I have spent my whole life trying to escape the fear of pain. No matter the strategy of my season pain has visited like waves in the surf; constant and rhythmic. The fear of pain is often more painful than pain itself and circumstances across the last year have forced me to surrender to its power.
We were sitting at the dinner table, my husband and Mum casually chatting and my daughter fell off the table. She cried, she was okay and we comforted but then my Mum remarked: “Amanda, used to hold her breath when she was little until she passed out, whenever she was in pain.” Then quite casually my husband laughed “Yes, she still does it now.”
It was a casual family goad, but I found a release that I had been searching my whole life for. As a youth, in the midst of pain, I would fight. Still holding my breath, but I would push and shout, scream and demand attention. As a Mum, I have learnt to hold back, retreat, disappear and minimise.
I am learning that neither response is helpful or healthy. Holding my breath to try and escape the pain, has left me with a heart that is large but cavernous. I think our hearts were designed to be soft and beating. Retreating, ignoring and running away however creates walls, distance and bitterness.
I realised to shut down pain was to shut down joy and to live a satisfying life I wanted to feel again without holding my breath.
Richard Rohr says it perfectly;
“Pain that is not transformed is transferred.”
Despite my breath holding, my pain always transfers. Despite my hand holding, the pain it catches up with me again. Pain awaits resolution, it aches for release. And often without understanding, I struggle to let go of that which aches and I go over and over my prevention strategy.
Then I land at Good Friday.
I sit at the foot of the painful cross and I reflect upon my Wounded Healer. He speaks to my pain, where no one else has been able to, with a megaphone of grace that unsettles my need for comfort.
He shouts; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”.
He wrestles; “Not my will be done, but yours”.
He transforms; “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”.
He rests; “I thirst”.
He releases; “It is finished”.
He surrenders; “Father into my hands, I commit my spirit”.
Henri Nouwen tugs at my heart as he chides
“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” Henri J.M. Nouwen.
“I imagine Jesus going to the blind, beggars, leapers, sick, demon-possessed, and little children: and I bet he fit right in. Maybe no one could tell it was Jesus from afar, because they expected someone cleaner. I wonder if Jesus bent down on one knee to the girl with the cleft lip, touched her face, and called her beautiful. I wonder if he prayed for her right on the spot, hugged her, pulled back her hair and told her to smile. I wish I could’ve seen her light up, throw off all insecurity, and do something worthy with her life. That’s what Jesus is about. I want to be about that too.” J.S Park
As I walk across the contemplation of this weekend, my heart tender from the pain of anger, disappointment, regret, remorse and disillusionment. I surrender to the utter depravity of the desert and walk tenderly into my tomorrow.