Drops of Pain

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii and visited Pearl Harbor, more than likely you have taken a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial. The sight of the small drops of oil that escapes that vessel and float to the surface is remarkable after all these years. They resemble tears, as if the ship is still leaking some of the great emotion of that infamous attack. They rise to the surface and then slowly disperse leaving a rainbow of colors upon the water.

This is the best illustration that I can think of to describe emotional pain. It lies, bottled up, just under the surface of our exterior and randomly, small amounts escape and surface in various forms. Emotions are manifested as tears, anger, laughter, and even just a feeling that causes you to pause. The amazing thing is that these emotions are not summoned; they just seem to escape because they exist.

Losing someone seems so unreal. The person is just not there anymore and sometimes you feel guilty for almost forgetting them. Of course they have not been forgotten, but life gets so busy and requires a lot of attention for the current events of the day.

A painful memory of abuse or neglect is even deeper hidden or concealed, because the pain is just too unbearable, not pleasant at all. It would be easier to just try to forget. Most of the time, as mentioned before, life demands so much of our attention that we are able to do just that, forget. Unfortunately, a quiet moment comes along and just when we think we might have a chance to rest and relax, our attention is drawn back to reflect upon a painful memory. Then come the tears, the flood of emotions, the resurfaced fears, and flashes of pictures parade through the mind.

Memorials serve multiple purposes. Since we often can’t forget the pain or the possibly the sacrifices that were made and don’t want to, we set these in place and a mark of honor and respect. Secondly, since there are always lessons to be learned from every painful event in our lives, memorials are important. They serve as reminders of the need for prevention of future tragedies. Memorials also help us to reorganize our priorities to reflect what is truly important to our lives.

I’m not a very patient person, but some things in life require nothing but time. Luke 21:19 says, “In your patience, possess ye your souls.” The word patience means ‘cheerful (or hopeful) endurance.’ The word possess, of course, means ‘to get, acquire, obtain.’ Another scripture says, (Luke 17:33) ‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.’ This author suggested that in order to SAVE our lives (souls), we must, in fact, LOSE it for His sake. I thought about this and how often I have felt that I must be ‘Losing it.’ When I feel this way, if I take the opportunity to turn my trust over to my loving Savior, I have always found comfort and strength. My personal relationship with God has often been the result of needing Him and He, in turn, responding to my need. Some people see this as weakness, but in deed, it has brought me strength. ‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’ 2 Corinthians 12:10.

There are many examples in the Bible of memorials that were built as a reminder of God’s provision in times of need. If we look at the times of great struggle in our lives, we may honestly think it is hard to see that God was anywhere around. But I have found that He was always there. Why He allows things to happen may not always be clear, but I trust that if He allows it to happen, He has the power to heal the hurts that were caused by the event. God does not promise a pain free life. Sin exists in this present world along with all the pain that it brings to our lives. Thankfully, there will come a time when we will be removed from this present world and we will live forever in a place free from pain, Heaven. I have endured more than my fair share of pain in this life and I don’t want anything to distract me from my goal of making Heaven my home. Until then I will reflect upon the memorials in my life and deal with each drop of emotion as it emerges.

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Confessions of a Control-Freak

I must confess, I am a control-freak.  My best guess is that this stems from a fairly unstable home life in my early childhood. My parents divorced about the time I was 4 years-old and we lived out of cardboard boxes, moving quite frequently until I was 7 years-old. After two more moves, my brother and I were finally allowed to remain at my grandparents’ house from age eleven until I moved away, after college, at age twenty.

 Though many people have helped me along the way, I was not consistently in the care of trusted adults.  This fact made it necessary to grow up prematurely.  Looking back, I’m sure I wasn’t nearly as mature as I thought I was, but often felt as if my decisions were much better than those of my parents.

 I was the oldest of four, although did not often live with my younger two sisters.  So many times I took it upon myself to set my parents straight, rarely hiding my disgust and disappointment in them.  I was angry and most of all, I just wanted to be loved and protected.  Once when my mother wanted to move my sisters away from Indiana, I made her so angry, we didn’t speak for almost a year.  Not sure if what I said really made the difference, but in my mind it did because she allowed them to stay with my grandmother.  On another occasion, I told my father how wrong he was for ending one relationship and starting another.  I was so relieved that he didn’t insist on us relocating with him when he moved away.  Both of these incidents took place before the age of 12.

 Can you see the pattern forming? If I didn’t like what was going on and had a good basis for my arguments, all I had to do was stand my ground, present my argument, and I was gaining control of my life.  The power to manipulate my world gave me strength and a sense of security.   Innocently, this overlapped into my spiritual life.  In this realm, the difference was that I put all my trust in a God, whom I was introduced to at a very early age.  I prayed prayers, He answered, and my faith increased.  With God, though, I felt His love and compassion and trusted that He was watching over me.  I never felt the urge to demand anything of God.  He was simply my heavenly Father who was taking care of me and filling my voids. 

 Entering into adulthood, I never even realized what sort of person I had become, all I knew is that I had survived my childhood and now life would be easy because I was not having to depend on anyone else and risk being disappointed again.  I had become a control-freak.  Not everything about me was bad.  I was very intelligent, independent, and very dedicated and devoted to God.  I was teaching Sunday School at age 18. Having no youth leader at the time, I helped organize fundraisers to pay the way for myself and nine other young people to go to Kansas City, MO for a youth convention. During this time I attended IU as an emancipated student and worked at NSWC Crane, a local naval base, on my breaks from school.  

 One summer, though, God began to deal with my heart and now I can see it was the beginning of His plan to help mold me into a person that He could use.  Until the summer I met my husband at church camp, my spiritual life was not always consistent.  I lived for God, because I knew it was right, but often struggled with my attachments to things that did not involve God, including a boyfriend that did not share my religious beliefs.  After several failed attempts to break off this relationship completely, I went to church camp asking God to save him.  The very first night the minister preached a message, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”  I’m not saying that it wasn’t His will for this person to be saved, but it had been clear to me for quite some time that he was not the person that God intended for me to marry. This was the beginning of my molding process.  Thursday night of church camp, I met Eric and here we are 18 years later. 

 Married life, though, did not turn out as I had planned.  Coming from two very chaotic backgrounds, we had a lot to learn in order to maintain a successful marital relationship. Due to my high expectations, I sunk into a very low spot.  I didn’t realize it, but I was angry with God.  I suppose I wanted to tell Him, just as I had told my parents, that He was wrong.  It was almost a year before I even realized that I entered into this state of mind and God’s grace spoke to my heart.  Life as an adult was not as easy as I imagined it would be.  Everything came by hard work and even then sometimes we came up short.  God made the difference though.  Our pastor taught us simple truths like: Put God first and He will supply all your needs, Give to God and He will give back to you, You can’t go wrong by doing right.  My husband and I lived by these truths and saw God provide more than we could have ever hoped for.

 At one point I remember attending church faithfully and living a life dedicated to God.  I was doing all of the right things.  I sacrificed, gave of my time and finances, taught my children the importance of living for God, got up early and had begun a time of daily prayer and Bible reading, was involved in almost every aspect of the church possible and did so very sincerely.  My mistake was in becoming impatient with God.  At one point I remember holding my righteousness up before Him almost demanding Him to answer some very needed prayers.  This began a transformation for me.  In I Corinthians 10:12, it says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  God allowed me to find out exactly how powerless I truly was.  Again, God also showed me His grace and mercy.  I have begun to realize that great lessons can be learned when, and sometimes only when, we go through great struggles.  The important thing is to never give up.

 Obviously, my life is not over yet and my story is not finished, but one thing I can say, I am determined more than ever to stay close to God.  I want to always be able to hear His voice, allow Him to direct my steps, and become someone that can bless the lives of others.  Heaven is my destination and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” (Original author unknown, but my grandmother and her mother quoted this often)

Control-Freak Prayer

(Commonly known as the Serenity Prayer)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

-Reinhold Neibuhr