Monday, January 26, 2015

The Beauty of Pain

Recently, Elijah asked me if there was one thing that has ever happened to anyone in our family that I could take back or change. And if so, what would it be? It struck me that this is actually a difficult question to answer. The obvious answer for me would be the fact that Eveyn did not survive her birth. If all it took was a gentle calling of her name, I would have her back here with us faster than my lips could finish forming the sounds. Or would I? As utterly horrible as this may sound, Eveyn missing from our home has given me more life and grace than would have ever been possible otherwise. I still cry for her and grieve her absence, and I still have a longing for her that reaches depths I didn't even know were possible. But the fact is, I can't change it. So what do you do with pain that you can't change? You look deeper. You look even deeper than the depths of despair. Because from under those depths, love springs. Joy grows. Hope rises.

We all have a myriad of things in our lives that we regret, in the sense that we don't want to repeat those things. Whether it is something that has happened to us, or something we have caused, we have a lot of regret. (Regret is defined as feeling sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity). There were many choices made leading up to Eveyn's birth and death, and there are an abundance of choices made every day that lead us to where we are when we lay our head on our pillow each night. Every stupid or mean word that has ever stumbled out of my mouth in the direction of my children or husband is most certainly followed by regret. Every bad financial decision that has caused disruption to my family. Every job lost, every friend ignored, every stranger judged. Regret. But I don't believe we should live in a way that says, "I wish that never happened." We can and should have a desire to change unwanted behavior and circumstances that don't work well, but if we wish for those things to have never been a part of our life, we will never grow and we will never really appreciate all that life has to offer. We will remain stunted, immature, ungrateful and bitter about life.

Even in the most difficult, painful of circumstances, can't we see more? If we take a step back, and maybe it takes months, if not years to see anything more than the sheer pain, but when we are able to take a step back, can't we see the depth? Can we see beyond and under the surface layer of ugliness and pain to see something else? Can we actually come to a place where we can see beauty, love and even goodness? It doesn't mean the pain goes away, or the regret ceases to be a part of our thought process, but when we allow ourselves to see the beauty and love around us, and then allow them to work alongside the pain and regret, then we will be able to come to a place of thankfulness and peace.

So, where's the goodness in an untimely death? Where is the beauty in a violent act? I don't believe there is goodness and beauty in those things. However, can there be goodness and beauty around those things? In the events before, after and about them? In the friendships deepened, lessons learned, character grown, grace discovered, and strength owned? These things are beautiful, life-giving breaths given us by God to allow us a way to navigate the pain.

You see, life is painful. But you already know that. You know all too well the pain of loss, disappointment, exhaustion, hopelessness and fear. Is there anyone on this spinning globe of ours who does not know pain? Some may know more than others, but for each of us, regardless of what anyone else thinks, our pain is real, valid and consuming. It consumes our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our very souls. But will we allow ourselves the life of more? Will we let our hearts open to more, or will we refuse the beauty?

Sometimes the idea of living in pain and bitterness is actually a more welcome thought to us because it is comfortable, and we know what to expect from it. It feels like the right place to stay. Forever. We convince ourselves that being joyful in the midst of our pain is an inauthentic way to live. It seems fake, because this pain is so very real and raw. But I would argue the opposite. I would argue that when we acknowledge the pain, but also leave room for joy, for the two to live simultaneously in our hearts, commingling, intertwining, weaving in and out of each other as we go through life, then we are living authentically. Only then will our souls feel peace. It is a thing of eternal beauty.

Words from one of my favorite artists:

If I could I’d frame your stretch marks...
You only get them two ways
Giving birth or dropping weight
Either way, serious pain...

The picture of endurance, gave birth to a miracle
Them lines are memorials, freedom from the torture
And pounds you put on were the defense mechanism
Like "Maybe if I was ugly, then he would stop touching me"
And you endured the teasing of a fat girl on a track team and kept running

You tuned out the ridicule and every calorie burned
A cause for celebration
Them lines are victory laps, eternal gold medals
When I see ‘em, I’m reminded of the freedom...

Your struggles inspire, it’s physical literature...

It isn’t love if it doesn’t hurt
If you don’t feel it, then it doesn’t work
The pain removes the scales, pulls back the veil
The bruises in the blood will always tell the tale
Of the grace of grief, the beauty of brokenness
The peace of pain, the hope of hopelessness
The ease of emotion, the frame for the feelings
The scars and stretch marks, the proof of God’s healing