Pain: Spit or Swallow?

Pain is universal. All of us are acquainted with pain to some degree, whether it is current or past; emotional or physical. Pain exceeds language, race, continent, gender, education, and economic status.

To quote Wesley from Princess Bride: “Life IS pain, Princess. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Funny. Sad. But sort of true….We do live in a fallen world after all.

So the question isn’t whether we encounter pain in life. Because we do. All. The. Time.

But what do we do with it when pain finds us? Usually, the answer is that people fall into one of two ditches. The ditch of spitting or the ditch of swallowing. The ditch of fire or the ditch of poison. Yelling vs. stuffing. Reacting vs. repressing. Enough metaphors yet?

All of that to say, I was one of the stuffers. Nice to meet you. The scary thing is that I didn’t even know I did it until a couple of years ago. It was just so automatic. Twinge of pain = immediate stuffage. Like a giant black garbage bag that is already stuffed full, yet you know that if you squeeze your hand down the bag, you can make a little more room. For more trash. More pain. All compacted together.

I’m not sure which coping method is worse. Because being volatile has far-reaching implications, including the loss of friends and loved ones who get tired of walking on eggshells and being around a fire-breathing human. But being someone who represses pain, who compartmentalizes and crams it into some far-away closet inside their soul has devastating implications as well. The biggest being: PEOPLE DON’T KNOW. And if no one knows, including the actual person, then how on earth are they supposed to heal? At least the spitters get some of it OUT. Some relief.

What goes in, must come out, right?

That’s how I discovered I was a stuffer. One fine day, all of the compacted trash of pain decided to stage a coup. It wanted a voice. It wanted out. What was that weird feeling all of a sudden…kind of like touching my flat iron. It took a minute to register: “PAIN!” Ouch.

So what was I supposed to do with the usurpers of pain that had decided to self-liberate?

This is my favorite part of the story—the redemptive part. Because I discovered there was actually a third option. An actual solution. A way to heal. A BEAUTIFUL pathway between the two ditches of fire and poison:

SURRENDER….

It’s a Christian word, I know. Or a military term. But how does it fit into the helix of pain?

“Casting all your care on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Basically, it’s a transferring of the ownership of pain. Like selling a car. Giving God the deed to your pain. That’s what Jesus died for after all…

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be WHOLE. He was whipped so we could be HEALED” (Isaiah 53:5).

I actually like the Greek version/ word that is used in 1 Peter 5:7 because it isn’t “casting”, it’s “HURLING”. Like what a petulant child does in an argument: “Fine, TAKE it!” (as he throws the item at his sister’s head).

Like, “I can’t get this thing out of my hands quick enough, so take it God!! I’m hurling it as far away from myself as it can possibly get.”

Surrender is where you find yourself when exhaustion and desperation meet. It’s when you are just too tired to be mad anymore and when you feel like you have no more tears left to cry. It’s when you’ve tried every tool and weapon in your self-sufficiency arsenal and come up short.

S.U.R.R.E.N.D.E.R.

It’s the quiet whisper that caresses your face. It beckons you in. It smells sweet. There’s no guile, no lies, no strife, no fighting…it’s just letting go. Uncurling the clenched fist and letting HIM take your pain. Transferring it to the cross that’s been waiting there all along….

So what pain do you have? Physical? Emotional? History of abuse? What trauma has marred your life? What internal scars can no one else see?

Trust me, I KNOW pain. I’ve delved deep the last couple years into that black trashbag and pulled out a whole lot of things I had NO clue were even in there. Depression? Anxiety? Panic attacks? PTSD? I bought all those t-shirts. I remember how they looked on me.

But I’m healing. And so can you.

Surrender….

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