Pain is one of the fastest routes to a no-frills encounter with the Holy, and yet the majority of us do everything in our power to avoid it.
– Barbara Brown Taylor
It happened last spring, but I remember it vividly.
Jeff grabbed the little stool and moved it right in front of the rocker I was sitting in. He sat on the stool, looked me straight in the eyes, and took my hands in his.
But he didn’t talk.
He was there to listen first, to understand (as best as he could) what I was thinking, feeling. I had already (falsely) accused him of not hearing me, not listening when I complained about a crisis of confidence, a doubt about purpose.
So here he sat now, with me, in my pain.
Who wants to do that?
Who wants to sit with even their own pain?
This month the spiritual discipline I’ll be focusing on is the practice of feeling our pain.
It feels wrong. To willingly sit with pain. Any pain, whether in the body or in the soul.
- Pain of rejection
- Pain of insecurity
- Pain of conflict
- Pain of addiction
- Pain of confusion
I don’t want to hang out with those companions.
But no matter. Pain demands, “Look at me!”
Both eyes. Full attention. Now.
There are lessons to learn.
• You’re not as strong as you think you are.
• Life isn’t as “fair” as you want it to be.
• God doesn’t act like you expect him to.
They are hard truths, these truths that pain helps us grow into, even if for our own good.
I look back at my life-turning events—divorce, single parenting, deaths, church breakups, illnesses. My view of reality adjusted with each one: on who I was and what life was about and how God loves me.
Yet in each season of pain, God was sitting beside me. Taking my hands in his. Looking me straight in the eye. Letting me talk and cry and (falsely) accuse him of not understanding.
He was there. Changing me. Growing me. With me.
After Jeff listened to me that day on the stool, I listened to him back. He reassured me I was okay. And said many wonderful things (I’m sure), none of which I remember exactly.
What I do remember is that he listened, cared, and was with me in the pain.
Maybe we’ll never understand the “why” of pain. Or even the “when.”
But it’s the “who” that will matter.
Those who sit with us as we sit with pain are who we remember.
Pain will never be my best friend, but it leads me into the presence of one who is.
“God with us.”
* * *
Are you stoic or a wimp when it comes to pain?
Who has sat with you in pain?
Is there someone you’re sitting with now?
When pain gets too noisy
- Join #31Days in October
- In review – September on the blog