I’ve been prompted to write about pain ever since I got home from the World Race in 2013. I remember sitting on the beach with my parents when “a blog hit me” and I scrambled to jot it down on the inside cover of a Kingdom Journeys book. I wrote a short article on the topic of pain. I never did publish it, and I never did find the book I wrote it in. (hah!)
But I remember what I wrote. I wrote about how we don’t talk about pain. And not broken arm / sprained ankle kinda pain, but deep down pain: emotional and spiritual pain. I wrote how I think we are conditioned to not talk about it.
I had to look back to my old World Race blog to see what prompted this. Immediately, I remembered. One of my final months on the Race was in Rwanda — a country that inspired me deeply, because they embrace, acknowledge, and talk about their deepest, darkest pain as a nation — and they do it openly.
After being home for just a few weeks, I was unsettled with the stark contrast of how we don’t talk about pain. It’s like we aren’t supposed to. We act like it’s so awkward and uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say or how to deal with our or other people’s pain. Oftentimes, we say something stupid that minimizes or dismisses the pain… ’cause we’d rather they just not bring it up in the first place. Right? WRONG. I can’t stand that.
In 2015, I remember traveling to a close friend’s wedding in gorgeous Antigua, Guatemala — which barely resembles a developing world country. On one of the pre-wedding days, a big group of us traveled to a day-spa an hour outside the city. There were lots of friends of friends on the bus ride and people were going through the get-to-know-you chit chat: life in the big city, their business initiatives, houses they were buying, weddings they were planning. Then we drove by a ‘tent city’ and conversation slowed as the sight of dramatic poverty polluted the view for my new vacationing friends.
One girl asks, horrified: “Do people LIVE in there?”
Me: “Yep, they do…”
She quickly shields her eyes with her hand and says, “I can’t look! It makes me feel so bad!”
…hmmm, didn’t expect that reaction… “Why?”
A little annoyed by my question, she quickly replies something about guilt and not wanting to feel bad about her lifestlye and changes the subject.
That reaaally stuck with me. I don’t think we are supposed to shield our eyes from pain of the world. We are supposed to feel the discomfort and then A) Do something about it and/or B) Be more grateful for what we have
But the main thing that bugged me was the unwillingness to feel the pain. Just one year prior, I had visited homes just like those in Honduras. I sat in one of those tin shanty houses and cried with a mom whose teenage son had decided to join up again in the dangerous gang-life that she thought he had left behind. I couldn’t do anything but sit, cry, and pray with her in that tiny, dirty little home. But she was encouraged by willingness to sit with her in her pain — and I was blessed by the experience.
I think there’s always something God wants to show us, if we are willing to press in to pain. But it seems like we’ve been taught that it’s something better left swept under the rug. Or avoided altogether.
Just today I was reading about our ‘Millennial Generation’ and how we were protected from pain and surrounded with prosperity growing up, and that’s caused us to be super idealistic and perhaps ill-equipped for the rough journey of life. A friend wrote a short article on the topic and this line really resonated with me: “One day, hardship will awaken them to resilience they don’t know they have yet.”
I think she’s right. A lot of us DID grow up as a generation shielded from hardship. My dad told me stories of how he would take my dead goldfish to the pet store and ask them for “a fish that looked just like this one” and h replace it before I got home from school! 🙂 My dad shared with me, as an adult, that he had been exposed to so much death when he was young that he wanted to protect me from it.
As I am sure you know by now, last summer Seth and I lost a baby. The pain and the sting of death was unlike anything I ever experienced. It was particularly miserable for my parents to watch me go through it. But God used it to teach me about the depth of my faith, His trust-worthiness, and the depth of character and resilience that comes from walking through hardship.
If we can learn to really sit in the pain of the world — and the pain of our own journeys — I know God will use those experiences in great and powerful ways.
I don’t intend to talk to explain why we suffer, but you can see my father in law’s recent post about that here, but I just wanted to open up this conversation on pain. It’s a topic that’s drawn me some really worth-while places. It’s what resonated with me immediately about Beauty for Ashes (B4A), the women’s ministry I helped build at Adventures. In B4A we teach women to face their pain. Share their stories. To get to the real stuff. The raw honest stuff. The stuff that really matters. And it’s what resonates with me still about the writing of Glennon Doyle Melton, Brenee Brown, and even Emily McDowell’s greeting cards (a few pictured below).
That’s why I like to write about the hard stuff. I think talking about the hard stuff is what makes us real.
What do you think about talking about pain?
Do you think it’s SO awkward and uncomfortable to talk about your own or someone else’s pain? What has been your experience?
I’m sure this is the beginning of a much longer conversation.
Cheers. To the hard stuff. 😉