Living on the Edge of Pain
A few years ago, I prayed a rather naive prayer. Life felt unusually manageable, and I felt ready to learn and grow and be challenged. So, I prayed that God would break me. I’m not a believer in a “you-pray-then-God-answers-yes-or-no” model of prayer, so I’m not saying anything that followed was a direct result of that prayer. However, there have been many, many times since that bold (brash?) prayer that I have felt utterly and completely broken, both by external events and my own internal turbulence. At times I have wanted to cry, “This is not what I meant!” and scream, “Enough
And… it continues. Recently, I considered whether–if I had a choice–I would change my past to alleviate the pain I have felt (whatever that might mean). I knew my answer before I had finished the question: No. It is only in living on pain’s edge, in being exposed to its reality and its possibility, that I connect with the deepest part of who God made me to be.
There aren’t many words I can put to this idea, but there is a song that represents the idea for me. You can click below to hear it. There’s something about the constant forward motion of the song that feels like the passage of time, while its quietness sounds to me like the quiet determination that settles in after a long, exhausting cry. (Keep listening after the first 17 seconds, even though at that point it sounds like it’s just going to be a simple arrangement of a hymn… and I highly recommend listening until the climax at 2:30).
This theme of constant pain and loss is one my counselor and I have discussed frequently. Once, he pointed out that every attachment formed is a future loss. He recently shared that everything we love is susceptible to–and will be touched by–death’s sting. If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “I thought therapy was supposed to help you feel better, not worse!”
I know it sounds strange, but realizations like these carry with them an inherent sense of hope and freedom. It’s as though one is not possible without the other, and accepting both allows you to start living in that reality. As I noted in my first blog post, when I compared a sense of hope to finding a broken shard of a mirror, “Hope is dangerous. It carries with it the risk of disappointment, even despair. The greater the hope, the greater the risk. But there is no way to separate hope and risk… and there is no other way to truly engage life without accepting both.”
I highly recommend reading The Cry of the Soul by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman. I always want to call it The Dark Cry of the Soul–because that’s really what it’s about!