Tag Archive: pain


Will You Forgive Me, Please?

I’m going to tell you a story. This story involves one of my sisters, but it’s not about her. It’s really about me. Because I’m the one telling it, and she’s not here to share her side of the story (which undoubtedly differs from mine), please remember that I’m talking from my perspective and how things affected me. I’d leave her out altogether if I could, but I haven’t been able to come up with a clever way to do that while still communicating effectively about what became a profound experience in my life.

I am a pretty competent person. It’s not that I know everything or have some super power that makes me capable of succeeding at whatever I try. It’s has more to do with my dislike of turning out work of poor quality. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try,” and I’d add that if I’m going to do it, I might as well bother to do it well. I don’t even have to like whatever it is to do a good job of it, and I don’t have to know how to do it. I’ll learn, teaching myself if necessary. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember.

I tend to be right. Some of that is merely accuracy combined with a habit of choosing my words with care. Some of that is conscience. I need to be morally right and try to keep from wrongdoing.  I care about justice in general. Been like that all of my life, too.

I’m not always the most humble or self-effacing person you’ll ever meet, either.  I’d like to think that I’m less arrogant than I used to be, but the truth is that I wasn’t particularly aware of how my pride was affecting me then, and it’s entirely possible I have blind spots aplenty still.

Throw all of that together – competency, conscience, a strong sense of justice coupled with outrage over injustice, and pride – in me, and you get a driven, stubborn, very pigheaded person who would rather drown than give up the ball to the other team. Playing water basketball as a freshman at summer camp did nearly get me drowned. One of the other team felt sorry for me and opted to try picking me up and shaking me. She didn’t get the ball, either. Anyway, get me to the point where I’m convinced I’m right, and I can become intransigent.  I won’t bend, buckle, or back down.

And proud of it.

I suppose you can imagine that this habit of mine occasionally caused problems. My relationship with my sister, who I’ll call P in this post, is a good illustration. P is a little younger than me, so the poor kid got to “enjoy” the same sort of home life I did. It was tough. It was really tough. We all dealt with it differently. I was quite the prig. My dad once called me something like the Pious with all the dark and twisted religious shades to it, and the comment was not completely wrong. P dealt with it in other ways. We butted heads a lot, starting young and continuing into adulthood. My dad leaving the family didn’t magically make everything better. We had all learned bad habits and lessons, and we had to learn new things and norms after he left. Learning, the process of it, is rife with mistakes, yes?

P and I had many, many differences of opinion. There was a lot of conflict, and it frustrated and hurt me. I felt like she was being very unfair to me. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried – it was not enough. I couldn’t make her happy with me or what I was doing no matter how nice, tactful, fillintheblank I tried to be. It didn’t improve my attitude or hurt feelings that I thought some of what she did was wrong and/or unlikely to help her get what she’d told me she wanted. I felt as though she twisted my words to use them against me and heard poison where I’d meant only and striven mightily to infuse kindness. I didn’t feel like I could trust her to look out for me. Things were getting pretty sour, and I was getting very tired of what I perceived to be me doing a lot of bending over backwards to avoid giving further offense. I was angry about that.

I had done everything I knew. I had tried to the best of my ability to work things out and improve the relationship. I had failed. It sucked. It was miserable. We were kinda, sorta not really speaking to each other, and I felt grief. She’s my sister. I love her. My guts were twisting into a knot to be on such bad terms with her.

So, in the middle of this confusion of feeling and attitude, I hear something from God that I don’t like . He tells me to show up at her house, ask her for her side of the story, listen humbly, receive, and then ask for her forgiveness. That was actually frightening. It was vulnerable. P hadn’t exactly been the safest person in my life. Her words weren’t safe. I didn’t want to go.

I did, though. I showed up, she was home, and I listened to what she had to say for maybe a couple of hours. I can’t remember for sure. It was a lengthy conversation, though. Somewhere in there, I gave her a simple apology. “I’m sorry. Would you forgive me, please?” No defensiveness, no excuses, no guardedness hidden in justifications, no feedback from me toward her – nothing self-protective. I simply and unreservedly owned the truth that I had hurt her (even if I didn’t mean to do it, even if only through ignorance, I had still caused her pain) and asked her to forgive me.

We parted ways on somewhat better terms, having expressed a desire to have a better relationship with each other. It hasn’t happened yet. Within a year, things had broken down completely, and at her request, I have not spoken to her since.

What was the point? Why did I have to go through all of that? Every once in a while, I roll it over again, and now seems to be the latest once in a while.

Why? What good did that do? I can’t answer that for her. I have no idea if that conversation and my request for forgiveness did anything for her.

I guess the why has a lot to do with why I went. I didn’t go for me. I didn’t go thinking it would make any difference in how my sister and I related. I didn’t even do it for her to “help” her or anything. I went because I believed that was what God was asking me to do. I obeyed and trusted Him with everything I had invested and everything I feared. It may not have helped my relationship with my sister, but it did change some things in how I related to God. It changed me. I might talk about that more in another post, but for now – have a good night.

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A Scrap

Hoarse screamed my soul in battle,
Mortal and waged with flame.
Fire and ice fight for dominion
Twisting both triumph and shame.

Blessings Found in Brokenness

In my last post, I talked about my revelation that God is truly good. That sort of interrupted all my yakking about brokenness, but I think it was a timely interruption. When God asked me what I would if I stayed broken, I’d already realized that He was good. I had a confidence and trust in His willingness to care for me that absolutely helped me to consider His question with less defensiveness than I had before. Please note that I did not say “no defensiveness.” I was hardly free from it. However, I was much more willing to listen. God is not out to get us. He is good. Brokenness: my lack of perfection, my deformed limp, my pain, my weakness – it might not be the end of the world.

As a matter of fact, it isn’t. In some ways, it’s been good for me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that God has worked good out of it for me. I could quote some Scripture (Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” with its claim that God’s “grace is sufficient” certainly leaps to mind!) to slap a coat of religious paint on, but I’d rather just tell you about what I know and am learning about living with a limp.

The funny thing is that there is some freedom in limping. I didn’t expect that. For instance, I don’t struggle as much with pride. Neither do I struggle as much with being afraid of finding pride within me. Both of those battles consumed a lot of effort. I’m a gifted individual, and the pitfall of pride correlates well with giftedness. So does the (sometimes false) accusation of pride. I used to get so tied up trying to figure out where my real problem was so I could fix it. Thing is that a lot of my pride was tied up in my “perfection” compared to other people. Having to accept my own brokenness and let God’s grace be sufficient slapped that one down hard. It’s great!

I learned more sympathy. This would be a no brainer, right? It seems like learning to accept, instead of rejecting and fleeing and shunning, my own pain would help me to be more kind to others experiencing hurt and disappointment.

The world became less black and white. One of my friends gave me an interesting tidbit about abuse survivors. After making it through a world of overly simplified values (like, kill or be killed; fight or flight; fight/flight or be thrashed; bad people or good people; it’s safe or it’s not – I’m sure you get the idea), former victims don’t know that the world is full of greys and even color. It’s not all an either/or proposition. I don’t know if that’s true of every abuse survivor, but it’s certainly something I’ve seen in myself and in my family. Where it can cause lots of trouble is in relationships. It’s a rare person who is an angel or a demon. Most folk are quite the mix, and I didn’t assess that well, not even in myself. It made me unnecessarily rigid, and I lacked grace. Enter ‘“My grace is sufficient,” right?

I am more able to live with uncertainty, which goes hand in hand with the world not seeming as black and white. The unknown is not as terrifying. Nor do I assume it to be populated only with bad things. Good things must be there, too. I have more hope.

One reason for that is I learned that brokenness is not necessarily pathetic or despicable. It’s not a disqualifier. God doesn’t hate me because I’m broken. People don’t always deal well with it, but God doesn’t have that problem. Although there frequently is pain involved, the pain is not a disqualifier, either. God still loves me even when I hurt. Brokenness is not leprosy or cause for quarantine. It is not contagious. Ain’t nobody perfect, folks. We all be broken.

I am more able to learn. Rigidity doesn’t lend itself well to the acquisition of new information, experiences, or opinions. Even when a person tries hard, rigidity greatly complicates the learning process.

I always have someplace to go. Brokenness cannot keep me from God and His provision, instruction, and comfort.

I’ve learned more patience. Please note that I do not claim to be a patient person! But I’ve had to learn some, because limping precludes getting anywhere fast.

It’s helped me to forgive. Oh, my, that’s a good one! That’s freedom! Once pride lost its grip, and I accepted that I, too, am broken, I realized that my dad and I have that in common. He’s broken, too. He took things to extremes that I have not, but that’s no reason for me to feel like I’m somehow better than him. I am not without sin. I am not perfect. Accepting that at an emotional level definitely helped free from my burning desire to start throwing rocks. Of course I was angry with my dad. I should have been. He did not treat me well, but living out my life hating his guts and everything about him was a horrible way to live, because, truthfully, I have more in common with him than brokenness. For example, writing is not my mom’s thing. It was most definitely my dad’s.

Happy Independence Day!

Getting back to brokenness, more brokenness, and Isaiah 53, I found out something interesting about Isaiah 53. I’d been told that passage was a prophecy concerning the coming of Christ. I can’t say I’d ever investigated that, so I thought maybe before I went blathering on about how it is about Christ, maybe I should check and see if that was anything more than my imagination or a belief held by a weird minority. It seems to be a pretty widely held belief in Christianity, so – whew! – all good there. What was interesting was this bit from Wikipedia: “Isaiah 53, taken from the Book of Isaiah, is the last of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant.” I like that phrase, not in a “it warms the cockles of my heart” sort of way, but as in it seems significant. It seems applicable. It seems relevant to what God has been teaching me about brokenness. I want to to think it over a bit more, but since I’m talking about Isaiah 53 now, it’s worth mentioning. Guess I better move along to Isaiah 53.

One thing that stands out immediately is that this man is going through some hell. His life is not at all easy. He’s the “man of sorrows” who is also described as “rejected,” “crushed,” “wounded,” “afflicted,” “oppressed,” and other painful adjectives. I don’t know about you, but when I think about how I want my life to be described, words like these are not on my list. They make for a hard life.

To make it even more difficult for him, “we esteemed him not.” The poor guy didn’t even get any sympathy. Nobody cared that his life was hard. I guess he just wasn’t… attractive enough. His life was hard and full of troubles. It wasn’t pretty. He wasn’t somebody other people wished to emulate. Instead, folks assumed that he was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” People were pretty sure that not even God liked him. The man was cursed.

And you know what? None of it was his fault. His situation, full of the bitterness of grief made more heavy by the pettiness of people, was not his fault. He “had done no violence.” He was an honest man, an innocent man. He didn’t deserve the pain he experienced, the contempt he faced, or the death he died.

And “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him…”

What?

He’s innocent. He’s righteous. It’s well established that the ones who merit punishment (and the suffering servant sure seemed to have been punished!) are the wicked. The guilty are the ones who have earned wrath and hard things. The innocent, the righteous, the just, the downtrodden… aren’t they supposed to be exalted, glorified, comforted, and otherwise cared for by the God Who is their provider and defender?

What’s going on here? Why is this okay or desirable? “It’s not fair,” would be what my emotions like to indignantly scream when I hear about situations where my sense of fair play gets offended. This would definitely be one of them. Why, God? Why is this okay?

Tell you one thing. Why is it all about me? Why do I read something like this and get offended? Why is my sense of fair play so important? Why do I instinctively, without the least thought, make it all about me and my values?

Until next time!

No Escape from Brokenness??

Previously I’d talked about my dissatisfaction with my own brokenness, and I left off at a point where God asked me to consider the “what if” of limping for the rest of my life. It was a profound question. What I wanted was out.  I wanted to escape the pain and struggle in my life. I wanted away from my problems, the things that I believed were to blame for my pain and anguish. I just didn’t want to hurt any more. I believed God could do all that for me. He healed that lady who bled for 12 years, right? Blind folks were seeing, dead people were living, and all kinds of crazy stuff happened. Why not me? Why couldn’t I have a similar miracle, a new life? What the heck was God doing, asking me an awful question like that?

By that time, I knew Him better than when I was a suspiciously minded teenager. I actually knew that love was worthwhile and believed Him to be good and to have my best interests in mind, so I didn’t throw a drink in His face and tell Him where to go. Instead, I thought about what He was saying. While I still upset about the question, at this point, I was also curious. It’s a good thing that I’m not a cat, and that God loves me. I’ve noticed that He frequently catches me by pricking my curiosity.

First off, He wasn’t telling me, “No way, Jose.” It was not a denial of my request. It was important for me to realize that. I’m sure I’d have thrown a more impressive temper tantrum, otherwise.

So He’s good, and He’s looking out for me, and He works things out for those who love Him, which ruled out crazy whim or caprice, too. He was not flexing or bullying or doing anything like that.

He’s also omniscient, right? God knows everything. If He did, that meant the questions He was asking weren’t particularly important for Him. If that was true, then they were probably more for my benefit. There was something meant for good in this situation for me. What could it be?

I thought about it. I still think about what good there could be in brokenness, and when I do, a passage that consistently springs to mind is Isaiah 53. It is well worth a thoughtful read, so I’m going to paste it in and leave you there until the next post. If you’d prefer NIV over the KJV, click on the Isaiah 53 link. Bible Gateway has many other versions, too.

Isaiah 53

King James Version (KJV)
53 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.