It’s rather funny that it’s almost 9 months after the accident and this is my first post dedicated to pain. Obviously, pain and I have been pretty good friends for a while now, in one way or another. I haven’t written about it until today, however, because I didn’t know quite what to say about it – to myself first, much less other people. When I say “pain”, I’m actually talking about two separate categories: physical and mental/emotional.
One of the reasons I’ve been so confused is that when I started my “getting better journey” I had one strategy that I assumed would work equally well for both categories: distraction (aka staying busy!). Distraction is actually recommended for physical pain…as in, when you look at the clock and realize you have at least another hour before you could possibly think about taking more medicine, the only relief left is to try to find some activity which absorbs enough of your brain power that it doesn’t have as much energy to process and respond to those pain signals that are so pertinaciously making their presence known. Mercifully, my early “survival” days ended a long time ago; although physical pain still pops up regularly, it’s now easily controlled with medication and therapy.
My mistake lay in assuming that my heart would work just like my brain did. In other words, I believed that by distracting my brain with activities and counting blessings, I could simply skip over the fact that in spite of all our blessings (and believe me, I know that they are numerous!), I have also lost a lot. And that loss hurts. I was desperately afraid of allowing my heart the time and space to hurt because I could guess how bad that might feel. Not only that, but I also felt guilty about acknowledging the pain. Guilty because so many people have lost so much more than I have. Some people lose their mind, or part of their body, or (most scary to me) people they love. Or don’t have a place to live. Or a place to work. Or, don’t know God at all and have to face all those terrible things completely on their own. Somehow, I feared that acknowledging the realness of my own pain (the first true step toward heart healing) would minimize or disrespect those other tragic circumstances in some way.
However, as Ivan and I have dialogued (one of his favorite words!) about this over the summer, I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that my initial strategy was misguided. My first purpose as a human being is to serve God, and I can’t serve Him to my fullest ability if my heart is still unhealed. So, allowing pain to be real so my heart can truly begin to heal is actually a good and necessary decision. Which brings me to the second word in the title of this post: investing. It turns out that the thing I was actually afraid of doing (and rightfully so!) was investing in pain. Investing looks like a lot of things. Maybe investing looks like embracing the very tempting untruth that my pain is unique and somehow above everyone else’s pain…and therefore the world should revolve around me. Maybe investing looks like feeling so depressed that I give up on my activities for that day. Maybe investing simply looks like being so wrapped up in my own feelings that I’m distracted and unengaged during my Bible reading. Unfortunately, I have ended up falling prey to all of these forms of investing at some point or other – just this summer alone.
Nevertheless, God’s grace in Christ is enough to cover all my failures and enable my life to be about the big picture journey instead of every individual mistake along the way. So, in the big picture: learning to allow myself to feel and process pain honestly, but without investing in a negative and self-centered mindset, is a critical skill. A skill I’m very much still learning. But my big picture goal is to develop the ability to feel pain while continuing to invest in the good things God loves. And in truth, this “allowing and investing” is really just my Millennial talk for the age-old concept of “sowing and reaping”, which ties back to one of my new favorite Scriptures:
“Because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit [of God] will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially those who belong to the household of faith.” ~Galatians 6:8-10.