Some of us, in relationships, have been asked (to say it numbly) to be numb in order to help numb another’s pain. Some of us have chosen to be numb. Some of us aren’t paying close enough attention to know whether any or what of that is true about ourselves. Anyways, if we did, wouldn’t that be painful? So, back to normalcy because ya know normalcy numbs…
But then I wonder; is it the worst thing to 1) be asked to be numb, or 2) choose to be, or 3) fail to realize that pain can be a gift? My friend Jes reminded me recently that this is a good question to ask someone affected by leprosy (a disease that can cause nerve damage which results in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can result in actual loss of parts of a person’s extremities from repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds.)
Pain lends information. Pain sends sensations that can save. Do you ever wonder what we are missing when we are numb, in our relationships?
Maybe we all fall into the trap in life at times where we think our circumstances are simply the worst thing, we can’t see beyond them. Other times we are convinced of our uniqueness in our pain, that no one else could understand… but today let’s remember together? Pain is a messenger that comes to protect.
Nah, not the kind of “protecting” we usually do…making sure everyone is okay, comfortable, happy. Pain comes to tell us when everything isn’t okay so that we can make the appropriate adjustments. Couldn’t that be liberating? Yet, don’t we often pull back from pain not with thankfulness but rather often in fear of all the unknowns?
Another way that pain could be perceived as a friend and not foe is the urgency that comes along with it. This is clearly seen in the proverbial story of how touching something too hot comes with a rush of “stop” while contrarily being slowly warmed towards a dangerously hot situation can prove deadly by its lack of urgent “stop” message…it seems like everything is okay…
In the ancient story of Israel being delivered from Egypt, that will be reenacted in millions of homes this weekend through the holy day of Passover, there’s an important verse in Exodus 12:11 where we learn that they were to eat in preparation to leave, “in haste.”
Sometimes, it’s easier to do what we truly need to do when things are urgent. The old adage, “strike while the iron is hot,” has wisdom for us. Sometimes the way pain and urgency work is like a team, serving a similar cause: movement, change, new territory, new stories, new shape and form, and life.
We (humans) are not always feeling totally okey-dokey with the idea of new anything. There’s design and wisdom in that at times too. It takes practice and making some mistakes and it takes honesty with ourselves and wise companions to help us discern the differences. So, I’m asking questions with you tonight.
I’m acknowledging in my own life that the worst thing isn’t always a new or unknown thing, nor even a painful thing. At different times in life I have taken turns thinking all of these things came to steal not give. That has been a loss.
I have been afraid of rules, boundaries, limitations, pain, and the unknown. I have also experienced the freedom that all of those things have not only not stolen but rather birthed into my life.
Rules, boundaries, limitations, pain, the unknown—in and of themselves—are simply tools. When shame gets added into the the mix with any of them they become weapons. But guess who gets to decide which they are in your life?
Only only only only only only only you.
The Hebrew Bible’s name for the book of Leviticus is Vayikra; it means, “And He called,” and it comes from the first words in the first chapter and first verse of the book, where HaShem is calling to Moses to speak to him about the meeting place in the wilderness that has been built. This place was called the Tent of Meeting as a symbol of the companionship that the God of all Mercy wanted to have with humankind.
In fact, in the very first sentence and the very first time that God’s name is used in this special book it is the name that means Mercy. For most of my life I would never have told you that the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) is where I learned most about the Father’s mercy. I only saw rules there and ceremony that I didn’t understand.
Yet, this truth about shame turning tools into weapons, that I have written to you about tonight, is directly from there; because immediately following God being remembered as Merciful the writer tells about “offerings” (which the root word of means “coming near”) and they are explained in painful detail in order to birth one main thing—freedom.
Now, if you are a Christian reading this please don’t go jumping to conclusions about what I mean when I say that here in this context. I don’t mean animals being “sacrificed” to bring saving from sin. I used to think, and be confused by, that until I realized that is a pagan notion that I was given as a certain lens to read the Scriptures with. But the God of Israel has never been like the bloodthirsty pagan gods, demanding an offering to satisfy His anger. Remember, His name is Mercy.
What I do mean: the first part of Leviticus was written as a way of showing humanity how to have a clean conscience, not a guilt-ridden one, not a shame-filled one by “coming near” to God. The next parts of the book, like our lives, are all about living together in relationship, a life that would be facilitated by this one-of-a-kind tent and it’s one-of-a-kind people…but first, as the book of Hebrews says, they needed their consciences (their impressions of reality) cleaned, washed, freed from stumbling blocks, from shame…only then could they truly L I V E.
A friend of mine said to me recently, “What would that even look like? Not living with shame?” Here’s a beautiful prompt towards this direction for us; are you able to picture yourself as a child? Can you see yourself there in your mind’s eye? Let that memory grow a little? Remember yourself with kindness, the way your Creator does, and let’s “come near” together. Let’s let tools meant to function as releasers from captivity do what they come to do. Let’s let swords be made into plowshares while the iron is hot, while it is still called today.
He, the King of the Universe, called Adam in the garden when he had chosen to disobey, He came near to him. Adam hid when he felt shame.
He, Mercy, called to Moses and all the children of Israel through him, not after they had been atoned for, cleansed of their stumbling, but rather while and before—He called to show them how not to live in shame.
He’s calling me and you, not while we can see the beautiful children He created and sees us as but rather, in order to help us see that what we usually see the most (even while we numb ourselves and try not to see it) even the pain, limitations, fears, (ours and other’s who try to put them on us) even the anxieties, griefs, rules, boundaries, the unknown—in and of themselves—these are simply tools. When shame gets added into the mix with any of them they become weapons. But guess who gets to decide which they are in your life?
Anyone else ready to strike while it’s hot? We’ve been born to turn swords into plowshares. We’ve been born for freedom.
Standing wide-eyed, with you, with all my heart,
I’ve been contemplating freedom this month in honor of the first month of the Hebrew Biblical calendar (Nissan/Abib) in which God memorialized to be forever a time of remembering the way He delivered His children from Egypt through a sacred day on our calendars called Passover. You can read Part 1 here if you’d like. You can subscribe here, if you’d like to stay in touch. Thanks for being here.
P.S. I found something special to my heart the other day. My first entry in my Diary of a Woman Healing, in our slice of wilds, dated March 2017, it’s a picture of me taking pictures on a little tract of public wooded land that abutted our backyard at the time, our first “slice of wilds”, I was emerging from six months of running a fever:
“I’ve spent less time out here than I thought I would. Some things can’t be rushed. The morning I woke and knew there was something different happening in my body, that I was ill, I stood at a window facing our slice of wilds. From the soles of my feet up I knew I would gain strength from the ground—from the Strength beneath the ground. My legs were roots. I faced Jerusalem and bowed my heart before the King of ground, of earth and universe, igniting deeper knowing that here-to-there isn’t as far as it seems. Our little wilds is part of a whole, it’s our part. Although some things can’t be rushed: I am healing here. . .” #diaryofawomanhealinginoursliceofwilds #growgently
P.P.S. All the photos on my blog are usually mine, however, it is my pleasure to give photo credit to my daughter Selah for the pics of me this week. Also, another song for you…