Friday, April 12, 2013

Steal Your Life Back

Donald Miller posed this question on his twitter yesterday, “How can the suffering you’ve experienced become an unintended blessing? What is good about the pain you’ve known?”

As I read that tweet, I thought, “I could write a blog, no make that a book, on this question.”

The problem is, so often people think the best response to pain is to ignore it, avoid it, bury it, and most importantly hide it from the rest of the world. We all tend to put a show on for the world of our perfect life, hiding our scars, and especially our gaping wounds, as much as possible, whenever possible. We think, “As long as everything looks good from the outside, I can ignore what is happening on the inside and it will just go away.” I am just as guilty of feeling and thinking this way as anyone else out there.

I am learning, however, how crippling and foolish it is to try to bury the painful things in our lives. Keeping our pain secret is like having an infection that could be cured with simple antibiotics, but we refuse to take them. Instead, we let it spread and grow until we cannot bear the symptoms any longer, and by then it is going to take a lot more than a simple pill. It becomes exhausting as it eats us away from the inside out. We end up suffering from even more things we try to hide like anxiety and depression.

When we reveal our wounds, admit our struggles, and drop the charade of perfection, only then can we begin to heal. Do we need to be careful who to reveal our pain to? Of course we do, especially at first, while the wounds are still gaping and the infection is still raging. Healing comes from sharing with those who can offer empathy and understanding, not those who are sympathetic and withdraw.

Once those open wounds begin to heal, they become scars. Our scars are beautiful. They become our strength, and they can be used to strengthen others. Our scars say to others, “You are not alone.” Sympathy says, “Oh, you poor thing, I am so sorry for you. I will never understand.” They say with genuine empathy, “I have been where you are and I know it hurts, but I am with you.”

None of our scars are exactly the same, but all of us have scars. The good comes in using our scars to help others. The good comes in being transparent, real, and authentic. The good comes when we realize that pain is a part of what binds us as humans. The good comes when we remember that God himself took on human flesh, including its pain so that he could understand and empathize with us. The good comes when we realize that by His stripes we are healed, because his scars let us know we have a God who can accept us, scars and all. Is it scary to let others see our scars? Yes. Am I completely there yet? No, but I am working on it, and I am finding my wounds healing and my scars making me stronger, more confident, and more compassionate every day as I walk the journey.