Pain shows up in many different ways. Most of us try to avoid it. Some of us learn from it. We all experience it. Pain is as much a part of reality as joy and hope. How we chose to deal with pain impacts not only our lives, but those around us. We express a certain type of reality with the phrase, “What a pain”. We also express our displeasure with a not so delicate phrase indicating where the pain is coming from, as in “What a pain in the…..”
As I write this I am feeling the pain of another. J.T. Barrett, the phenomenal Ohio State freshman quarterback and Heisman trophy candidate, broke his ankle towards the end of a recent Michigan football game. Barrett came into prominence because of the pain of the former Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller was the Big Ten player of the year for the past two years, was injured at the end of last season, had a major shoulder surgery, rehabbed successfully, and was re-injured 12 days before the 2014 season started. Great personal pain for him, opportunity for J.T. Barrett played “lights out” and was prepared to lead the Buckeyes into the Big Ten Championship game and perhaps a National Title. Then the “big pain”.
Interestingly, the 3rd string quarterback, Cardale Jones now has the opportunity to experience the joy of opportunity and the possible pain that comes with it.
Pain From Different Points of View
I saw a “roundtable” discussion of police chiefs talking about the “lessons of Ferguson”. Certainly many lessons come from that pain. There was, is, enough pain to go around for every element of our society, including mine. One take away for me is the same reality can be viewed through two, or more, different lenses. The same set of facts can be interpreted two different ways. The Apostle Paul was right so long ago when he challenged Christians to understand who they are interacting with and to be wise about it. It is difficult to engage with someone if you do not understand them, or at least want to. When there is a lack of connectivity, it is pain that is the enduring memory.
As a follow on to understanding pain caused by different understandings of the same event, I am painfully reminded of the ongoing struggle in our society with radical terrorism. It is now clear they see the world and everything in it through a lens that, I frankly admit, I do not understand. First, terrorists use pain as a tactic to gain their ends. How anything that starts from the premise of pain can bring an ultimate “good” is beyond me. In this case, pain, fear and control are intimately intertwined. “In order to control I inflict pain and that pain causes fear which allows me to control you”-that appears to be the thinking. I cannot imagine any philosophy or strategic plan that is more diabolical and doomed to eventual failure. A modicum of immediate “success” only increases the pain. Again, I can only imagine the pain that this aberration of the Muslim faith must cause those Muslims who interpret the Koran in a very different way. Pain all the way around.
I want to share one more example of the pain which comes from two parties seeing the same event through a different lens. I will write about it in more detail when the pain is not so fresh, but the pain I’m referencing is one which comes from being victimized by players with power in a different culture. It is hard for me, raised in the Western culture, theoretically operating under the rule-of-law and with a common cultural understanding of what is “right and wrong”, to effectively interface with a culture that is very different in their understandings. Very different in that they do not operate with a common understanding of “right and wrong”, just an understanding of what satisfies them and what does not. In those kinds of societies, what we call corruption is the norm, and taking advantage of “foreigners” is seen as an acceptable practice. Decisions are generally made on a “social understanding” rather than on a set of guiding principles. When you enter such a society, with the intent to “do good”, there is real pain associated with the struggle to “make a difference””.
With this kind of pain, comes anger and frustration. Interestingly, it is within that kind of environment there is the greatest opportunity act out “tough love” and “patient process”.
Only when there is a painful fire can the value of retardant be realized. All that being said, the pain is real. Obviously I have reference to some of our overseas work. it will take a full book to even partially contextualize the so far, ongoing pain in an way that is understandable. The book is still in the formative stage.
I would be remiss if I did not include in this reflection on pain, thoughts on financial pain. Financial pain comes in a similar assortment as physical and relational pain. There are many types. Think about it. What financial pain have you experienced, or are experiencing? During the holidays we become acutely aware of the pain of overspending. This pain usually shows up when the credit card statements arrive in January. On the other hand, all those who live either in or on the edge of poverty know the debilitating impact of not “having enough”. The pain of our homeless and harassed is all too evident. It is the genius of a perfect Jesus to point us to relive that kind of pain and suffering.
Then there is the self-inflicted pain of “not doing the right thing” with and about our money. Over 30 years of my career I have been focused on helping others to see the opportunity we each have to minimize future pain; the future pain of not being able to respond to God’s call on our later life because we did not prepare for that opportunity during our “working” years. I am more convinced than ever, that we need to “redefine” retirement. The pain associated with the lack of preparation is so acute and the result so painful, that preparation becomes an imperative not just an option. If all of our experiences prepare us for future service, then all of our resources must be involved too. One of my favorite books, and a book that I frequently give to others in the course of business is the book "The Choice" by By R. Scott Rodin, Gary G. Hoag, & Wesley K. Willmer. Consider ordering a copy of “The Choice” for yourself to get additional insights on this pain and an approach to addressing it.
It is the pain in my knee that actually prompted this writing. I have been so fortunate in my personal life to have been pain free. Only once in the hospital, 1961, for what may have been mono. Suffered one nasty cut on my wrist as a 7 year old, 9 stitches. That’s it.
Although I have not experienced much personal, physical pain, there is plenty of personal experience with pain. Experiences that have been painful for me; the physical paid of those I love. The pain that comes from watching a daughter and wife experience multiple and painful interfaces with cancers of various kinds. The pain of watching my dad pass as a result of a lifetime of smoking. A brother who died of AIDS. And most recently, a grandson with a broken kneecap. The excruciating and, in some cases, life ending pain each of them suffered and the associated pain of those who love them so much.
Dealing with pain, personal and associated, is one of life’s great struggles.
The pain in my knee. You know, it just hurts. It started a month or so ago after Judy and I exerted tremendous energy and physical effort to move into a new home. We lifted and carried. Dragged from outside in and from upstairs to down. As a result my back and knee hurt. After a week, the back was better, the knee was not. Now aspirin, buffering, rest and a knee brace are all part of my reality. While it is a little better, the pain is still there.
Pain is debilitating. It interferes with clear thinking and positive relationships. Most of you are thinking, “no kidding”. For me this is a new, and painful experience. While I have been hoping it would go away, I’ve traveled literally around the world and discovered it hurt as much everywhere else as it does at home or in the office. Pain creates as many problems in other countries as it does here. What a pain!
Next week I’ll call the doctor and start the investigative process that hopefully will lead to less pain. One more time I learn pain promotes action just as it interferes with progress. Or is it the action that comes from pain that leads to progress, and new understandings? I’ll leave it with you to ponder that question.
Finally, we can each reflect on the pain that Jesus endured for us. That torment is indeed unimaginable and yet it was the path that leads to our eternal freedom from pain. Eternity for those who believe, will indeed be pain free. Our prayer is that all will find the Jesus of Christmas and the Risen Savior of Easter and will be lead to that joyous, hope filled, pain free future.
Living with Trusted Advice together,
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