Over the next couple of months, I'm offering Tuesday reflections on pain, healing, and recovery. I hope you’ll join the community of folks walking this road together. (To keep up with this reflection series, signup for blog updates in the maroon box in the left sidebar.)
This is what it means to face the pain, and if you were to ask me how I feel in the quickening moments, I’d tell you that I feel abandoned, empty, sick.
This is the fact of life: everybody hurts. It's a universal truth that's traced its way through all of history, through fine art, timeless literature and classic music. Consider Edward Munch's "The Scream." Consider Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Consider R.E.M.'s classic, "Everybody Hurts." (Perhaps it's a stretch to call that last one classic, but throw me a bone here; those boys from Athens know how to write a tune.)
The facts of life are the facts of life, and try as you may to avoid the facts, they are uniform in application. In the same way gravity sucks any weight downward, or energy is neither created nor destroyed in a chemical reaction, pain is a natural, unavoidable rule. Pain affects amoebas, fish, dogs, cats, and humans alike. Pain is the equal opposite of joy; it is one of the many byproducts of life.
If pain is unavoidable, if it affects us all, why does it cause so much shame? Why is it so often a hidden thing?
In the days since Coming Clean hit the shelves, I've fielded story after story of hidden pain. Good folks suffering under some weight--abuse, abandonment, self-doubt, lack of faith--confess to burying their pain, to numbing it down with some anesthetizing agent. Enter the booze. Enter the pills or porn. Enter the pointer finger down the back of the throat, tickling past the uvula. Enter the all-night benders of the occupational sort. Enter the paramour. Enter whatever, whomever, whichever.
I ain't always too smart a fella; I ain't always the most observant or attendant. But here's what I know: when we're honest with our pain, when we explore it (even while praying for relief from it), we push into the way of Jesus. Scripture puts it this way:
"Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered...." (Heb. 5:7-8)
By confronting our pain we learn obedience to the life of Jesus, and in that obedience cut a path to God. (Isn't this the promise of resurrection?) C.S. Lewis puts it this way: "We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
1. When you feel the pains of life (past or present), how do you cope? Do you make use of numbing mechanisms? List them.
2. Are you ashamed or embarrassed of your pain points? Why?
3. This week, consider calling a friend, priest, teacher, or therapist. Share your points of hidden pain with them.
4. If you’d like to discuss this prompt, along with other reflections, feel free to join the Coming Clean Insiders Group on Facebook. There, a few souls gather and discuss a range of topics, including addiction, pain, and the path to healing.
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