Archives For pain

As a small child, I suffered from anemia. So much so that I was
frequently made to toddle across the street to the neighbor’s (a
nurse) house for iron shots. I guess I did not have a problem with
this for two reasons:

1) There was a cookie in it for me; and,
2) Prior to being diagnosed with anemia, there was a trip to the
hospital with my dad…

I remember the sharp tang of antiseptics, the scent of Pine Sol used
to clean the corridors, an endless descent down in an elevator, and a
long walk down a dimly lit hall. I was five, and I was to be getting a
blood test. At the time, I did not know what a “blood test” was
(having never had one). Honestly, I do not recall what I expected.

The stark reality was a cold metal chair under a sun-bright medical in
the middle of a chilly room. I was not, as they say, “down with that.”
I struggled, resisted, fought with every ounce of strength I possessed
to keep from being poked with that sharp, scary, needle.

“Keep him still,” the doctor said to my dad.

“I’m trying,” he replied. In the end, I was too much; I thought I had
won! There would be no needles piercing the delicate flesh of my inner
arm!

How wrong I was! My dad found an off-duty police officer (working
security) in the corridor, and invited him to assist with the
procedure.

I was sunk! Despite my best efforts, two grown men proved to be too
much for me. The needle delicately made its way into my young vein,
and…

I said, “That wasn’t so bad.” All of that fuss, all of that fight, and
it was not so very bad at all. I never feared needles again.

And yet…

How often do we, who should know better, react as I did under threat
of that dreaded needle, when Jesus promises to bring change (and with
it perceived pain)into our lives? We duck, and dodge Him, hoping to
avoid it.

And in the end, only manage to prolong the process, thereby making it
worse. God says that all things work together for the good (not that
the bad things are good–that would be insane) for those that love
Him. The fundamental issue, then, is that, as when I was a boy, we
fail to trust that Father knows best.

We kick, we scream, we fight, when what Father desires is our trust, our surrender. We fight because we are stubborn, willful, creatures–creatures wanting our own way.

And that includes avoiding the pain of growing up. It is past time to face facts: growing is inevitable, and we can either embrace the discomfort, or try to run from it. Either way, it will hurt.

But the path of willing surrender hurts ever so much less. Because it means we are humbling ourselves, surrendering our pride, and no longer
trying to hide.

It means we are partnering with a loving Father Who truly does know best.

The pain, the disappointments, are His appointments–and our opportunities to do that one thing we do not wish to do:

Exercise faith.

Because that means we are not in control.

But that is right where Jesus wants us: broken.

Speak on it: Where do you resist being broken in your life? How is that working out? Is God’s way really so scary?

Create Past the Pain

randomlychad  —  November 28, 2012 — 18 Comments

Towards the end of the classic movie, Princess Bride, there is a scene where Westley–recently resurrected–bluffs his way through a confrontation with the the evil Prince Humperdinck. He threatens a duel–not to the death, but “to the pain.” To my mind, this is what we who call ourselves creative must do with the “Resistance.” We must wrestle it to the pain, through the pain, to get to the work we were made to do.

You say you are not creative? I don’t believe you. Bestselling author Tosca Lee says, “We are made in the image of the most creative being in the universe… But we allow things to get in the way.”

Things such as the resistance.

What is the the resistance? Whatever gets in our way. Whatever fears, doubts, messages, which assail us, and keep us from creating. You already know this, but it bears repeating:

No one else in this world of seven billion souls has the same well of experiences from which to draw. No one else has your unique perspective and voice.

Because no one else is you!

And you can do it! We need your voice. I need your voice.

Because it helps me to know that I am not alone, not crazy, in the pursuit of my dream.

Now: create your hearts out, write until your fingers bleed, your heart bleeds, your arms ache from sculpting, painting… And then do it some more! Cast off the fetters which restrain you from doing the creating you really want to do, feel called to do.

When you do that, the magic happens–because honoring the gift, whatever it is, honors the ONE Who gave it to you.

Create through the pain, past the pain, and get up tomorrow, and do it again. Because the resistance is not going away. But like Prince Humperdinck, we can threaten it into submission, quell its voice, and get down to work. The resistance does not fear getting ugly with you, so be ruthless in conquering it. Because you will find that it is, afterall, just a bully.

And like most bullies, the resistance is really a coward at heart.

So resist the resistance.

And do it one day at a time. Because that’s all we have to work with: one day at a time. Your courage, in the face of your fears, encourages not only me, but everyone watching.

In A Boy and His Drug, I wrote of how I was not only allowed, but encouraged as a young boy to look at pornography. How that period lasted from the ages of ten-eighteen.

In The Unexpected Face of Grace I wrote of how God brought grace, and freedom, to me unexpectedly.

This is the rest of the story.

How I wish that had been the end of the story. How I wish, after breaking free, throwing out all of my posters and magazines, that I had never again looked at pornography.

As much as I’d like it to be true, I can’t say that. You see, as life got hard–had its trials–porn was there, cycling in, and out, of my life. I didn’t want to look, but I did. It was familiar. It was a friend from my youth.

Not really requiring anything from me, it had never let me down. Friends that is the insidious nature of evil, and of the evil one. First to tempt, then accuse. To first tell me “This will make you feel better,” only to follow it with “You horrible sinner! You call yourself a Christian! What would your wife think?”

Now let me be plain: Satan didn’t make me sin. I sinned–I chose to heed the voice of temptation. And true to his nature, the enemy was there to ensure I received a proper beat down for my choice. He’s not known as the “accuser of the brethren” for nothing.

In my guilt, and shame, I would cry out to God, confess to Him, tell Him how sorry I was. But in that spirit of that shame, believing I was alone in my wretchedness, I never told another human soul. And there was my undoing: I told no one. Not my wife, friends, anybody.

I bore the burden alone.

And so it went for many years–lather, rinse, repeat.

Until the time where I either wasn’t careful, didn’t care, or wanted to be caught: my Internet history found me out. Or rather my wife found my Internet history.

And what a blow that was–to me, yes, but much more to her. What do you suppose Satan’s message was to her? That her husband’s involvement in pornography was a way to anesthitize his pain, and stemmed from his childhood?

Not even close.

It was: “You’re not enough.” He looks at this stuff because you’re not enough woman for him. Thereby compounding his lies. He took my sin, and used it to assault her in the very core of her being: her femininity.

Even though to me it was never about sex, but rather medicating the pain of a life I couldn’t control. It was my besetting sin.

How I wish I’d never hurt her in that way, could take it all back. But I can’t. However, it is now covered under the blood, and not something I struggle with anymore.

Why? Why don’t I struggle with it? Why is it not cycling into, and out, my life like before?

There are five key reasons:

1) I have a God Who loves me enough to not leave me as I am.
2) I have a wife who, despite the pain I caused her, loves me enough to not leave me as I am. And who encouraged me to seek help.
3) I found help at Celebrate Recovery, and confessed my sins to similarly struggling men. I was astounded to learn that I wasn’t alone. Of all the lies Satan tells us, that’s got to be the biggest: that we are alone.
4) As corny, as cliché as this may sound, God spoke to me through Dr. Phil. The good doctor was doing an episode that featured a segment on porn, and said something that was seared into my soul: “That’s somebody’s daughter.”

That’s somebody’s daughter. I have a daughter. Would I want someone, somewhere, looking at my daughter? That thought alone brought me up cold–because the answer was a resounding “NO!!!!”

5) There is accountability in confession: by choosing to put my story out there I disarm the enemy. He’s no longer able to accuse me here in this place–because it’s not a secret anymore. And having done so, I was again astonished to learn that I’m not alone.

——————

Mike Foster of POTSC says this: “Being brave with your story gives others the courage to be brave with theirs.”

Anne Jackson puts it this way: “By going first, you give others a gift. The gift of going second.” Meaning someone has to be brave, be courageous, share the uncomfortable–because you never know who you’re going to encourage by doing so.

Will you be brave today, give someone the gift of going second? You don’t have to share here, but please do find somewhere to share. You’re not alone.

Friends, we have have recently been through some deep waters together. I had a purpose in sharing those stories with you; it wasn’t to shock you, wound you, or crush your spirits.

It wasn’t even to evoke sympathy. No, I simply wanted you to share in my journey; in order to do that I needed to authentically represent the things that happened. After what you’ve done for me, I owed you that much. It was because of you that I got to go to bootcamp. So it is as much your story as it is mine.

I could have broken down each session, given you what I heard, and learned, but I wanted you to partake instead in my internal journey. Each of the stories I shared last week represents a stage in the process Jesus led me through during bootcamp. Like an onion, He gently, lovingly peeled away the layers.

Showed me where I’d been hurt the deepest, wounded the most.
But allow me to back up a little bit first. Going into it, I had an idea, a dream of healing, but I was frightened. The only thing I clung to heading up to Colorado was tale of the woman with the issue of blood. Like her, I told myself if I could but touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, I would be healed.

Never did I expect Him to reach down, and touch me the way He did.

But He did, friends–O! how He did. The weekend began with John Eldredge repeating two refrains:

“You have a heart, and it matters, ” and “You were born into a world at war.”

As a man, and this is not meant as a reproach, merely an observation, I can’t recall the last time I heard either at church.

From there, John and the team laid the foundation that my heart–every man and woman’s heart, really–has been wounded in that war. In the process of uncovering those wounds, I was forced to confront the “Poser,” or the false self, I’d constructed to hide the wounded boy within. What were my fig leafs, and why didn’t I want to be known?

That is a deeply personal journey for each one of us. Suffice it to say, God was faithful to show up, blow down my house of cards. The truth came diamond-hard, and slug-ugly (God the diamond, and I the slug). And I got something from each and every session. Where before I lived with rejection, He gave me a new name:

Loved and Accepted.

As surely as the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west, He spoke that to my heart. But He wasn’t done with me yet. He wanted me to know that I was “loved and accepted” before He dove deep in my heart to wound me to the depths of my soul.

What do I mean?

I mean that for me, and for you, too, there is a theme to our wounds. And that God is faithful to wound us in our deepest woundings to bring those things to light.

Because He wants to heal them.

First, He knocked out my foundation, which was this:

Nearly everything I have done in life up until now has been for a singular purpose, namely my dad’s approval–his affirmation, his validation. Despite clearly getting the message from him, and others, that I didn’t have what it takes (who did that message really come from, who worked so tirelessly to take me out?). This explains why I continued for so long to allow him to wound not only me, but my family as well.

I wanted him in my life.

What boy doesn’t?

But that rejection, that craving for approval, wasn’t the deepest thing about me. No, Jesus went past that to my deepest heart.

It was the penultimate session of the retreat. Already I was struggling to remain present, my mind and heart drifting to home, and its cares. Despite this, worship really moved me. God was there. I belted out the words to Tim Hughes’ Everything harder than I’d ever sung anything in my life (I’m very much a joyful noise person).

And then Morgan Snyder got up to share. I realized–God showed me via Morgan’s story–the deepest thing about me wasn’t a life lived balanced on the knife’s edge between a fear of rejection, and a desperate need for a approval.

No, the deepest thing, the thing that felt truest of all, was that I believed I was alone. This was brought powerfully to my attention by:

Yes, that is the much-seen video of Derek Redmond losing out on his last chance for Olympic gold, but rising anyway, choosing to complete the race. God showed me three things, spoke them indelibly into my heart:

1) I believed I was the man running the race alone, the watching world waiting for him to fall. That I was essentially fatherless.
2) All I had longed for from my father, I already had–had had–all along. He so gently rebuked me of this.
3) Like Redmond’s father in the video, Jesus has got me, His arm already around me.

He told me “Son, you’re not alone. You’ve never been. This race that you run–life? I’ve carried you all along. We will finish together.”

I was shell-shocked, stunned, hadn’t dared hope God would speak in such a personal way. But He showed up in the midst of my fragile faith anyway.

At this point, we were dismissed to an exercise, a time of silent reflection and prayer. We were to get alone with God, take these questions to Him.

I couldn’t do it.

I went back to the bunkhouse, locked myself in a bathroom stall, and just balled.

For half and hour, I cried. I grieved all I never had, but had had all along, I grieved how I had spurned my Father. I cried in great heaving sobs so hard my chest was sore for days afterwards.

I cried tears of joy, because for the first time in my life I knew who I was:

My Father’s son.

How about you? Do you know who you are? More importantly: do you know Whose you are?

You can.

Post removed at the urging of Christians wiser than I. It seems I can’t win for losing lately. I suck.