Two weeks ago I went through a life-threatening, traumatic and extremely frightening experience. I hadn’t done anything to provoke or deserve the intrusion and as many innocent victims understand, the feeling of powerlessness and fear leaves scars and leaves you wondering if it’s possible to return to the state of mind and heart that existed before the event. To be honest, at this point I feel like I may never see the world in the same way again. I don’t feel it necessary to describe the event as I write, but I do want to speak into what I’m learning from it.
Innocence is a word that evokes thoughts of purity and right-ness; to me, it’s a word that describes how it was always meant to be. We often use the word to describe the beauty that we see in children before they are too far along their journey to be affected by external influences, people and pain.
Pain on the other hand is something we run from and try to avoid. When we experience it, we often shut it down as quickly as is possible. But I want to suggest that we need to get familiar with pain, and not just a general kind of pain, but the very pain that we carry, own, and walk around with every day.
Since my experience a couple of weeks ago, the most helpful conversation that I have had was with a friend that has been through several similar life events because of the manner of his job. Why was it the most helpful and freeing conversation? Because I knew that he had experienced some of the very same feelings I had. I knew that his words had a kind of depth and reality that others didn’t, merely because he had walked the same path. I knew that his advice didn’t come from a lecture or textbook but from his discoveries and journey. As I sat there and he looked into my eyes, I saw a man that held a deep and true empathy, for he was familiar with my pain. He has allowed himself to become familiar with his own pain so that he could be familiar with mine, and that was a precious gift.
So, as he said to me, I have a choice. I can either allow the sleepless nights and fearful thoughts to make me tired and weary or I when I wake I can think of many other people that are awake every night constantly living in fear and hopelessness and pray for them. I now have the opportunity to get familiar with this pain I own. The thing is, just as my friend was qualified to speak to me in a way that others couldn’t, I am now qualified to be able to empathise with people that I wouldn’t have been able to two weeks ago. But I have to make a decision to get familiar with this pain so that the wounds can heal and the scars can be a testimony of that healing for those that encounter similar wounds.
I’m not suggesting avoiding the pursuit of healing, restoration and wholeness, but an exhortation that these things rely on us becoming familiar with our pain that we might be living, breathing instruments of healing to those that are running from the pain of their wounds and applying bandages to avoid their healing becoming glorious scars of testimony.
Just as Jesus is familiar with our pain, so we can stand with others and allow him to lead us all into beautiful, intimate relationships that are a testimony of the truth of his grace and healing love.
So my challenge for us all today is to stop and acknowledge the places of pain in our lives and invite Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit to come and stand next to us as we look at that pain and then in turn find people with similar wounds and go and stand next to them. I have little doubt that this is the key to our freedom and return to innocence; because of the power of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. This is the gospel.