Tuesday Reflections: The Gift of Pain

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.)

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"What if pain, what if the thing parents try the hardest to protect their children from, was the thing your child needed most?" ~Good Morning America, July 5, 2012

Ashlyn Blocker came into this world with the pushing pain of her mother, came screaming into this world like any other new life come screaming into this world. She was wide-eyed, sweet, and as she settled into her new digs, her parents noticed her quietness. She was so quiet, in fact, that she didn't cry when she was hungry, didn't scream when diaper rash spread across her bottom. Toddling, she didn't make a peep when she fell and knocked her head against the coffee table.

It came to a head when Ashlyn was eight months old. Her doctors discovered that she had a corneal abrasion, and what should should have turned her into a throbbing, screaming mess, didn't seem to register. That's when they discovered it--Ashlyn couldn't feel pain.

CIP--Congenital Insensitivity to Pain--is a genetic defect so rare, medical professionals aren't sure how many individuals it affects. And though insensitivity to pain might seem like a evolutionary miracle, a blessing of sorts, consider this: CIP patients cannot feel the sear of a burn, the throbbing warning of appendicitis, or the crack of the broken bone. They are often unaware of their injuries, suffer infections, or otherwise succumb to treatable diseases. Their inability to feel pain is dangerous, often life-threatening.

Pain, see, is a gift.

The curse of pain is also its present. The throbbing, searing, stinging, and aching shows the locus of injury; it is indicative of the place weakness and need.

There's an analog here in the emotional and spiritual world. So many of us would rather numb the pain or otherwise not feel it. In Coming Clean, I put it this way:

"When life slides its shiv into the soft spot between two ribs, when the pain shoots through every nerve, common sense dictates that we run to the doctor or therapist. Common sense dictates that we allow them to take it out and bind our wounds. Why, then, do we so often ignore the shivs?" ~November 2

If Congenital Insensitivity to Emotional/Spiritual Pain were a thing, I'd take it, you might say. But [tweetherder text="Without pain, would you know the locus of your weakness?"]without pain, would you know the locus of your weakness?[/tweetherder] Without the emotional or spiritual pain, wouldn't the machinations of your life be robotic, unfeeling? Without sensitivity to these sorts of aches, could you enjoy the pleasures of healing and wholeness brought by a good healing-and-wholeness doctor?

Emotional and spiritual pain show us our need for treatment, show us the need for a greater physician. And it's the tenderness of this great physician that makes life worth living.

At least, that's my take.

Reflective Exercise:

1. This morning, take an inventory of your emotional and spiritual pains. Where do you feel battered, bruised, or cut by those in your life?

2. Sit in the silence and ask God to visit, to bring treatment. Do you sense anything?

3. If the pains run deep--perhaps too deep--consider calling a therapist today. Really. Do it.

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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