An unwelcome, transforming teacher

I sat in a work shop this last week listening to a woman speak of pain, her place of greatest fear and woundedness. She spoke with passion about the healing she’d received and the importance of walking through the pain. As I listened, I could feel the tears well up with in me. (I knew not their origin, but am quite familiar with their presence.) She spoke of her wound and her pain and that it was there, in her pain, in her wound, that she found calling. The place where her pain shook hands with her talent, formed her gift to the world. My tears were now seeping out as unwelcome guests at a dinner party. Though they were seeking to make an appearance they were simultaneously being held back as if a dam had been formed in the moments since they first made themselves known.

A wave of panic swept over me and I glanced around to find the nearest exit. I was trapped. Duty called. I needed to stay, greet the speaker, thank my friend for the invitation, and kindly say good-bye to those I had met in the moments prior to the tears, the dam and the panic.

The dam was now in full force. It was playing its role and I was thankful for its protection. I did my duty, played my part. I was polite, well behaved, grateful, kind, extraverted and smiled as I joked with a new friend, all the while I was well aware of the distance between myself and the exit and very well aware of the pressure of the tears against the damn that had been built around them.

I said my last good-bye, put my head down and walked towards the door. I breathed deep, my heart raced as I made my last polite gesture, eye contact with the greeter who held the door and wished me a good night, then stepped out of the building and into the rain. The rain fell with monsoon force. And, the dam which held my tears back broke allowing my tears to fall with the rain.

I sat in my car, weeping with the rain’s rhythm, gasping for air, desperately alone and terribly afraid of the seemingly endless rush of emotion that had been released as the dam was no longer needed.

Pain. The woman spoke of pain with ease, though I knew the words were much more easily formed than the pain was felt. My tears fell as I realized the source of my own pain. The source of my pain was my lack of it. As I listened to her story I was confronted with the safety of my own. I’d encountered pain as I’d walked with others, but until these past years I had avoided risky territories in my own heart and life. My pain, was, my lack of it. I had lived safe, protected and secure. Those who know me well might question that truth. I’ve had a lot of seemingly painful chapters in my story, but life altering pain, the kind that causes one to feel dead inside, only to rise again and know the deepest and most miraculous life… this was new. This kind of pain I have felt for the first time over these past 12 months.

Because of this pain, I’ve not written much this past year. Words have been absent as I’ve walked new halls and traversed the foreign lands of pain, loss, grief and death. No, no one has physically died, but there are many kinds of grief, and this past year, I’ve stepped into my pain and felt it, instead of using logic, understanding and thinking to reason my way through it. My lack of words evidence a new trust in the Father with the feelings of pain. My lack of words evidence my lack of comfort. Reason and words have been a constant life preserver. I’ve used them to avoid the feelings of pain and in this season I’ve chosen instead to swim in the seas of sorrow.

I do not particularly enjoy these waters. They are uncomfortable. They feel somewhat irresponsible. They feel confusing and I’m not quite certain as to where they will lead. But one thing I do know, I am being changed by pain. I am being changed by the belief formed in me through my experience of pain. I am being healed by sorrow.

Pain is a brilliant teacher, a deep companion, a tremendous excavator, and a light of judgement that leads to healing. Pain, as I embrace it, seems to be deepening my capacity to love, experience life and connect with others. All while I feel unable to love, experience life and connect. It is a great paradox. It is a necessary learning and I believe, that as I walk through pain and allow it to be felt and known, I will be changed. I will be made new and I will experience the miraculous depth of new life found in resurrection.

Much of the world seeks to provide a way out of the waters of pain. We are provided with all kinds of apparatus to avoid pain. We are given opportunity to eject ourselves from it and we are taught that pain is to be averted at all costs. Pain is not to be embraced, rather, it is an enemy and we are to fear it, fight it and despise it.

But, I’ve learned in this past year that pain is an invitation to healing. Death, an invitation to resurrection. It is in dying that we live. It is in feeling pain that we are healed. And so, as I continue to swim in seas of sorrow, I swim knowing that the pain will finish its work. Though I do not know how long I will have to swim and I do not know what lies ahead, I swim knowing hope in pain. I swim believing that feeling sorrow will lead to greater experiences of joy. I swim trusting that death will lead to life. I swim, because it’s time to swim.

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