I was thiiiis close to letting my friend take me to the orthopedic walk-in clinic today. I actually used to joke about that because it seems like that’s the one specialty that hasn’t yet weighed in on my life. Be careful what you joke about! Some of you who follow my shenanigans on Facebook know that I was messing around on the Wii Fit a couple days ago and it told me I was a bodybuilder. It also asked me if I trip over my own feet when I walk but, you win some, you lose some. The excruciating pain in my arm yesterday shattered any bodybuilding delusions as well as my normal life function. I’m not kidding. I thought I tore something. I couldn’t even lift my hand to my mouth to take medicine. There was no way I could sit, stand, or lay that didn’t scream agony. To be fair to the Wii, I had already been experiencing some discomfort for about a week prior and I can only speculate that my dog yanked my shoulder out of socket with the leash but I’m not exactly sure a ten-pound dog doing that much damage is any less sad. Her innocent little ears heard a lot of crying out yesterday as I reached my bad word capacity so I thought I was going to have to make yet another unexpected doctor visit. Thank goodness the pain is a little less curse-worthy today so I’ve decided to tough it out.
I’m discouraged by how broken-down my body has become. I try to exercise even just a little bit and cause myself terrible pain. So I continue to sit around and gain weight because I’m almost always hungry. I should be happy about the hunger and the weight gain and I am pleased that I am actually now capable of it, given the previous nightmare of nausea, rapid weight loss, and concern that I would eventually succumb to a disease I didn’t even know I was fighting. However, I can’t trust that the weight gain is not the medicine I’m on or my thyroid so I’m constantly second-guessing. It certainly couldn’t be all the nuts I constantly consume! Who really wants vegetables for a snack?! It’s a good possibility that I will be wearing yoga pants to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws because I finally let go of the weight-gain dream and got rid of my twelve different sizes of clothing quite some time ago. And, side note, I’ll be eating at home prior to Thanksgiving dinner because sometimes you have to adjust to your circumstances for the sake of healing, no matter how lonely it feels.
Having just put more pieces together in the ‘why-I-am-the-way-that-I-am’ department, I’m struck by how parallel all of this is to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Every time we uncover something new, it feels like something inside me tears. The pain shatters me for awhile as I grieve. Thankfully, I am learning how necessary the grieving is to the healing.
There are many things I am learning from the transformation of all aspects of my life. The first is that I have to feel the hurt in order to heal properly. I discovered this when I started having tendinitis in my wrist. The pain was so terrible that I kept it in a brace 24/7. Even with the brace, the pain never went away and I could barely move my thumb due to stiffness. I went back to the doctor and he said I had to take the brace off because if I didn’t start moving my thumb, nothing would ever heal or worse, it would heal improperly. Even though the pain was terrible, I had to feel it, to move around in it to loosen its grip on me. I absolutely believe this is true for emotional pain as well. I’ve done my best not to feel it for most of my life and that practice has stiffened me. It has built up walls around my heart. Wrestling behind the walls hurts very much as they crumble jagged with my tossing and turning but, if I keep pushing up against them, they will eventually come down and free my heart to be as God created.
Second, sometimes it takes a total breakdown of what was, before the healing and rebuilding can happen. I wrote about my flu awhile ago, how awful it was and how much I questioned God for not understanding that I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought I wouldn’t survive but, miraculously, it made me stronger. I believe with everything in me that my nine-day fever killed something terrible that was living inside of me and when I healed from that illness, I felt better than I had felt in a very long time. I felt something shift in my body and, while I still have a long way to go, I could allow myself to believe in the possibility of healing again. I think this is also what is happening in my emotional and spiritual life. It certainly feels like a complete and total breakdown and probably looks that way to my closest people. Sometimes I believe I will not survive. I question God when I don’t understand but as I cling to Him, sometimes just by a thread or, as he drags me kicking and screaming, I can see the miraculous healing up ahead. I experience small miracles of healing as we go along together and those are my reminders that He is doing something so beautiful that if I saw it right now all at once, it would hurt my eyes. I don’t want to miss the miracles in and of the process. And just as I am having to relearn that I can’t eat anything I want simply because it’s all healthy (five pounds of healthy nuts is still five pounds) and to adjust to every new restriction my body throws at me, I have to let God teach me the way He created me. I have been asking how it’s possible to relearn something when it’s all I’ve ever known and feels like a permanent part of me, but the only thing permanent is Jesus. Everything else is a shifting, adapting, moving part of the good God will continue working in me until Jesus comes.
Third, the process is much slower than I wanted or ever dreamed it would be. I want quick fixes. I wanted just a few counseling sessions to ‘fix’ me and that was two years ago. I almost jumped the gun about going to the doctor today because I just wanted the pain to go away. But, you know what? The pain tells us something important if we will just sit with it for awhile. Just as I will ‘work out’ my legs today because my arms can’t handle it, sometimes I have to let parts of me rest so I can work on others. It is possible to push too hard, analyze to death, and completely exhaust myself. Guilty! But I cannot even describe how thankful I am that I didn’t quit because after two years, I look back and see growth. I see miracles. I see what pain can accomplish.
And lastly, one of the most difficult lessons I am learning is that we have to be the gentlest with what is weakest or we will cause further damage. Apparently I haven’t yet learned my body’s limit. I thought I was doing a very light activity but I learned that I need to treat my body with even more care. I am clueless when it comes to how gentle I need to be with my weaknesses but I am so thankful that God knows my breaking point. He knows exactly when we are ready to unearth certain things that live inside of us and that’s why I am still learning more about myself each day. I wouldn’t have been ready to hear today’s discoveries two years ago, or even two weeks ago. They would have caused too much damage. God knows how little grace I’ve had for myself. I have thrashed myself over each weakness I discover, punishing myself for all the sins Jesus already died for and working far too hard to make myself stronger in those areas. It has only been very recently that I have started to offer myself grace. I am not perfect and God never expected me to be. I am the one with that expectation. As I slowly, painfully learn how to gently pass my weaknesses into the hands of God, I am experiencing small bits of peace. Peace is a very new experience for me. Overcoming the guilt is still a work in progress but lovingly handling my weaknesses is slowly healing the damage I’ve done by punishing them.
It has been difficult for me to believe that I will survive all of this unmaking but, deep down for many years, I have always known that the beauty at the end will be worth it. That’s what this entire blog is all about – the beauty in the rubble and the beauty OF the rubble. The tearing down of all that’s comfortable but suffocating so that God can breath new life into me. This quote by Annie Downs deeply resonates. “I decided that if I was really going to survive this, it had to be worth it. It had to have some sort of worthy redemption. It had to be beautiful.” If I don’t survive the undoing, I’ll be with Jesus and that will be beautiful. If I do survive, God’s good work in me will be beautiful. But if I don’t let the painful healing happen, I will never get to experience the beautiful miracle.
Song I’m Feeling: The Unmaking, by Nichole Nordeman. This could be my theme song.
“This is where the walls gave way
This is demolition day
All the debris, and all this dust
What is left of what once was
Sorting through what goes and what should stay
Every stone I laid for You
As if You had asked me to
A monument to Holy things
Empty talk and circling
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
What happens now
When all I’ve made is torn down?
What happens next
When all of You is all that’s left?
This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking
The longer and the tighter that we hold
Only makes it harder to let go
But love will not stay locked inside
A steeple or a tower high
Only when we’re broken, are we whole
I’ll gather the same stones where
Everything came crashing down
I’ll build You an altar there
On the same ground
‘Cause what stood before
Was never Yours.”