There’s an old adage that came out around the time of the movie, “Remember The Titans?” You’ve heard it before, I’m sure. “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” That quote was put on countless posters…usually with a body builder lifting like a million pound weight or something. I’ve always found that saying to be full of truth, but hard to swallow still. And typically, I’ve applied it mostly to my exercise routine. Here lately, though, I’ve been thinking about how true it is in other painful circumstances- whether they’re a matter of the body or the heart.
Last Thursday, I got myself all dolled up to go plop myself at my favorite local Coffee Shop for a few hours to catch up on some writing before I was to attend the grand opening of a gallery exhibit featuring a world-renowned comic book artist at our local University. My husband had been waiting for months in anticipation for this event and I was so excited to be able to accompany him and admire the artistry while meeting the artist. None of that happened, though.
With my laptop bag full of my necessary writing equipment and some books that are in my rotation at the moment, I locked the front door. Like always, I propped the storm dorm on my backside while I wrestled with the pesky, age worn lock to the main door. I pulled the key out and turned around to walk to my car, bound for a much-needed change of scenery. But the excruciating pain in my heel had me doubled over. Trying to pull myself together, I thought, “Ok, this has happened before. It’s just a scrape, Emily. Suck it up.” But then, I looked down between my skinny jeans and sparkly shoes. There was a 2-inch gash oozing blood.
Realizing I probably had an emergency on my hands, I willed myself to go back inside and catch a closer look. It was such an awkward angle that I could not tell precisely if it was cut to the bone or muscle or what. All I could tell was it was deep. I dragged myself upstairs in search of antiseptic. Then I realized I might soon pass out and no one would know because I was home alone. Not knowing how much time I might have before hitting the floor, I took a picture and texted it to my husband with the attached message, “Call me!” I was a brave little soldier until I heard his voice. Then I broke down into hysterical sobs. He had carpooled to work that day. I felt utterly alone and scared. (I also started questioning whether I should start wearing one of those life alert things that old people wear around their necks).
David managed to wrangle our landlord- a nurse- to come check the severity of the wound, my sister-in-law to come give me a ride to urgent care, and a ride home for himself. My landlord confirmed that I did need stitches. So, my sister-in-law rushed me to urgent care, where the twice-trained doctor (once in the Philippines and once in the U.S.) told me that it truly was a miracle that the cut did not go any deeper. I had barely missed my fascia- the thin layer protecting the skin from the muscle. From what I understand, I would have had to endure reconstructive surgery if that had been penetrated. Niiiiicccceeeeee. My husband arrived at the clinic, relieving my sister-in-law, and I lay on the table for about an hour or so while the doctor sewed me up with TWELVE stitches!
Instead of our fun evening at the art gallery, we picked up a pizza and my meds and headed home…right back to the scenery I was trying to escape for a little while.
I’ve had to baby my foot quite a bit so as not to rip the stitches apart and cause bigger issues. So, for the most part, we’ve stayed in and I’ve been stretched out on the couch with my foot propped up on pillows surrounded by ice while resting.
As a person who works in a community of one all the time, more solitude was not really on my bucket list that day. But it was what God required of me and allowed this moment of physical pain to happen for.
While reflecting upon my recent injury, I’ve come to realize a few things…
1) I don’t always like to ask for help, but pain requires that I do.
I was so afraid when my little accident happened. Almost equal to my fear, was my embarrassment. I just wasn’t quite sure if it was as serious as it seemed. I would have felt like crawling under a rock if the doctor looked at my heel and said it would mend itself with a band-aid. But the fact of the matter was, I was hurt and needed help. And it mattered that I hurt. I’m so used to being the rescuer that I resist being rescued with every ounce of Irish stubbornness in my being. But more often than I’d care to admit, I do need rescuing myself.
I’m a fixer by nature. When someone or something is broken or hurting, I just want to fix it. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I’m able to tangibly help. But when I’m the one in need of help, it makes me feel powerless and week. Do you know what, though? That’s just what I am by myself: powerless and week. Even when I’m able to help someone else, I don’t have all the power and strength required to do so. This independent chick is actually quite dependent for help.
Too often, I tend to bury my need for help with shame and hope that it works itself out with time. I should in fact be using a megaphone to shout that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Each piece of pain -bodily or immaterial- that comes my way is an opportunity for The Healer to step in and show how powerful His strength is. No matter how small or large the hurt, it counts. My weakness and need for help provides all the more room for Him to show how strong and helpful He is.
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NKJV)
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV)
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.” (Psalm 107:28 NIV)
2) God knows our pain is coming and protects, prepares, and provides for what He allows in our lives.
Before I even walked out the door that morning…before I was born…before the universe was created, God knew I was going to get my heel caught on that strip of metal. With His mighty right hand, He protected my foot from getting cut deep enough for reconstructive surgery. He provided money pay for the co-pay at Urgent Care that day. He provided a ride for me, encouragement and support from friends and family, no wait at the clinic, a good doctor, modern medicine, and enough money for a pizza to eat for dinner that night.
He knows what we need before we know we need it. In every situation. Not just the vocal pains and needs we have, but the inward, silent pings of hurt as well. I must admit that there have been other occasions where He has stretched me a little…no a lot…further than I would prefer. But His hand has left fingerprints of preparation in my heart, protection from far worse circumstances, and provision for my every need.
I know this and can claim it boldly because among His promises are these truths:
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NIV)
3) Sometimes, God allows things to happen to force us into true rest
As I lay there with my foot propped up on the couch, I became aware that I was much more weary than I realized. Weary from many events over the last few years, tired from some new twists and turns to the calendar, and a bit worn by battles of the heart.
Though the pain from my foot had me grounded, pain from life was louder. My mom always says that rest is the best medicine. In spite the fact that resting is a battle for me as I try to live up to the meaning of my name (diligent one), it is so necessary for healing.
I bet I’m not the only one who avoids resting. I think often we keep moving so we’ll be distracted from what’s really going on. I find myself caught in that trap quite a bit. There are times, though, that God steps in and allows something to bring us to a pause…whether through a halting screech or a subtle lull…with the express purpose for us to rest and recuperate physically, but mostly in our souls.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” (Isaiah 30:15a NIV)
“…He grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2b NIV)
4) Pain can either take up residence to devour your body and soul or it can leave when God’s strength moves in.
I’ve seen pain eat people alive. I’ve seen pain disappear from people who WERE being eaten alive. Both physical pain and inward pain.
I can’t help but think of my dad. His body was ravaged by cancer. Talk about pain. I’ve never experienced an ounce of the pain he did. That goes for physical pain and the pain of the heart as well. But let me tell you something. I’ve never seen the strength of The Almighty manifested more in such a person either.
Weak as water, and nothing more than a bag of bones with paper-thin skin and a soul more alive than ever, my dad used some of his final breaths to preach the most powerful sermon God ever gave him. Do you know what it was on? The breath of God. That’s what. He preached on the story of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more powerful moment of God’s strength through the weakest of weak than when my dad cried out in the midst of his greatest pain and said, “Breathe on me, breath of God!”
And shortly thereafter, God’s strength kicked the cancer right on out and made him more alive than ever.
I’ve seen people eaten with the cancers of bitterness, hate, hurt feelings, pride, and other poisons lay them down and replace them with sweet aromas of gratitude, joy, understanding, humility, and love when God’s strength moved in.
No matter how large and powerful the hurt, The Healer is always stronger. With His potency, pain is overshadowed.
“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” (Ezekiel 37:9-10 NIV)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
5) Pain will leave often a scar or a limp to remind you of the story of how you handled it.
This foot of mine is going to have a good-sized scar once it’s healed. I’ve got a handful of those scattered throughout my outward shell, but I’ve got too many to count inside my heart.
Scars are markers of healing. Each time I look at one of my visible bound up wounds, I am reminded of the grace of God and the stories that accompany each mark.
There are still twinges of pain that come from old wounds. But the longer I live, the more I am healed. Each recollection of hurt in my heart is met with the truth that Christ is strong enough to heal whatever it may be.
“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NIV)
What has you in pain? What has you weak? Broken relationships? Crushed dreams? Uncertain Tomorrows? Wayward Children? Sickness? Loneliness? Grief?
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for my pain to turn into weakness leaving the body (and soul). The only way that can happen is for someone to be strong enough and powerful enough to make it go away.
When we are weak with pain and fright, all the more room is available for Him to show up, be strong, and leave nothing but a gracious story-filled scar of healing.
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me.
Jesus is the only one who can turn a bad thing like pain into a good thing.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9