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Monday, August 19, 2013

Pain In the Neck

I just read a Facebook post by a friend that detailed the 57 tasks that she has checked off her to-do list today, along with a picture of her little ones all cuddled up together on the sofa, holding each other lovingly. Little angels.

And I'm like, "um, yeah, so today I kept the kids alive, let them watch entirely too much TV, and didn't even get my one load of laundry folded because I basically laid on the sofa all day long."

No, I'm not that lazy (usually). I woke up this morning from what was a terrible night's sleep to one of the worst pinched nerves in my neck that I have ever experienced. Ever. My sweet husband just arrived home from a nine-hour workday, found me on the couch, and offered to take the kids out of the remainder of the evening. After I prayed about it, I said, "yes, please."

And, if it is any consolation to him, if I didn't have such wicked neck pain, he would so be getting lucky tonight.

So here I lie with my head immobilized and my laptop propped up on my chest, enjoying the solitude and quiet and taking a few minutes to write.

Pain can be all consuming, can't it? It's pretty amazing, if you think about it, how pain, even a small amount, can vie for our attention. We never think of how good it feels to feel, well, good until we feel pain. Then, all we can think about is alleviating said pain and getting back to normal.

Last week I was in the throws of a crazy-chaotic day. I was taking my two-year-old from the pediatrician's office to the hospital for some blood work, and in my hurrying I accidentally slammed my pointer finger in the car door.

Now, this wasn't an "ow" kind of a moment. This was a "I-have-to-reach-over-with-my-other-hand-and-open-the-car-door-to-get-my-finger-out-because-it's-actually-closed-in-there" moment. Within seconds the nerves in my finger registered with my brain, and I am pretty sure I said a few inappropriate things while I fell on the ground of the parking garage writhing around in pain.

Finally, I jumped up and got in the car and set out out for the hospital. By the time we arrived there, my fingernail was completely black and my finger was so swollen that I couldn't bend it. You know it's bad when the staff at the local children's hospital is more concerned about you, the adult, than they are your child who is actually the patient.

By the end of the afternoon, my finger hurt so bad that I thought I was gonna die. I finally decided to take the hot mess that is myself to the nearby Urgent Care facility in hopes that they could help me. Help me, they did. After an x-ray to ensure that I hadn't fractured the bone (which I hadn't), the doctor said he could help me by reliving the pressure of all the blood that was pooled under my fingernail. "All" I had to do was to sit still and allow him to use a little heat wand to burn a hole in my fingernail, thus allowing the blood to escape.

It was about as fun as it sounds.

When we are in intense physical pain, though, there's really nothing we wouldn't do to find relief, is there? In actuality, we run from pain. We have our remedies and medicines and holistic approaches down pat, and all to find escape from the pain (I should own stock in ibuprofen, because that stuff is the business when it comes to pain management).

But what about when our hearts ache? What about when our hearts break? 

No one likes to feel pain, but I think that even the biggest wimp would admit that physical pain is often easier to endure than emotional, heart-ravaging hurt. We try to build walls to keep others out of our pain because it's too tender a subject to broach with them. We pretend like we don't hurt. We numb our pain in many different ways. We stuff our feelings and the things that are uncomfortable to think about under the proverbial rug, and we move on in our daily routines like nothing has changed.

But what if, when our hearts hurt, instead of trying to escape the pain and the hurt, we embrace it and allow it to transform our very beings? What if the pain points us to Him, and we miss Him when we hide our pain? What if bearing the load of heartache is part of what it means in Scripture when Paul writes about knowing, truly knowing Christ, by sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10)?

What if, when friends or loved ones hurt us, we process through the pain and allow the Lord to change our character and refine us in the process, making us look more like Jesus? What if, instead of hiding our shame and our sin, we shine light on it and live transparent lives that, while messy and sometimes sad, point people to their need for a gracious, loving God?

What if we don't sit idly by as we see injustice around us, injustice that wrecks our hearts? What if, instead of just being sad because of the AIDS epidemic in Africa and finding ways to distract our minds from having to dwell on such a depressing issue, we embrace the sadness and allow it to ignite in us a passion to do something? What if, instead of feeling sad that my own city, the city of Atlanta, GA, is the largest haven for sex traffickers, and trying not to think about it because it disturbs my "happy" reality, I allow it to penetrate the thick walls I've built around my heart and realize, "I am NOT okay with this."

What if the only way to wholly heal is to embrace our pain, allowing our Heavenly Father to break us down so that we might be rebuilt into versions of ourselves that look an awful lot more like Jesus?

One of my favorite worship tunes of all time is a song by Hillsong United called "Hosanna." The bridge of the song is the cry of my heart, and I pray that I wouldn't miss this. 
"Heal my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen, show me how to love like you have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your kingdom's cause, as I walk from earth into eternity." 
Healing my heart often means that God must break my heart first. Am I okay with that? Are you?

What if...

Just what if, instead of living our perfectly-scripted lives as perfect little Christians, we allowed the ugly and the messy out, and we decided to live like Jesus? What if we would actually DO something about it? Do you think the world would look different? Because I do.

One of my favorite books is titled "Radical," by Dr. David Platt. I'd encourage any of you who aren't satisfied with the status-quo, those of you who feel like there's something more to following Christ than the drive-through Sunday morning church services and the occasional daily devotional, to read this book. Soak it in. And let me know what you think.

On a positive note, my smashed finger is doing significantly better. I am now sporting a hole in my fingernail, and it's still oozing some kind of weird clear liquid. But, now when my finger hits something accidentally, instead of feeling like someone just stabbed me in the arm, it just feels like a tiny electrical shock in my hand. Always look at the bright side of your life, right?

Feel free to laugh!