separated by physical distance, sometimes words are all we have.

So, I’m wondering, what words do you use? Me, I generally just end up saying I’m so very sorry. But I’d love to learn from you – all of you. What has comforted you. What have you said to offer comfort?

It is, after all, that time of year when compassion may be the greatest gift we give.

A Sunday Song – Blessings

Blessings ~ Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

Sometimes we see most clearly through our tears. This Sunday song is both a prayer and a promise to the brokenhearted.

What if He knows something we don’t?

~

Pain is Pain

Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique. I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way no other human being suffers. No doubt, we can make comparisons; we can talk about more or less suffering, but, in the final analysis, your pain and my pain are so deeply personal that comparing them can bring scarcely any consolation or comfort. In fact, I am more grateful for a person who can acknowledge that I am very alone in my pain than for someone who tries to tell me that there are many others who have a similar or worse pain.            ~ Henri Nouwen

Pain is so deeply private and intensely personal. How often have you shared just a bit of yours, only to have someone say: just be thankful that… No wonder we put barbed wire on the fences.

Not only do other people minimize our suffering, we do it to ourselves. Instead of just acknowledging it, we seem to think it’s more Godly to qualify it. We say things like: It’s my own fault for… or There are so many who have it so much worse… True or not, that doesn’t invalidate the pain.

I’m a temporary resident of Texas where it’s extremely hot. It hasn’t been under 100 degrees for almost 2 months. In the NE, rivers and towns and homes are flooding. It’s heartbreaking and horrible. Both are real. Does the disaster in the NE make it not hot in Texas?

Is there always someone whoose suffering is worse. Yes. Always. But we aren’t comparison shopping. We’re told to weep with those who weep. We’re never told to help them gain perspective or to evaluate the worthiness of their weeping.

We don’t need to qualify pain. We do need to stop minimizing each other’s suffering and start maximizing the comfort we give by the simple grace-filled act of offering compassion.

Hatch or Go Bad (revised)

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~ C.S. Lewis

Did you ever hide Easter Eggs inside on a rainy Easter Sunday and come up one short? You quit looking after a while. Then, a week or two later, there’s a smell like something has died under the sofa cushion. It’s a natural process: hide it, lose it, ignore it, forget about it and in time, it goes bad.

Hatching is harder. At the tip of a baby bird’s beak is a hard point called an ‘egg tooth’. When the bird starts to hatch, it uses this egg tooth to poke through the shell. It takes all of the muscles the tiny bird has to get out. But if it stays in its shell, it will surely ‘go bad’.

There are days I don’t feel like coming out of my shell. On an emotional level, if I’m feeling something negative, my instinct is to hide it, ignore it or deny it. I rebel against my own feelings. I thought I’d gotten better. I think I was just going through a smooth patch.  A flash of anger or pain (physical or emotional) and I still try to sit on it, stuffing it back in my shell.

It isn’t even that I don’t know how to appropriately express those emotions. I taught it for 25 years. I taught it, but I didn’t practice it much. Here’s the problem: it gets so crowded with me and all those feeling in such tight quarters. It’s certainly not a place to fly. I have to break out or break down.

What are the options: hatch or go bad!

(Part of this was in my first post. 3 months later, I’ve rewritten it as God, in His grace, continues to reveal my need.)

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