Faith · Mental Health · Parenting

How do you deal with pain?

On our first beautiful spring day, my two youngest kids (Camryn, 7, and Lukas, 6) went to the playground to enjoy the warmth of the sun. As we were leaving, Lukas told me his thumb hurt so I walked towards him to see what happened. If you heard his crying as I approached, you would have thought his thumb had fallen off. When I got close enough, I could see he had a tiny splinter but he wouldn’t let me touch his wrist, let alone his thumb. When we got home, we soaked it in water a bit while I told him a story from my childhood.

When I was five, my friend Katherine showed me how she crawled through the wooden gate in the playground next to her house. I followed her through, but as I did so, my body became covered in splinters. Like Lukas, I did not want my mom to take them out. She had to wait until I fell asleep because I wouldn’t sit still for her. While I was concerned about the temporary pain of having the splinters removed, my mom knew that infection was inevitable if I left the splinters in my body.

Isn’t this so often the case with our hearts and minds too?  Are there things in your life that you know need to be removed but you are too afraid of the pain of letting go? Is there an infection brewing deep inside because you are too afraid to be still?

The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still – Exodus 14:14

And again, I hear God tell me to come back to the stillness – to stop avoiding the inevitable and necessary pain that comes in the silence. The pain I need to experience, the pain that prevents my mind and heart from being infected.

I am terrible at dealing with painful emotions, both mine and others. I avoid my own pain through perfectionism, through striving, through keeping busy. Bikram yoga helps me with this. The challenge of not wiping the sweat dripping into my eyes, of staying still between postures, of focusing on my breath and not what everyone else is doing. This helps me to remember that I can be still in uncomfortable circumstances.

And God in His infinite wisdom has given me three kids, two of whom are quite emotional to help me – no force me – to deal with the painful emotions of my loved ones. I know that pain is important for growth, for healing. I want to teach my kids that feeling the pain of disappointment, sadness and fear is important, that avoiding it will just cause a larger infection to brew inside. Yet my body fights my mind when I see pain creep into their faces, hear it in their voices, and feel it creep into my body. My heart starts racing and I forget to breathe. And I want to fix it, make them feel better, make myself feel better. And if I can’t fix it, I want to run and hide – and more often than I’d like to admit, I scream for it all to stop. It’s a daily struggle, sometimes hourly (they really are very emotional!) and I fail more than I succeed. I want to teach them that the stillness is good, a place of healing, a place to sit with God and tell Him everything, a place where He can take all our pain.

And so, I’m trying to sit with them more in the pain, allowing my body to feel the pain instead of fighting it. And I’m so very thankful for God’s unending patience and grace with me through the failures. And even more, I’m thankful that He loves us so much that He died on the cross and bore all of the pain – all of the pain – that our sins caused so that we could have everlasting life.

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