Fear of the Pain

I’ve decided that the next few “Storm Survival” posts will center around my experience with healing wounds…both physical and emotional. These difficult seasons often involve wounds. Wounds we have from the past, wounds we have given ourselves, wounds others have given us, wounds from circumstances. This past year I have been on the receiving end of some pretty deep blows which brought me to a very raw place. The type of rawness/hurt that made me want to take my heart, tuck it away in a locked box and throw away the key. It will be safe there. But healing doesn’t happen in the box. Healing happens when we allow the “healing process” that I wrote about on Monday. Which means keeping our hearts exposed and accessible…this can be vulnerable…scary and down right hard. I think the fear of the pain and uncertainty involved is what can keep people from engaging the process and true healing. It is easier/safer to choose the box and protect our hearts from further hurts.

If you follow this blog you will know about my recent physical wound which is teaching me so much about healing. After the accident I knew I would need stitches and my colleague took me to a local general doctor or “Huisarts”. From my experience they don’t actually DO much except act as a gate keeper for the rest of the medical system. Typically, I show up for a 10 minute appointment…they ask me some questions to determine the nature of the problem…and then if they decide it is severe enough they will refer me on to a specialist. I was fully expecting to have the cut evaluated and then be sent to a hospital to have the stitches put in.

WELL after the doctor evaluated the wound, and gave me the “You’re very lucky” speech, he reached for his suture kit to clean it and put the stitches in.Helium pain

WAIT! Hold up…YOU are going to do this? Now?! My brain was racing. I wasn’t quite mentally prepared and nowhere in his kit did I see any anesthetic. YOU are going to put stitches in WITHOUT giving me any pain medicine?! Ummmm. I have had stitches before and they numbed the area so well that I couldn’t feel it for another 6 hours. Now, NOTHING!! Crap, this is going to hurt. This is going to hurt A LOT! Immediately, the fear of the pain gripped me. OK, deep breath…I don’t have much of a choice. Another deep breath and I closed my eyes…it should be over quickly.

And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had built it up in my head. My imagination was so much worse and the FEAR of the unknown and “what could be” ran away with me. It wasn’t nice. And, yes, it hurt but I needed it for healing and apparently I didn’t need anything to numb the pain.

It made me think of all the things I can allow FEAR to build up in my head. And how often I think I NEED something I don’t. I am not saying that healing deep emotional wounds is the same as getting stitches. There are things that can and probably will really hurt…but for me the healing on the other side is worth it. And we don’t do it alone. I’m learning to trust more and more that God really is who He says He is. He wants nothing more than to heal our wounds. Honestly, it can sometimes be hard for me to know how to relate to an invisible God ESPECIALLY in a crisis. But He has been faithful over and over. Part of my healing this year has come from learning how to trust Him completely and learning that He really will keep me from going down. He really will! He loves me more than I can imagine and has spent the last year and a half showing me what that looks/feels like. It’s been incredible. And as difficult as this season has been I wouldn’t want to go back. I LIKE the person I am…and THAT is freedom.

It is tough to give REAL practical tips for this that don’t sound cliche but I’ll give it a shot:

  1. Don’t do this alone. Find friends or a community to surround you. If you have some deep pain/heart ache try working with a counselor. We’ve all got wounds and we can’t heal on our own. We need community.
  2. Pray A LOT. He will be faithful to answer just don’t be surprised if it is not how you expect
  3. Read the bible – learn the promises it has for you. My favorite this year:

    Don’t Panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need for fear for I’m your God.
    I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

    The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
    their tongues parched and no water to be found.
    But I’M there to be found, I’M there for them,
    and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
    Isaiah 41:10, 17 (The Message)

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

Surviving on Grace

2 Corinthians 12:9 is a popular verse for Christians and one that I have received comfort from and have been convicted by this year.

” My grace is enough, it’s all you need
My strength comes into its own in your weakness”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Message)

It is easy to say but I know that I haven’t always lived my life trusting that God’s grace REALLY is sufficient for me. And what does that even mean? We can limit it to something we only need to cover our sins. I have heard people use this to justify passivity…maybe there is an action you feel called to take but it’s OK “God’s grace” is enough for me so I don’t need to do that. Or, we say his grace is all we need and continue to pursue our own agendas and plans…then when we get to a crisis moment we find a way to solve it or hide it as fast as possible because it is painful and uncomfortable. We really are WEAK and often rather than allowing God’s grace to truly be enough we find a way to avoid the situation. I know I did…until I found myself in a place where I couldn’t avoid or control or escape. It was a strange/scary feeling to look around for my available options and find that I had none except truly landing on God’s grace. It kind of felt like this scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

You know what? Grace really is sufficient…but it is not magic…it requires a real leap of faith by leaving the ground you have been standing on. And it typically means you need to wrestle with God through the hardship until your eyes and trust are fully on him and his purposes. It’s not always fun but it is freeing.

I think we spend a lifetime working out what it means to trust completely in grace but I am going to describe what it meant for me on Monday evening. Nothing glamorous but honest:

“There are a lot of things I would change about my situation if I could. I am not pretending things are fabulous…in general I live with a constant ache in my soul and I have absolutely no idea how things are going to turn out. I have peace, hope and trust but there is a war in my heart every moment of the day about which side is on top. The evenings are the worst. The darkness. The quiet. A TV show has brought some raw/hopeless feelings to the surface and it feels hard to breathe. Who knew that empty space can feel so oppressive? I have chosen to not have any wine this evening which means I feel the full spectrum of emotions. It’s time to get ready for bed. Lord, how do I even move? Honestly, I don’t know how but I move off the couch and head upstairs. I feel tired from not sleeping the night before and weak from being emotionally drained. I hit my knees…I don’t always pray on my knees but I was broken…

Lord, do you see me here? Do you see my pain? The hurt in my heart that I want so badly to be healed? Can you really touch those raw deep places? There is so much I want to change! I hate this! Is your grace REALLY all I need? These are the moments when it is hard to believe because it hurts so much. How do I trust? [something shifts in my spirit] I trust because you have been faithful beyond what I can imagine this year and even though it is hard to trust I believe you will continue. It really hurts but there is no place I can go where you can’t see me…even though sometimes I feel completely alone. I continue to offer you my heart to heal and restore. I don’t want to pull it back and “protect” it due to fear, anger and bitterness…but I also know that I can’t do that on my own. All I can do is keep coming to you asking for your transformation and healing…it is happening…just slowly. Thank you for loving me as much as you do.

I lay awake in bed most of the night. Even though I am exhausted I can’t sleep due to my medicine and emotions. A CRAZY spring rain storm passes over my house at about 1 am. It was ridiculously loud. I wasn’t sure if it was hail or rain pounding on the windows but it seemed to feel like the storm in my heart. Tossing and turning…Ugh I need to be up in 5 hours for work. Eventually I must have fallen asleep but I wake up more tired than when I went to bed. Lord, I don’t have the energy or the focus for today and I have a training in statistics…this is where I know I need your grace.

I left my house to head to my carpool. The rain had washed everything clean. The birds were chirping and there was even some blue (ish) sky :-). Spring smells of wet dirt and flowers filled my nose. I took a deep breath and it was as if God spoke back to me “Lynnea, your storm will eventually pass. There will be flowers, new life and springtime. I see you and things are changing even if you can’t see them yet…hang in there.” Me back to God after a deep breath and resetting my spirit “OK, this is not a fun process and I don’t know how I will survive it…but only by your strength every day. I trust in your promises. And you need to help me get through work today…I’m exhausted and you know I hate statistics.” End Story.

I feel like part of my purpose in this season is to break down some of the “Christian-ized” perceptions of how to walk through these difficult spaces with faith and hope. God’s grace IS sufficient. Right now. In the present. Not tomorrow or next week. NOW. It doesn’t mean that things will be magically easy. It means that it is an opportunity for God to transform your heart if you let Him. There is real hope. I believe in a God of redemption who will bring beauty out of the ashes of our broken lives. And I am proclaiming that even before I know what the beauty is in my own life…I’m still standing amongst the dying embers. I trust God’s promise that I will not go down or be burned up. That he is working all things out for my benefit even though I can’t see it yet.

I don’t have a lot of practical tips because grace is God’s arena, but we can make ourselves more available…take some space to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are there emotions I have a hard time facing? Failure, Rejection, Fear, Pain, Boredom, Sadness, Uncertainty, Anxiety
  2. Do I use anything to distract myself or numb these emotions? These examples aren’t all bad in themselves but we can use them to avoid the hard things in life: TV, work, Facebook, alcohol, sex, exercise, kids, relationships
  3. It is in these places where we say with our actions and choices whether Grace is sufficient.  Are you truly trusting and relying on God or yourself? It is always in the difficult places we come face to face with our true hearts. It is easy to proclaim grace is sufficient on Sunday but what about the dark corners of your life? In what areas do you need to take a “leap of faith”?

Here’s to surviving another week,

Lynnea