"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Stay with the pain"

I was struggling with something recently, and in talking with Jesus, He told me something critical: “Stay with the pain.”

Stay with the pain.

That line comes from Fight Club from this scene. (Note: it’s an intense clip with some language—and my favorite scene of the movie.)

Jesus’ words related clearly to the struggle I was going through, but the concept of staying with the pain soon spread to so much more for me. Jesus not only related it to beauty—I’m to focus on the beauty while staying with the pain—but also began to show me it as a guide deeper into my inheritance as His child. So I asked Him—staying with the pain, does this make me more into royalty—the shieldmaiden, the queen, the life I always longed to live?

And He said yes.

Staying with the pain is about allowing the situation—the person—the struggle—the fear—to hurt. To not run away, to not “deal with it as those dead people do,” as Tyler says, but to allow it to cut right through your heart and drive you to your knees, and to numb it with nothing. Not people, food, busyness. Not devotions, church, rituals. To anesthetize it with nothing, and to entirely, completely feel the expanse of the pain.

Part of my difficulty in staying with pain—whether it comes through fear, grief, insecurity, confusion—was that I felt I was a failure, that I had screwed up somewhere along the road. Somehow I’d taken the wrong path (or been too weak? too sinful?), and now, the pain was driving me back to holiness; it was a sign I was to fix something and fix it now. Do something. Don't stay here. Pain is dangerous.

But then Jesus said, no, just stay with the pain. Just learn to feel it, to not run, and to let Me touch your heart. It’s all right to feel pain. Henri Nouwen said much the same thing:

It is important that you dare to say with your pain and allow it to be there. You have to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there. The pain you suffer now is meant to put you in touch with the place where you most need healing, your very heart…

Dare to stay with your pain and trust in God’s promise to you.

In this age of medicine, of Vicodin and aspirin and Tylenol, we have little concept of what to do with pain other than to try to stop it. But what if the pain meant something? What if shutting it out destroyed its lesson, its beauty, its transformation? At the end of the Fight Club scene of staying with the pain, there’s one last line: “It’s only after we’ve lost everything we’re free to do anything.” Stay with the pain. Lose everything.

Jesus, take everything.

Stay with the pain.
Photographer unknown

And breathe. Quiet my mind. Breathe in God. Hear His voice, walk with Him. Breathe. And breathe. And stay present. Think of Jesus, always of Him. Always come back to your breath and His presence. Stay present in His presence… always. My mind rushes and whips around in a panic, all the time, develop the internal discipline of the royal. Breathe into the insanity, the rush, the frenetic panic of what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed and done and proved—and stay with the pain. Don’t rush out or into it. Be present.

This ability to handle pain, the staying present—this is the same feeling I get when I think of the shieldmaiden.

That’s what the Lord is after.

Stay with the pain.