Productive Pain

Got my first ever crown earlier this week. Not the on your head royalty crown, but the in your mouth to prevent a tooth from cracking in half crown. It was a two-week process actually. The first appointment to dismantle my tooth and place a temporary crown was quite painful even though our dentist was and is both skilled and amazing. The numbing shot worked so well I couldn’t talk the rest of the afternoon. Ibuprofen was my friend for the entire week plus as my mouth recovered from the trauma. With temporary crown in place, life went merrily along as we prepared for our travels.

Thank you to those of you who prayed for us after my last post. Darrin and I left for Hawaii to speak at the Fall Retreat amidst many challenges. Our original flight had mechanical difficulties and never left Los Angeles. Darrin wisely went and switched us to another flight in another terminal before the news broke that the original flight was cancelled. Four hours later we were buckled in only to sit on the runway for over an hour as the entire airport closed down with the arrival of the space shuttle. We arrived without luggage right smack in the middle of crazy Friday afternoon Oahu traffic, but made it in time for our first talk. Shortly after we finished I started not feeling well. I knew I needed the antibiotics packed away in our luggage, so we jumped back into the car and drove the 45 minutes back to the airport to pick up our luggage rather than wait for it to be delivered in the morning (I still had a bad taste from my last luggage experience). We returned and fell in bed around midnight, which was 3 a.m. California time. The next morning I felt much better.

Meanwhile back at home more challenges surrounded the family. My brave sister flew in from Colorado to be with Michael and Julia. Here’s a sampling of what happened:

  • the garage door stopped working
  • the air conditioner wasn’t working during the three digit heat wave (on Sunday our friend, Brent, replaced the broken part with the new one Darrin ordered)
  • my sister had multiple migraine headaches
  • dog had explosive poop which he deposited all over the yard and even once in Michael’s room
  • dog throws up in living room
  • mouse sighting in the kitchen, which led to glue traps, which led to dog stepping in glue trap, which led to sticky glue tracked all around the kitchen

In spite of the distractions God’s Spirit was at work. Relationships were formed, breakthroughs spiritually and emotionally took place, and Darrin and I didn’t kill each other as we tag team taught. During several brief conversations with students about painful circumstances my tooth and crown illustration kept popping up.

Horrible, devastating, often unexplainable events happen–sometimes from our poor choices, but many times with no rhyme or reason. The pain brought about by these difficulties are kind of like my cracked tooth. Left untreated it would only get worse, but taking care of the problem would also involve a certain level of pain.

Sometimes emotional decay can root in our hearts. God’s Spirit, a skilled therapist, a strong community can be like my dentist who walks through a process which requires time and money and ends with a good outcome and health. But it requires entering into pain in order to adequately clear out the bad stuff.

We don’t like pain. Walk down any medicine aisle at a store and lining the shelves are hundreds of pain relievers of every imaginable combination. We numb our pain through shopping, eating, the internet, work, ministry, drugs, alcohol, pornography, exercise, sleep, gambling, etc. Anything to not have to face pain, disappointment, hurt, fear…

You and I are faced with choices when confronted with hardships. The painful work of walking in forgiveness, of surrendering our will and our lives to God, of healing and working at restoring broken relationships, of moving toward problems rather than stay in denial; all these things are painful. But the pain is productive. And left unexamined will not only remain painful, but also likely grow worse.

If it’s going to be painful anyway, pick the productive pain.

What do you think?