Leaning Into Pain to Find Healing and Life
But “frontline” isn’t just a military term. You have a frontline in your life now. In fact, everyone has a place where they encounter fear , where they struggle, suffer, and face hardship. We all have battles to fight.
And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive : it’s on the frontlines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness , find love, and do purposeful work. If you want to win any meaningful kind of victory , you’ll have to fight for it.
When I was in EMT training, I learned to watch for 'guarding.' Guarding was when a patient shied away and protected a specific area from touch or examination. The action was usually involuntary and motivated by an instinctive drive to protect an injured area from pain. When a patient involuntarily guarded an injury, we knew their pain was real and severe. We continued our examination, but were careful not to aggravate the injury more than we had to as we worked to save their life.
We all have emotional and spiritual points of pain in our lives that we guard. Guarding, in this context, can include acts of aggression - like lashing out with verbal or physical attacks - or acts of passivity - like sulking, being sullen, or intentionally underperforming. We want to push people away from the pain. We don't want to be reminded that we have been hurt.
When I catch myself in the act of guarding my emotional and spiritual wounds, I have to remind myself that I need to lean into whatever is causing me pain at the moment. Instead of shying away, I have to embrace and work through the pain if I'm ever going to find freedom and healing.
While I'm very responsible with money at work, at home I'm...let's say...a little more carefree. My irresponsibility in the past led to some painful moments in my marriage. Quite naturally, I would guard whenever my wife would say, "We need to discuss the budget." or when she'd ask about any of my purchases. Sometimes my guarding was passive - I'd get sullen - and sometimes I would be aggressive - I'd lash out with words. My behavior was not healthy for me or my marriage.
God used some great books to show me this particular blind spot. Following their lead, I whenever I felt myself guarding my pain, I'd consciously lower my defenses and voluntarily lean into the pain. When Christi asked to discuss the budget, I'd force myself to smile and say, "That's a great idea!" Then, I'd make sure I had a happy attitude during the conversation.
After several months of leaning into that pain, I'm the one who invites Christi to the budget meetings. Most of the time, we look forward to the discussions. Sometimes, though, the conversations still hurt. This kind of pain is better, though, because this pain is part of the healing process. I am healing and our marriage is healing as well.
The victory we are experiencing was, and is, worth the battle.
photo by Vanessa Bazzano