The Problem With Pain (Repost)


Prologue:

I was getting ready to set off typing and I felt a ‘pull’ in my spirit to go through old articles.  Only as I type right now do I understand what exactly prompted me to re-post this one.  I just said “See you later,” to my old boss and good friend as he recently tendered his resignation. It was good to have closure. It was also good to see he and his wife looking rested and at peace.  They have been through so much, serving in the ministry with us. I identified with his struggle and am very proud to know him.  Rick and Donna Ligthart are precious jewels in the crown called PASS network for life that will one day be laid at the feet of The Almighty God.  And their wisdom in knowing when to acknowledge pain and take the time to rest and recover was a powerful lesson that I needed a refresher course on.  

This is for you, my friends…my FAMILY.  We’ll see each other soon. 

 

WHEW! What a week! So much of what I had intended to write to you has been forced to the absolute back of my mind.  I was grateful to have other things to share with you, as this was not a week for me to have an original thought of my own. Such is the problem with pain. It can be a most destructive, distractive, emotionally displacing experience.  By the same token, experiencing pain can be a learning experience and bring things into a corrective order, if we let it.

Enduring pain may cause you to lose your objectivity and sense of perspective. It can make you overly sensitive to pain in other areas. Where, in any other case, you would have been able to bear a minor injury, when you have prolonged pain in one place, it can make all pain anywhere else unbearable.

I suppose it is important to have a healthy respect for pain and a balanced tolerance for it. When pain is initially felt, it can tell you where something is wrong and needs to be looked into.  When the pain is felt severely, it can be completely debilitating. When you can endure what some consider to be more than your share, you are considered strong.  When you fold quickly under the pressure of pain, people call you names like, ‘pansy,’ or ‘wuss’.

I have been told that I have an abnormally high tolerance for pain. It was a compliment of sorts. Doctors have marveled at my ability to function in the face of several medical anomalies…a triumph of my will to live, so to speak. By the same token, that tolerance for pain has forced me to endure things that could have been corrected much sooner had I acknowledged that pain earlier and sought the help of others far more knowledgeable in the sources of my pain.

I said all of that to explain to you that this past week I had a rupture. It was very painful, totally inconvenient and a little messy.  I was very grateful that there weren’t an awful lot of people around (I HATE to make a scene, even in injury). My fantastic sons were present the entire time. They were patient and calm. They didn’t waste words attending to me as they kept me from collapsing, helping into a seat. One, held me close as I cried in agony. The other, went to look for help and did his best to stay calm.

It was fortunate that an experienced professional who knew me well, happened by and I had the presence of mind to speak out. She listened carefully, assessed the situation and determined that it was the result of enduring a pain longer than I should have without seeking out help sooner.  She prescribed a treatment and told my sons to take me home to rest. 

After taking my treatment and sleeping soundly for a while, I awoke, taking some time to think about what had really happened.  The event that caused the rupture was not really the problem. If I had treated the underlying problem as soon as I began to feel the pain (instead of ‘toughing it out’), the incident could have been completely avoided. The straw that broke the camel’s back would have been a mere pin prick in comparison. 

Now, I bet you’re not even wondering whether or not this rupture was physical.  

I can honestly tell you it’s usually easier to deal with physical pain.  It’s easier to identify physical injuries (for the most part). With a bruise, a gash or a broken bone¸ you can immediately do things to reduce the swelling, prevent infection and set the bone to restore itself. But, even in those physical instances, many people who have just learned to endure pain would wait until the absolute last minute to inconvenience themselves or others with restorative measures. In the long run, it makes you more of an inconvenience than if you had dealt with the pain when it was small enough to treat easily.

Whether it’s a splinter imbedded in our skin or a word spoken out of season imbedded in our soul…let’s take the time to acknowledge the pain. Take the pain to someone who can help identify the source of the pain and take measures to remove it.  Sometimes that’s a doctor. Sometimes that’s a pastor, a mentor or a trusted friend. Let’s learn to take better care of ourselves, shall we?  

Just Let Me LOOK at You!


“Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face. There to sing forever of His saving grace…”

There is something to be said about the anticipation of getting to Heaven.  Streets of Gold; Beloved family members; Heroes of Bible History; All of these things bring hope and add to the draw of living in a way that would secure our arrival.

But the real attraction of Heaven is the opportunity to see the face of God.  To meet the deep, entreating gaze of the One who took on the form of man to bring about our ultimate deliverance.

It is that magnificent face that is our topic of conversation today.  We catch glimpses of it when we take the time to invite His presence into our daily lives. We are also beneficiaries of spending time in His gaze when we are inspired with ideas and solutions that bring us from glory to glory.

A lot of people get confused and get enamored by the works of His hands.  There is healing, deliverance and miracles in His hands.  But that is all a by-product of being in His presence and seeking His FACE.

To look into the face of someone you love is to know them intimately: To notice the joy and pain in the most miniscule details.  It is the ultimate marker of real relationship.  Think about it.  Any mother or father can instantly tell when their child is in pain without hearing a whimper or sigh. We can see their humor and joy by the twinkle in their eyes and the curve of their lips. We can tell when we look in the face of someone we adore if they genuinely love us or if they are distracted and not giving undivided attention.

It’s also very difficult to lie when you are looking at someone in the face. It is difficult to deny the truth of what you really feel, good or bad, when someone is looking at you with love and tenderness. 

It is a fearless thing to love someone face to face.  To know and be known, down to the smallest thought or emotion and be truly naked and unashamed in their presence. 

That can be tough with another human being.  No wonder we’d rather seek God’s hands.  Seeking the hand is more of a fleshly experience.  Seeking the face is the act of spiritual satisfaction. 

This is why I find the most joy seeking the face of God.  There is a singular excitement in knowing I can be completely myself in His presence.  I don’t pretend with him.  I see it pleases Him when I am all that He made me, warts and all.  If I need to cry, He doesn’t stop me.  If I need to vent, He doesn’t gasp in offense at my honesty.  And I don’t flinch at His honesty. He tells me when I’m wrong.  He lets me know when I am going my own way.  In the presence of a Holy God, it is impossible not to notice our own unworthiness, but it is also impossible to ignore the loving providence of His Grace that welcomes us each and every time.

It is when I seek the face of God that I know I am truly loved, without question or reservation.  Seeking God’s face is where I find that He is pleased with me and my desire to make HIM happy.  And when my heart is to make Him happy, His greatest joy is to make ME happy. 

Then, He gives me WHATEVER is good for me in His HANDS. God knows it’s never about the things.  I would lay down every single THING to be caught up in His warm embrace. 

Seek the face of God in His Word, in prayer time, in the sunrise, in the face of a loved one or in quiet times alone.  You will never be disappointed.  And when we get to heaven, His will be the face of a familiar friend we’ve been longing to see. What an awesome time to be scooped up in the arms of our Savior, just to tell him, like a long lost love, “Just let me LOOK at You!”

The Prodigal’s Father: A Reference in Character


It’s hard to watch someone waste what appears to be a perfectly good life in search of ‘something better.’ Lots of people think about doing it, but when you see someone actually go ahead and just sort of…run away and join the circus…it brings about a whole slew of emotions that they who are alive and remain must sort through.  After one has finally done away with the anger, sadness, sense of betrayal and abandonment, whether you are holding out hope that one day they’ll return or you resigned yourself to the possibility that there will be an inevitably tragic phone call, one question looms overhead…

What do you do while you’re waiting?

Anyone who has ever watched someone walk away from the life they had knows the feeling of helplessness that goes along with a question like that.

How do you move on and hold on at the same time?  What does it look like to lose a loved one…to know that they are not dead, but not in your life and in their present ‘condition’ they don’t even want to BE in your life?  It’s like losing an appendage…you can see that it’s not there anymore, but you still have the sensations that imply its existence.  And, you still have to tie your own shoes or pedal your bike, or give up biking all together and find another way to get around.

And then, there are promises at stake.  Things that you KNOW you heard God say about what is to come.  You have made every declaration and pulled on every scripture that connects you to that person and that person to God.  But the reality does not line up with the ‘truth’.  Again you find yourself asking…

What do I do while I’m waiting?

I took a good long look at the first example of, “What to Do While You’re Waiting” (that should be the title of the book he might have written).  I am refering to the father of the “Prodigal Son.”

Here’s a father who has managed to amass a considerable fortune and has two grown sons helping him run his estate.  One son decides he wants to get his inheritance while his father is still alive and (I’m presuming) while he’s young and can make the most of it.  Father willingly sets off to dividing the spoils between the sons.One would have to suppose that if dear old dad was so adept at making fortunes, he was comfortable with the decision and figured if he made a fortune once, he can make it back again. And it’s very likely that he was well aware of his son’s proclivities toward prodigal behavior.

For the record, the word prodigal, according to the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary, is characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure. It is partially defined as reckless spendthrift. The root of the word means to drive away and to squander.

Hmm…that makes you wonder where he picked up that behavior from? Marinate in that for a minute…we’ll get back to it.

So off the son goes, to spend his life on riotous living. And off the father goes, back to work. But there is one significant difference: Dad keeps the light on for his prodigal son.  Every day he does what must be done.  He lives, and laughs and works and cries and engages his other son and handles his business. And every day, he looks out, far off in the distance to see if his son is coming home.  His yearning for his son’s return changes him on an internal level, but it does not incapacitate him. It does not cause him to collapse in dispair. It compels him to stay busy and stay ready. It demands that he stay open and loving and willing to receive his son upon his return.

All of these things were evident in the description of the son’s return.  The poor misguided son “came to himself” while eating the slop he was supposed to be feeding the pigs. At the time when so many of us give up and wait on the negative phone call, the father of the prodigal son was still taking time to look out afar off in the distance to see if his son was walking upon the horizon.  Perhaps he did it out of habit (the Bible does not address how long he had been doing this).  Maybe he had given up and decided to look one more time.  But when he saw his son, not only did he rejoice, but he celebrated his beloved son’s return.

And how did the father celebrate that prodigal son’s return? Prodigiously, of course!  That is in fact where the son picked up the behavior.

You see, the final definition of the word prodigal is to be LAVISH, yielding abundantly or luxuriant.

The son learned the generous nature of spending, giving, loving sharing FROM HIS FATHER.  The PRODIGAL FATHER was reckless in his generosity to his staff and his family and his God.  How do I know that?  He was wealthy enough to divide his possessions between his sons not lose a beat!  The son knew that the staff was well cared for and ate even better than he was eating out there in a foreign land.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS…while you’re waiting on God to bring your lost loved ones back “to themselves,” and to you, we have to continue doing the good work that is before us to do.  We must stay open and loving and “Positively Prodigious,” in the hopes of one day being able share our regenerated wholeness with those that we expect to have safely returned to the fold. We cannot afford to spend every waking moment peering off into the distance.  We must work and hope and pray…and every now and then look out at the horizon with unmitigated expectation to see the promise of God fulfilled at any time.

Remember, He’s God…we’re not.  We cannot control when they will return. But we can control what we do with our lives UNTIL they return. We can also assure that there is love and shelter and protection available to them when they come home, while we trust God to provide those things for them while they are away.

Hang in there, family…the prodigals of the household of faith WILL return.  Trust God to see it come to pass and get back to work!

 

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