I am in physical therapy for a frozen shoulder. First thought to be a problem with my neck, an old injury resurfacing, it is now clear that any pain in my neck is a result of my gimpy and locked up shoulder. Yet for six weeks I was given therapy to fix the neck, though my neck was not really the problem.
The issue became clear when another therapist took over my case. With a new view of the situation, a new course of treatment was put in place. An incredibly painful treatment.
Tonight I asked my therapist how long it takes to “unfreeze” a shoulder. Looking me in the eye, he said, “It takes a long time and it hurts like hell.” Neither of those statements surprised me. I’d already been in pain for many months, and the treatment – especially his – was indeed painful.
I went from a therapist who weighed a 100 pounds soaking wet to one who was more than double that size and with at least double the strength. A key part of my therapy is hands on pushing, pressing, stretching, pulling and all around pain. There is no short cut. And even if there is a short cut, I’m not sure I’d go that route.
You see, although the therapy is incredibly painful and I come away aching, I am also coming away with just a little bit more mobility, a little bit more flexibility. Tiny improvements that give me great patience. I tolerate the pain, grimacing through the exercises and stretches because I know that it is helping. I may try to complain or harass my therapist, but I can’t. He is helping me even as he brings pain.
Of course, my physical pain and this therapy reminds me of all the healing God has done in my life. I had to go through incredible pain, reliving moments of abandonment, neglect and the absence of love, in order to find belonging, acceptance and unconditional love. Just as I endure the pain of working through the scar tissue in my shoulder, so I had to work through the scar tissue on my soul.
I have come to value, even embrace the pain in my life. Without that pain I would not be the person I am today. And quite honestly, the person I am today is someone I love very much. There is a freedom, a strength, a peace, a focus that wasn’t there before. I can embrace who I am, including the areas that continue to need improvement, because I know that God has embraced me. My pain has opened my eyes to all the potential in the world, in others, and in myself.
I know many people who have experienced deep pain and sorrow. I have yet to find a person who does not see life differently because of their grief. For some, it is still an open wound, tender and painful to the slightest breath. Others have scars, painful and raw but healing. Some, like me, have the faded scars to point to as a reminder, but the pain is rare and fleeting. For us life is stronger than the past and hope triumphs. The scars become beautiful reminders of healing, joy, freedom, and hope. Life is far more precious now because it has been tinged with pain.
Twice a week I endure the physical pain because I know only through it will I find complete healing. Twice a week I remember the soul pain I once endured, and I smile with joy at the life and hope I now enjoy.