Pain comes in all shapes, sizes, relationships, circumstances and seasons of life. One of my all-time favorite movie lines says it this way:
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” —Dread Pirate Roberts (Wesley), The Princess Bride
Even if we’ve faced a lot of hurt in life, none of us probably believes all life is pain, but we’ve certainly lived long enough to know there’s a lot of it!
Last August, after an unexpected abdominal surgery (that led to a whole different kind of emotional surgery), physical pain of the “please pass the Percoset” variety became a daily experience for me.
But one day, a few months after surgery, the pain stopped. I could bend and stoop and tie my shoes. I didn’t hurt anymore. In fact I didn’t feel anything anymore! Which was actually infuriating because the wound was healing (read: itchy!) and there was no relief . . . and how do you scratch an itch in a patch of numbness?
Then came the second kind of pain.
Just this week, my surgical scar began to hurt. A lot. It ached when I awoke, when I moved certain ways. I’ve been getting back into running, and it hurt like the dickens by about mile two. I wondered if the pain meant the wound was in need of attention.
It did, but not the way I expected.
Turns out this second pain is less familiar to a gal who’s used to muscling through brokenness: restoration. Healing. My body is regaining nerve function, which means I can now feel the wound. . . and that healing is happening.
Healing can hurt too, friend. Sometimes more than wounding, because it requires a measure of hope. Of trust in life and process and the possibility of better.
Healing pain can surprise us, knock the wind right out of us. It can disorient us and leave us asking Why God? Why me? Why more pain in this already painful life?
How we know our pain means we’re healing:
- It aches like a workout, not a wound. You know that feeling, right? It’s the quiet burn from healthy exertion and movement. The kind where, yeah, you may be a little sore, but it’s okay because it’s a productive soreness.
- It evokes a different kind of tears. They’re not the soul-ripping kind of tears we feel in wounding pain. They’re the relief-filled tears of peace and rest. Tears that flow from a place in us that somehow knows the cancer is gone and health’s restored.
- It drives us to help others heal too. Sometimes in that same situation, and sometimes generally in the human experience. It gives us a centered confidence only gained through what we thought we’d never survive, but did. It drives us to be more present with others as they find their way through their own healing.
Healing hurt is the kind where we realize what Paul may have meant when he said,
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” —Philippians 4:12-13
Wounding pain creates need in us. Restoring pain builds us back to plenty. Both are uncomfortable, but it’s that second kind of pain which shifts us past empathy and into mercy in this hurting world.
Have you ever been in a painful place that you realized was a restorative kind of pain? What good things in your life today began with that?
Linking up today with Suzie Eller on #LiveFree Thursday.