Listen to an audio recording of this blog post here:
I’ve spent the bulk of my life doing my level best to avoid pain. I’m simply not a fan of it. The thought of experiencing physical or emotional pain flips my fight or flight switch on in a clock tick. Somehow along the way, I developed super-Spidey senses that alert me to incoming pain and I get busy to head it off at the pass.
I’ve often thought that my ability to ward off threats of pain was a strength. I mean, God doesn’t really want me to suffer, right? While God definitely doesn’t enjoy watching his creation hurt, he knows that pain prompts the process to bring about the need for something to change that propels us into necessary growth. And let’s be clear, he didn’t (and doesn’t) choose pain for us. Adam and Eve did, and we, all too often, willingly choose to walk in their footsteps; longing for something better than what God desires to give us. Ludicrous, but it’s what we do.
Before we go any further with this, I don’t want you to hear me saying that pain is good. I also don’t want you to hear me saying that our pain is always our doing. Pain is not good and pain is not from God. It’s not how he set things up to be. And I full well know how often, others bring great pain to us regardless of how hard we try to avoid it. Pain happens. (John 16:33)
I do want you to hear me say, however, that God understands our pain. He sent a part of himself, Jesus, to endure great pain; physical, mental, and emotional. By this, we can know we are not alone in our suffering. This is the greatest comfort of all. Jesus is the best illustration of #metoo we could ever know!
What if we could see pain through the lens of positivity? I know it’s a stretch many of us struggle with. But I’d like to offer a baby step in that direction if you’ll let me. I promise to be gentle.
There have been a few times in my life when I avoided physical pain by simply quitting. As a teenager, I ran in a race at school knowing I wasn’t prepared to complete. So, I quit. I faked an injury. It’s not my proudest moment, by the way. What I learned afterward, though, was that the shame of quitting was worse. Much worse. The people in the stands might have had mercy on me but me . . . the girl on the field . . . I quit, and my insides knew it. My soul knew it.
My sister texted me last year and said, “Hey, a few of us are going to do the Houston Half Marathon in January. Do you want to join us?” The backstory to this is that my sister and I had trained and done well in several previous half marathons but I’d moved often. It had been a decade since our last one. Further, I was still very deep in the process of healing from my marriage trauma and had been eating my emotions which tasted a lot like Fritos and Bean Dip chased by a Gin & Tonic or two. Suffice it to say, I had gained a few pounds and I was now physically and emotionally unhealthy.
Back to the text from my sister…
I was sitting in a restaurant alone, eating my emotions (as per norm), when the text came through. I bounced the idea around in my brain for about 5 seconds and replied, “YES!”. I registered before I could change my mind.
Oh my… what in tarnation did I just do?
I signed myself up for pain is what I did! What is wrong with me?
October came around and training officially had to begin. I grumbled and even shed a few tears from feeling like a failure, but I trained—in Utah winter, I might add.
Marathon weekend came and I flew from Utah to Houston. Not as prepared as I’d like to have been. Feeling very much like the unprepared teenager I told you about earlier, I was nervous, but I was not quitting. I had to keep trying.
Hand in hand with my sister, who could have easily gone ahead of me and finished with a better time, I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t feel my legs and every bone and tendon in my feet were crying, but I finished! Saying yes to the pain, yes to the process, came with challenges but it also brought a cherished victory.
The pain I have agreed to process, albeit reluctantly at times, throughout my betrayal trauma journey, has made me better, stronger, and healthier. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t love pain, and my fight/flight intuition is still fierce. But, these days, my Nike’s are made for walking marathons, not running from pain.
Pain is an indicator that something is wrong and needs attention. That in itself is a gift. I’ve realized that pain doesn’t simply go away. Sure, I might be able to stuff it down for a bit, but it takes up residence until I deal with it. It’s true that the body keeps the score. The longer pain is left alone, the stronger it digs in; making it all the more difficult to unclasp its greedy claws. I’ve got to feel the pain and deal with the pain in order to heal from the pain.
Pain prompts a process. A process that leads to healing. And that’s a good thing!
Can I encourage you (and myself) not to short-circuit the process? The process, in and of itself, is certainly painful, but it’s essential to truly living.
*I want to publicly thank all of my battle buddies, you know who you are, who believed I could run this hard and holy race. From the depths of my soul . . . thank you!! Because I know you, I have been changed for good.