Pain is an interesting notion, isn’t it? We use the word to cover all manner of topics: physical, emotional, financial, spiritual; and each person has a specific level of tolerance for pain. Science tells us that women in particular have a higher level of pain tolerance (yes! it’s science!) for such things as birthing babies 😉 Have you seen those videos of the men experiencing simulated contractions?? I mean, come on, there’s no doubt women were designed for pain! All joking aside, though, as humans we do all we can to avoid pain. It’s a survival mechanism. Pain = slowing down and slowing down = death. Not so dramatic these days, but thousands and thousands of years ago it would have been. When we hurt, we’re forced to heal; at least that’s the concept. Why then, do so many of us simply try to cover the pain instead of embracing it and allowing the healing to happen?
With physical pain, we take pharmaceuticals to numb ourselves, but then that numbness becomes a way of life and we don’t know how to function without it. When we experience emotional pain, we stuff ourselves full of insert favorite coping mechanism here. For some people that’s food or shopping or work or our kids or exercise. If there’s financial pain, pull out the credit card or take another loan in order to avoid having to address the pain and find a new lifestyle. Spiritual pain – this one’s a doozie. Most people are so busy trying to avoid all the other pain they don’t even realize there’s spiritual pain. Pain, numb, repeat. Pain, numb, repeat. More of us live this way than don’t. I know I have for a long time.
I remember when Daniel (our second baby) was born. I had had a c-section with Layla and had wanted a natural birth with Daniel, but ended up with a second c-section. My experience the first time around wasn’t awful, so I thought I knew what to expect. What I hadn’t considered the second time was the x-factor: already having one toddler to chase around! Instead of having relaxing evenings & weekends, binge watching tv and feeding baby, I was trying to breastfeed with one arm and help the toddler wipe her hiney with the other. To this day, I still consider that my most proud “new mom of 2” moment! I counted down the minutes to when I could take my next pain pill because I would go-go-go while I was numb, but once it started to wear off, it was ow-ow-owwww!!! The numbness of the pain pills allowed me to ignore the fact that my body was trying to heal and in order to heal I needed to REST!
Rest is a 4 letter word to me, just ask my husband. If you’re resting, you’re being lazy because there’s always something to do. I recently picked up a copy of Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I’m probably the last woman on earth to read this book (or at least it seems), but I deeply identify with her struggle and where she found herself before she wrote the book. I fake rest. all. the. time. I say yes to too many things, I work hard out of fear and I never give my full attention to just one thing. And friends, I need a rest.
I mentioned in my last blog post that I was taking some short term disability for my mental health while Layla goes through her next round of treatment. I’m so thankful to my friend who suggested that (a “medullo mom” herself) because she knows what it is to be tired of all this cancer stuff. She understands the physical and emotional pain that goes along with being the caregiver for a child with cancer. Isn’t it fantastic when someone understands your pain? We’re freed of the burden of being “different” or “high maintenance” when someone else says “YES! Me too!” But we don’t share our burdens, do we? We all silently agree that it’s just life and life is exhausting. We post pictures of our smiling faces on Instagram and Facebook and tell everyone how much fun we’re having, but on the inside we’re weeping because we’re so tired. We need rest and healing and we have no idea where to find that. Consider a child that needs a nap and is crying for no (logical) reason. As parents we say “Oh, he/she is over-tired. They need a nap”, but getting the child to nap is a feat within itself. Once we’re past the point of exhaustion our bodies practically refuse the rest that it’s asking for! It makes no sense! Our bodies weren’t designed to go until they break, we were designed for regular rest. So hear me on this – GO TAKE A NAP!
Ok, so maybe you’re not physically tired (who are we kidding, you are), but your soul is tired. I wrote a little bit about it in my Mother’s Day post Tired as a Mother. Looking back only a few weeks ago and I think “man, I had NO IDEA what was coming” The pain, the sorrow, the anguish of the unknown were too much for my body. It snapped like a teenage ex-girlfriend burning photos in the BBQ grill….(not that I have any idea what that’s like). I woke up one morning and God said “What are you doing?? Why won’t you stop!? I’m telling you to STOP!” He had been whispering it for a long time. Even before cancer he tried to show me, but I never listened. There was too much fear about what that would look like. I couldn’t use the “R-word”.
So I listened and I stopped and now I’m asking “Ok, what now?” See how I did that? I stopped doing what I was doing, but immediately started asking what to do next. I’m tricky, but God sees through me. “Live in me” is what he asked. Without anything else to go on, I picked up my bible and a new bible study. Instead of rushing through it and squeezing it in, I treat it like it’s my job. The study is in the gospel of John and it’s called “Proven: where Christ’s abundance meets our great need” by Jennie Allen. To be honest, I was expecting a study on how to trust God’s love for me and allow it to meet my needs instead of trying to meet them on my own. I expected this because that’s basically what it says on the back of the book. Surprise to me, though, this study is actually about pain! At least that’s what God has been revealing to me through it. Lots and lots of pain, but pain with a purpose.
When Layla was first diagnosed it was relatively easy to see how this (temporary) pain could be a wonderful testimony to God’s grace and healing. Bryan and I saw a community rally around us, relieve us of burdens and come together to show us how much our family was loved. God provided us the right people at the right time to show us His presence and how he had covered all of our fears. There was no need for pain because it was all good. We both experienced transformations that would have never happened except for cancer, but we weren’t done yet. The pain is back. Now I see that October was the warm up. It was when we started to flex our trust muscles, but then we got a little lazy. Our trust started to look like the Lifetime Fitness around February 5th when the resolutions wear off. It was time to get back to the gym.
I can’t wait to share more about what I’m learning through all this pain. I think to do so at this point would be missing the mark. I’m still just under the surface and starting to pick away at the layers that have been covering up the pain like a scab (ew gross metaphor). This time I’m going to embrace the pain and allow it to do it’s job. I’ll allow it to slow me down and let me heal and I do this with no fear of what’s to come. That’s a lie, there’s a little fear, but I’m human and I’ll give myself some grace. I can tell you that every single day God has shown me there is beauty in all of this. A purpose so great that my mind can’t even wrap itself around it quite yet. I have a ways to go, but He’s such a loving Father. He takes me with baby steps and shows me through His word and the words of friends who speak life into our journey.
I know it hurts when we pay attention to the pain in life. It’s easier to push it away or numb it, but that trick always wears off. There’s no way to get rid of the pain other than letting it be felt and working through the healing. And that will bring more pain. Pain. Heal. Repeat. How exciting and freeing is that! I’m ready for the pain. Bring it! and if you ever need someone to talk to, please let me be there for you friend
“This sickness will not end in death. No it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” -John 11:4