Pain Matters

•July 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

In the past 24 hours, I have discovered Madeleine L’Engle.  Her books are all over this house and my friends speak of her as one would of a close friend, but until today I was ignorant of why.  Yesterday I started (and today I finished) reading Two-Part Invention, which is essentially the autobiography of her marriage.

The beauty was overwhelming at times.  By the end of the book, the tears were spilling over and falling down my face, unheeded, as I was allowed a glimpse into something so rare, so intimate.  Love and pain so intermingled as to profoundly change a life, two lives, all lives that will be touched by the story…  That is something I often find lacking in my own little world.

I took my journal and drove to the River’s edge, where I sat and pondered and soaked up the sun.

Why can I sometimes feel another’s pain yet lock up my own?  Why do the tears come so easily for something that is so peripheral to my own being?  When did pain become so important?

C. S. Lewis is one of my long-time favorite authors, though I still feel I have much to discover in his writing.  He makes it clear in one oft-used quote (which I shall not include here) that choosing not to feel actually kills in the end.  For a long time, I knew that to be true pragmatically but did not understand how it was coming to pass in my own life.  I did not understand, because I had chosen to shut myself off from the hard, painful emotions.  In so choosing, I also shut down my capacity to feel joy and love and anticipation.  I shut off the conduit of grace in my life.

That conduit has been reopened, partially by my own choices and partially because grace cannot be blocked forever.  So I am learning to cry – it feels like for the first time.  I always used to fear that if I began to cry, began to grieve the losses (real and perceived) I’ve experienced in my life, that somehow I would not be able to stop.  I feared crying would paralyze me, incapacitate me, render me useless.  And there is nothing I hate more than feeling useless.  At least there used to be nothing I hated more…

But crying does not last forever, and sometimes it is only in crying out to God that I open up my deepest fears to Him, to deal with as only He can.  Ultimately, it is an unwillingness to feel heart-rending pain that will drive me away from God, not to Him.  Pursuing God (and being pursued by Him) does not occur in a vacuum – it occurs in real relationships with real people bounded by real time with real feelings and issues and problems, because that is simply the reality of life in a fallen world.

So now.  Pain comes; I cannot control that.  But I can choose to respond with wisdom, I can choose to grow as I walk through pain, rather than shutting it off and stunting myself emotionally and otherwise.  And someday, perhaps this practice in feeling pain will make feeling joy all the more exquisite.  I long for that day.

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Choosing Color

•July 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

When life falls apart, there are still lots of options.  You can get bitter or you can get healed.  You can shut out emotion or you can feel.  You can put things in boxes or you can let life be messy.  I’m here to say that healing, feeling, and a messy life can be amazingly good things.

Hello, my name is Susanna, and I’m a recovering legalist.

The earth-shattering move from living in black-and-white to living in color didn’t happen overnight for me.  In fact, if you want to read fragments of the story, you can sift through the archives on my old blog.  I don’t write over there anymore, because too much has changed.  But I keep it around to remind myself that change doesn’t happen instantly, unless of course you’re lightening about to split a tree wide open.

In December of 2011, I chose to live my life in color.  In fact, I chose to live my life in color without lines.  If you know me, you know how absolutely out-of-character that is, because there’s nothing I love more than a perfect list with perfect checkboxes where things can be completed and checked off without any glitches.  (Okay, there’s some mild exaggeration there, but eventually you’ll see my point… I hope.)  And I do not like messy, 20th-century art, where everything is abstract and undefined.  But there was enough longing in my soul last year for the beauty of impressionism that I decided to let go, if only to feel what it was like.

Losing control is super painful.  There’s no getting around that.  And it’s something I come *smack* in contact with every single day.  But since I started choosing color, since I started choosing to LIVE, I can’t imagine going back.  I’ve spent so much time tearing down walls that I built that I can’t fathom what building walls would do to me now.  I’ve changed.  Sometimes I can’t articulate exactly how or why or when that change came about, but it’s here and it’s real.  And I have to write about it or I might just explode again…