Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Joy in a Painful World

photo credit:  drozblog

Pain free living.  

Isn't that what we all want?  

My current favorite t-shirt is inscribed with the words:

Denial is my happy place

It's my most-loved shirt because I functioned pretty well for a long time living in denial.  It's an easy place to live-- free from authenticity and truth.

I have a propensity to slip back into denial easily, so I proudly shirt it up (anyone remember that line from the movie Date Night?).

Don't we all want to live a Mickey Mouse life that is without pain, jam-packed with laughter and adventurous activities?

I know I do.  

Nothing is wrong with enjoying life.  In fact, I want to enjoy life to the fullest!  I just spent four days at the beach and I leave next week for ten more days.  A taste of heaven.

speaking of joy - one of these crazy horse people may or may not be me :)

The problem comes when we fill our life with activities (or anything else) to numb ourselves and live apart from God.  A daily struggle- moment by moment.

As Christians, we know we are called to more than living happy lives.  We are called to joy-- in knowing and serving Him.  Glorifying Him.  

My heart stirs with a mixture of irony, humor, and rest-- in the fact that my middle name is Joy.

Joy for me has come through knowing Him more deeply through the barren places-- the agonizing spaces of my soul.  

The places where I've wondered where He is.  

The places where I'm numb and unable to cry or pray.

The places overspilling with anguish.

The places where I rage in anger at God.

The places where tears freely flow as my heart asks Him why?

Somehow in those places of pain, numbness, anger, and despair, He has entered.  I can't explain it.  I only know it has happened.  He has done something deeper within my soul.

And I want more of it.  More of Him.

Larry Crabb puts it this way:  I realize that only in the experience of emptiness does God's Spirit confront us with the choice either to fill ourselves or to abandon ourselves to a God who leaves us empty for a long time and promises fullness later.  I have come to believe that suffering is necessary to awaken our desire for God and to develop confidence in His desire for us.[1]

I know He has given believers a new heart that intensely aches to know more of Him (Jer 24:7).  Somehow knowing Him more often occurs through events of loss and pain.

A friend told me today he was heading to the physical therapist for torture.  The massaging and working out of knots would initially result in more intense pain.  But it would lead to relief and rest for his muscles as the days go by.  He is embracing the therapeutic pain in order for his body to experience a temporary place of rest and healing.

Because outwardly we are all wasting away.  It is not in vain-- inwardly we are being renewed.  (2 Cor 4:16-18) 

We crack open our bibles and see lives torn apart and in anguish.  And those same people are impacted by an intimate relationship with the Father.  It is mysterious.

And I place my hope in what is to come...

I know my fairytale ending is in fact true.  It's just not going to happen in this life.  He is preparing a place for me.  (John 14:2-3)

As I held my wailing daughter a few weeks ago, her rigid body fighting against mine, I tried to maneuver to reach her foot and remove splintered wood from her toe.

It seemed so simple to me-  give me the toe and you will be pain free- with new freedom to romp and climb barefoot in the yard.

Instead, she wept and went haywire for what felt like hours. She soaked in warm water and then more tears and screaming.  

It took forever to reach a place where she let me get that stinkin' splinter out.  Through the pain, she eventually experienced joy and freedom, smiling in relief as I finally convinced her to let me use the tweezers to pull it out. 

My children are passionate like me.  What do I expect?

The same week, I received a call from my childrens' homeschool co-op to come pick up my distraught son.  The teacher said it appeared as if he had a rock embedded under the heel of his foot.

For the love, how many feet injuries can my kids have in one week?

I knew this one wouldn't be easy.  This boy is my most passionate when it comes to pain.

It turned out that he had a huge blood blister under his foot from swinging barefoot and hitting it on concrete.  It needed to be drained. {insert dry heaving mama...  I can not believe I pursued nursing school.}

As a licensed foster parent, we have spent hours being educated on the ways to connect with our bio and foster children.  All those multitude of ways to love and deeply connect are ingrained my head, but I often lose my mind.

In the heat of the moment, I frequently become a mad woman, nothing close to resembling the Karyn Purvis model of trust-based parenting we have come to recognize as the most nurturing way to parent. (By the way, all parents should check out these resources because they are amazing).

Later that week, my face hot with shame, I confessed to our counselor how I physically laid on top of my son to puncture his skin with a sharp needle.  For his own good, of course-- the whole blood blister and foot thing.

After hours of praying, talking, promises of candy, he persisted down the path of incessant crying, limping, and freaking out.  I finally lost all sense of rational thought, and propelled my body upon him, after an intense game of cat-and-mouse around the den.  Mama of the year.

I know what is best in my head and heart, but I often go to a crazy place of control as a mom.

And my only true rest comes through repentance and truth (Isa 30:15).  Because I'm not defined by my crazy (Rom 8:9).  And I am not condemned by my actions  (Rom 8:1).

These stories of my children make me think about our Heavenly Father and how He chooses what is best for us.

How hard is it to believe this is true and good during the pain of our lives? 

The times when He seems silent and we are wailing in the midst of horrible losses?

The times when our hearts bleed from the splintered shards and raw blisters of life?

How do we keep from losing faith during suffering?

Like my children, I have full-blown tantrums and fits during times of pain.  I can't think rationally.  I can quickly go down a trail of crazy thinking and roller coasters of emotions.  (By the way this happens regularly without any pain in my life.  Any place I feel out of control can send me down this crazy trail).  Control. freak.

Although my attempts of caring for my childrens' wounds were not entirely full of tenderness, they were grace moments-- opportunities for repentance-- a pathway for all of us to delve deeper into relationship with the Only One who is wholly tender and kind.  A moment of mercy for this mama to re-connect and love my children, by His grace.

I beg the Father for my children to know Him intimately.  

I long for more of Him and less of me.

As for the middle name - Joy- that I've always hated?  I am embracing more of the joy in living in a fallen world.  Accepting more of who I am.

May we all live more authentic and joy-filled lives, reminding each other of WHO we are and WHOSE we are.

Because mamas need lots of grace.

We all do.
He is our Only Hope.

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength
(Isa 30:15)


[1]  Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams, (Waterbrook Press, 2012), 131.

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