Monday, April 4, 2016

The possibility of pain

I recently spent some time in Florida.  The beaches, the sun, the warmth, the sand, the amount of books I was able to read, was good for my soul.  I was able to spend some time with my younger sister who lives down there and I managed to sneak some time in with a friend who happens to live in the same city as my sister.  It was amazing.  I've now been plunged back into Michigan's bipolar spring (you would think I would be used to this having lived here my entire life) and am missing the afternoons spent outside with a book in hand.

But I had a conversation with my friend while I was down in Florida and it's been running around my head now for the last week and a half.  So I decided to come here and share what God's been impressing on my heart as I've been reflecting.

To understand the context of this conversation, you have to know what my life has been like over the last 5 months.  I'm going to give you the cliff notes version, okay?

In early November, right before my birthday, the guy I was dating broke up with me.  There were some circumstances surrounding the break up that made me question the timing.  We had a couple conversations and I told him that I believed God was telling me to fight for him.  And I did.  For 3.5 months.  Until it became crystal clear that I could stop fighting and move on.  So about 1.5 months ago I started reentering life and truly enjoying every moment again.  There's a lot more details I'm obviously leaving out, but that's not the main point of this post.  Basically you need to know, I wasn't expecting the break-up and felt blind-sided.  It sucked. It hurt. It was painful.  But can I share something?  God is really good at this healing thing.

Why did you need to know this?  Because this was the conversation that my friend and I were having. But it was her comment about all of this that made me pause and has caused me to continue processing over the past week or so.  Her comment was about how no one saw this coming and wondering how we keep it from happening again in the future.

And while we talked about different ways that we can be discerning about who we are in a relationship with, the answer that I kept coming back to is that we can't.  If we are truly looking to gain any sort of close relationship with anyone, a friend, a family member, a potential significant other, we open ourselves to the possibility of pain, of being hurt.  It's going to happen.  We're humans.  We hurt each other.  And while we can be discerning in relationships, we're not perfect.  Caring about anyone opens you to the possibility of pain.

What we do with that pain is incredibly important though.

Are we trying to quiet the hurt and pain with something that the world offers?  Or are we running to Jesus?  Because he gets it.  He so gets relational pain.  And that's really what I was struck with over the last couple of weeks.

If anyone understands the pain of a relationship rejection, it's God.

He created us in the Garden of Eden because it gave him pleasure.  He created us for a relationship with him.  But we rebelled.  We decided that we knew best.  And our relationship with God was fractured. And it caused God's heart pain.  By creating us he had opened himself up to the possibility of rejection, and we followed through with that rejection quite well.

But that's not the end of the story.  Because God wanted a restored relationship with us.  So he had a plan.  A plan that would cost him so much.  He sent his son.  And the response of the people to the son? Rejection.  To the point that they nailed him to the cross and killed him.  But I am so thankful for what Easter means. Because Jesus didn't stay dead. He conquered death and sin and made a way for us to once again have a relationship with God.  Yet, in doing that, God is still incredibly vulnerable.  He has opened himself up to rejection once again.  He will never force a relationship on anyone.  We have to choose to come to him.  And the choice of people to not have a relationship with him, breaks his heart.

God understands pain in relationships.

And who better to comfort us when we experience pain in our relationships?

Because here's what I think God also understands: By opening ourselves to others and the possibility of pain, we are also opening ourselves to the possibility of joy, and laughter, and love, and hope.  Without the possibility of pain, what meaning is there in any of these other things?  What do we have to compare them to?

What is a life full of acquaintances but no real meaningful relationships?

Please know my heart.  I am by no means saying to stay in friendships and dating relationships and other relationships that continually and consistently cause you pain and hurt. People who hurt you with no regard to the pain they continually inflict may need to play a much lesser role in your life, if they even play one at all.

What I am saying is this:

In any close relationship, pain is possible. Where we take that pain and what we do with it, matters. And Jesus gets it.  So cling to him.

And can I tell you something else?  Pain has a purpose.  The pain that we experience has a way of bringing us to the end of ourselves. To running to Jesus.  To being made more like him.  Pain has a way of growing us like nothing else.

Were there several months of the last 5-6 months that were incredibly painful and hard? Yes.  But looking back, I wouldn't change them. Because I see where I am now.  I see what God has done in my life.  Would I have ever chosen the pain of those months before going through them?

Nope. Not at all.  No way, Jose.  Not in a million years. (I can say this a bunch more ways if you'd like).

But I wouldn't change them.  I wouldn't change the nights spent in pain and heartache where I knew the only place to turn was Jesus.  And I wouldn't change the joy and hope and life that came at the end of the pain.  Because it was that much sweeter and more meaningful because of the pain. I would never choose pain.  But I am thankful for the way God uses painful events and circumstances to make me more like him.

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