Psalm One Ministries
October 2014 Learning from Pain
I love Autumn. The colors, the way the light hits everything, the bright blue sky, the cool nights. As the leaves fall and growing things prepare for winter, I find myself thinking about transitions in my own life.
2013 was rather challenging. I was quite ill most of the year, nearly died, and spent Thanksgiving through New Year’s rehabbing from a total knee replacement. Nevertheless, there was great ministry with many tremendous experiences. 2014 has been a wonderful year, full of meaningful ministry as well as over-the-top-far-more-abundantly-beyond-all-that-we-ask-or-think unexpected blessings. (I mean really awesome blessings. I could tell you about it, but you’d hate me.) No near-death experiences, no surgeries, but between a rare illness that sometimes sidelines me and ongoing trouble with my knees, there’s still a lot of weakness, pain, and limitations.
Marva Dawn is an amazing, brilliant, courageous woman who has taught me volumes about worship as a way of life, integrating Sabbath, and walking with God in the trenches. Marva takes us well beyond pat answers and bumper stickers into an authentic, vibrant life with Christ, grounded in the Word and an unshakable reliance on Jesus. Several years ago, I was privileged to take her course on “A Theology of Weakness: Thinking Biblically about Suffering”. Tremendous. I did the course to better minister to others, never knowing how much I would need to apply in my own life.
What have I learned from pain in the last year?
• Pain is exhausting. Pain hurts. Duh! But pain also wears you out. It warps your perspective. And it takes a lot of extra energy to push through the pain to accomplish everyday tasks.
• I can’t do it all. Ministry in the 21st century moves at warp speed. There are so many amazing resources, connections, and technological tools available at the touch of a button. But it can be overwhelming trying to take advantage of every opportunity, to connect to all the social media, and to absorb the information overload. There are times I actually miss the days of doing ministry with a Bible, a pen, and a pad of paper.
• I don’t have to do it all. A few years ago I was struggling with how to use every opportunity to make the most of the ministry God has entrusted to us. I clearly heard God say, “Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean Psalm One has to do it. Who told you that you have to do it all?” "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4) My job description is “the work You have given me to do.” Not everything on the planet. Not what everyone thinks you should do. That’s such a freeing truth when I actually live it out.
• Knowing myself. Knowing what replenishes and what depletes me. God-given limits. Healthy boundaries. One of the most freeing gifts of this year was reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Finally, someone who understands. For me, silence and solitude are not luxuries. They are a necessity.
• Choosing the best above the good. Our entire life is the sum total of what we say yes to, and what we say no to. I’ve had to choose my yes and no especially carefully this year. I’ve had to say no more than usual. I’ve learned that people want you to have healthy limits and say no, as long as it’s not to them. And I have said yes to some truly wonderful life-giving people and experiences. One of the hardest things with illness and injuries is knowing when to push it and when to rest it. Also very true in everyday life and ministry.
• Persistence. Faithfulness. Steadfastness. Endurance. Keep on keeping on. Sometimes we need to cheer and celebrate not only those who win the Iron Man Competition, but also those who keep putting one foot in front of the other. Pushing through the pain or uncertainty or fatigue or disappointment. No matter how slowly. Over and over. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)
• Joy through the pain. Early in my ministry a wise man said, “At first, the Christian life seems like all joy. Then you hit a patch where it feels like all pain. As we mature, we find the joy through the pain.” As Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.” Sometimes I really just need to cry and let it out. However, I don’t have to continually moan and groan and drag everyone down, and live in a perpetual pity party. As I lean into God, I can glance at my pain, but gaze at the Lord. There is far more joy, fun, laughter, delight, and enjoyment in my life than pain. Keeping my eyes on Jesus helps me to realistically experience and extend joy through the good, the bad, and the ugly of whole journey.
• The infinite blessing of my friends and family around the world. I am continually amazed at the caliber of human beings who are my friends, family, co-laborers, cheerleaders, mentors, teachers, encouragers, and companions. People who keep me going with their presence, kind words, humor, compassion, wisdom, depth, and their intimate connection with God. People who should be named Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17) for holding my arms up through the battle. Buddies who share fabulous adventures with me and hilarious, uproarious laughter until our faces ache. Genuine friends who truly listen. You know who you are. And I am so grateful for you.
• El Roi. The God Who Sees. God condemns our sin, but not our weakness. People may condemn our weakness, but Jesus meets us in our weakness. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain). My greatest cheerleader this year has been God Himself.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) I’m a looooooong way from that perfect result, but so grateful for a patient Lord, who keeps teaching me…
In His love,