Saturday, February 11, 2017

Notes From My Daughter - How Pain Makes Us Stronger

Occasional notes from my second daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes but I am always blown away. Did this child come from me? Read on!
I know why you run away and I know why you come back” – God to me, 1/1/17.

You live a very interesting life when you are both injury-prone and have a high threshold for pain. About 4 years ago while at an ice skating rink, my blade got stuck in a groove, and I started flying face first towards the ice. I managed to turn a bit before I landed but not fully. My knee hit the ice first and then I remember feeling a sharp pain in my shoulders and back. As usual, I didn’t scream. Life just paused on the ice rink and everything moved a bit slower.

Then I noticed all the people staring at me.

I quickly got up on my own politely refusing help,  assured the crowd that I was okay, and proceeded to skate nonstop for another 20 minutes.

As I prepared to go home I noticed I couldn’t fully bend down to take my skate off because my shoulders were stiff. I decided to just move slower, gently easing my hands towards my boots. It was only when I started rolling up my jeans above my ankles that I realized something felt different. I rolled my pants leg all the way up to my knee and that’s when I noticed my knee had swollen to twice its size. My knee was unrecognizable to me, my body felt foreign, but the pain felt very familiar.  

Pain is a feeling closely associated with power. The discomfort you feel when you become aware of your own pain is due to recognizing:
  •  You are under an undesired control
  •  You feel powerless to change the circumstance

In the moment, the pain seems purposeless but very powerful. It evokes a desire to fight or flight. You can either conquer it quickly or escape it quickly, but the impulse is never to endure.
Those who chose flight aren’t cowards in my eyes, neither is the one who chooses to fight, brave. They are both logical, though myopic, reactions aimed at survival. In every human relationship where pain has been experienced, these same fight or flight mechanisms are manifested. Some people assert a domineering identity and demand compliance from others so that their authority no longer feels threatened. Some people want to fight on purpose so that they can prove who the more powerful person is and hold that over the losers head. Some get silent, walk away, or altogether end the relationship. There are many possible outcomes but ultimately people instinctively want to survive which ironically is what causes more pain because it seems like there isn’t enough power for everyone.

My body has survived myriad pains and it has only been in slowing down that I was able to notice what was really happening. My injury prone body has undergone constant unaddressed stress that became a normalized way of existing for me. My high threshold for pain caused delayed responsiveness even in critical moments. I used to judge myself harshly for these impulses. "Am I arrogant for not asking for help immediately? Am I a coward? Am I called to permanently burden all of these pains? Why do I keep on reliving the same type of traumatic experiences? What’s wrong with me?" I felt powerless. I felt weak. 
God, however, showed me the issue wasn’t in being weak. The solution wasn’t in judging myself, as a matter of fact, I had all together misjudged the situation.

I know why you run away, and I know why you come back.

The moment God said this was honestly life-changing. Here I was ruminating on all that I had done, fighting myself looking for the power to change my circumstances when all I needed to do was slow down. Here I was judging myself for “running away” from God, feeling all types of guilt and helplessness and God met me with compassion.

For the One to know why I do what I do means you’ve been there while I’ve done it and didn’t fight me or flee from me during that time. He being unruled by time, slows us down when our impulses tell us to react immediately. He opens our eyes to the patterns and the motivations that sustain them and invites us to surrender instead of fighting for power. Why? Because God’s love always chooses to endure and that endurance provides an everlasting power that we cannot find on our own. With God, we are not required to be a slave to our pain. He never fights us nor flees us. He never leaves nor forsakes us even though he knows why we do so to him. His love endures, and He will walk with us as we painfully learn to live life in His unfailing love. (Deuteronomy 31:6)    

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