Pain & Weakness

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After a fall, sometimes all you can do is pick yourself up and keep going. Sometimes you need to dismiss the pain, take a deep breath, and put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you need to show more courage than you feel in order to keep going. And sometimes you need to let your pain show and your weakness be exposed.

Today I fell. Unable to mask the pain because my neck and shoulder issues are too serious, I was able to disguise enough of the pain to continue with my meeting and then to have dinner afterward. At first I just wanted to go home, because I knew how bad that fall really was to my body. Pain was shooting down my back and not just through my shoulder, though that was bad enough. I knew, however, that as soon as I got home I’d break down, and I did not want to do that. I didn’t want to spend the evening in pain and broken. So I shaved off an hour, distracted myself with good food and company, and ignored the pain and shakes.

As an adult, we rarely have the luxury to be sick or hurt. Work, responsibilities and life wait for nothing or no one. Yet sometimes brokenness happens. In this case, it was physical. In other cases, it is far more complex. For me, this particular physical brokenness highlighted how much I absolutely hate being weak.

For decades I treated personal weakness as the greatest sin imaginable. Others could be weak, but I could not be. If I was weak (which of course I was) then I would deal with it in private, not letting anyone know. Clearly that was a recipe of disaster.

I’ve learned how to embrace my weakness, in all its forms. I’ve learned that my weakness is what will keep me approachable, humble, and connected to others. Yet it is not easy. I don’t do weak well nor easily. My tolerance for pain is quite high. My ability to ignore an ache has been cultivated over many years. Still weakness is not something that sits easily with me.

But tonight I am weak. The pain has eased, but it was greater than I let on. Now I’m simply tired of keeping it at bay. Tonight I let my pain out, so that in the morning I can start anew.

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Equilibrium

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There is something cathartic about simply stating the truth of how one feels. I did that the other day. As I wrote and was able to articulate how I was feeling, I knew that those feelings were easing with each key stroke. Faith was returning even as I conveyed my great weakness.

Thinking of faith and weakness always makes me think about Elijah. He lived for three years by the miraculous provision of God, held off the rain during that time and then decimated all of Ahab and Jezebel’s prophets of Baal. Here was a man who lived in the power of God like few others have in all of history. He is a man whom I want to be like one day. Yet immediately after that great victory he fled in fear, praying, “I’ve had enough, Lord.” (I Kings 17-19) What did the Lord do? He fed him and gave him rest. He took care of him and brought him to the mountain of God. It was there that God spoke to him and gave him a new mission, with a vision for the future. Yes, God corrected some wrong perceptions, but what stands out most is God’s continued care for Elijah.

Just because God met every need does not mean it was easy for Elijah. Faith is an emotional, as well as mental and spiritual issue. God didn’t chastise Elijah for his fear or his feelings. If you look through the psalms there are continual cries to God for help, for deliverance, for vengeance, for mercy. God wants our emotions. He already knows what we are feeling and thinking, so to express it is not going to shock him. As I like to quote, “Better out than in!” It applies to all that is poisonous and needs to be expelled in order to maintain health. Keeping poisonous thoughts inside creates death and despair.

I needed to expose my weakness so that Satan could no longer use those as weapons against me. Satan loves to keep us bound and unable to live fully in the grace God has so freely given us. I don’t want anything to get in the way, so if I need to say I feel alone or talk about my confusion over finances, it’s worth it. It’s worth it not just because it works – I have my strength, equilibrium, right perspective and power back – but also because it irks Satan to no end! This is the greatest adventure I could have ever dreamed of: living in mission, completely by faith . . . and learning to live in the total freedom God has available to his children.

There is potential danger in being honest about one’s feelings. As mentioned in the previous post, I didn’t want people to feel pity for me. And I certainly did not want to feel any self-pity. (The bile is rising just mentioning it). Another danger is that people might think less of me. But who cares?! I certainly don’t! I’m far more concerned about God’s view of me than I am of anyone else’s. My family’s is probably the only opinion that matters, yet even then God still has the final say. Another real but serious-in-a-humorous-way danger is that all my single guy friends might hold back a bit of themselves from me. Don’t worry! God will pretty much need to bash me aside the ahead before I look at my friends in any other way but as friends. Any switch will not start with me, guaranteed. I value my male friendships near and far too much to mess with them. I learned that lesson the hard way decades ago and will not repeat the mistake. So you’re safe, and I need my friends.

Those potential dangers are worth it, though, because I have my equilibrium back. I know it was because people were praying. I also know it was because I released the pressure and confessed my weakness. My openness has prompted lots of discussion – both serious and incredibly humorous. The facts remain the same, but the emotions and thoughts are in balance. I can return to enjoying the adventure with its massive waves and gut-wrenching drops. There really is no other place I’d rather be . . . because I’m right where God wants me.

(But please keep praying). 🙂