Pain, Pain, Go Away...

A few years ago, I went on one of my all-too-rare "Dates with God", something I started while we were appointed at St. Luke UMC in Montgomery in 2002.  It dawned upon me, as a stay-at-home mom at the time, that I did little RISKING for God.  Most people think nothing of driving off alone at sunrise, headed who knows where, in order to spend the day just basking in the presence of the Creator God who loves us so much.  But not me...until that day I arrived at Pensacola Beach and had the date of a lifetime with my Heavenly Father.  On such "dates", I've done everything from see sharks at sunset to meeting my favorite Christian author, Phillip Yancey...to anointing the Tennessee River with ashes of burnt frustrations and prayers to turn over.  It's always different; it's always an adventure, and it always makes me extra thankful for my family, my friends, and my countless blessings! 

This particular "date" found me in Eufaula, Alabama, just hanging out at the beautiful lake, and later shivering in the wonderfully frigid "mini-waterfall" at Blue Spring State Park in nearby Clio.  (I just have this "water thing"...wonder why?   ).  I like to read books as I visit with God, and the flavor of the day was Tim Hansel's You Gotta Keep Dancin'.  For some reason, I stood in great need of encouragement that day, and there is no better pick-me-up than reading the biography of someone who has overcome far more than I.  Tim Hansel met chronic, throbbing, "live-with-it-because-there's-nothing-we-can-do-for-you" physical pain in a freak climbing accident, and this book is the chronicle of his journey back into the world of acceptance AND JOY...despite.  He had to learn to love life itself, without many of the previous things that we often take for granted.  He had to learn to value every moment, knowing how completely irretrievable each is.  And SO MUST WE. 

Here are some "takeaways" from this book.  No matter where you find yourself, I pray these will bless you as they did me.  No matter what curveballs come our way in life, regardless of the cause or the "reason", we can find peace in knowing that we know that we can CHOOSE our response to the trials, rather than be consumed by them.

Read on:

"All of our theology must eventually become biography."  (Do you EVER find yourself studying something only to have to live it sooner than later?  I.E. learning about patience is an almost certainty that you're being prepared to have to use it!) 

"Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of EVERY area of my life." 

"Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional." 

"Procrastinating over the joy of being alive is one of the greatest burglars of life I know." 

"Our society has inundated us with the importance of importance.  We have been conditioned to believe in the big, the fast, the expensive, and the far away.  I'm still convinced that if you have to move even ten inches from where you are now in order to be happy, you never will be." 

"I believe that pain and suffering can either be a prison or a prism.  The tests of life are not to break us but to make us." 

"This life that we call Christian is different from what we think it is.  It is infinitely more subtle, more powerful, more dangerous, more magnificent, more exciting, more humorous, more delicious, more adventurous, more involved, and more troublesome than most of us think." 

"To let others or circumstances dictate your future is to have chosen.  To allow the pain to corrode your spirit is to have chosen.  And to be transformed into the image of Christ by these difficult and trying circumstances is to have chosen." 

There was a point where Hansel felt that it would have hurt less to die, and he was probably right.  He had to work through the fact that he was still alive, his God-given purpose still lay before him, and that he had a choice as to how the rest of his life would be lived.  I wonder if it takes a life-altering personal accident to reveal our choices to us, or if we might travel the road to wisdom by learning from the pain and progress of another? 

Pain is real, and each of us carries a sizable cross.  Still, let's inspire each other to continue to realize that life is not meant to be easy, and that a new problem will wait in the wings of a solved present one, but that with Christ and each other cheering us on, we truly can do all things through Him who gives us strength!!!