“That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” – Unknown
I grew up in a broken home, raised by broken people. I knew, from an early age, I was not a wanted nor valued member of the family. At 18, I jumped from the frying pan to the fire and married an overtly fragmented and dysfunctional young man. Some years later, that relationship ended in a whirlwind of lawyer fees, court orders and empty tissue boxes.
I emerged a withering wisp of my former brilliance, gradually folding in on myself. No longer dreaming of better days and a brighter future, but just simply trying to survive. No hints of hope in my heart, just numbness and disillusionment. However, over time, I began to put the pieces of my life back together.
I graduated from college and bought a house, for my two children and me. I found friends and a network of like-minded people, with whom I enjoyed life and was beginning to thrive again. I met my (now) wife, and my world went from black and white to hi-definition color, with surround sound! Once rare commodities in my life (joy, laughter and fun) were now everyday occurrences.
One day, my mother called and said my stepfather was very ill. She asked me to come to the hospital. I walked into the room, and a tsunami of pain came flooding back. It took my breath, and I struggled to even say “hello”. My mother explained that my stepfather was in need of immediate surgery, and they were waiting for the doctor to come in and explain the procedure. Hoping to rely on my medical expertise, my mother asked for advice and guidance on the matter.
Resentment and anger burned in my chest, and my first inclination was to withhold what I knew. An eye for an eye. But, my stepfather began to vomit and spasm, rolling in his bed. My mother slowly backed away from him, scared and unsure of what to do. Before I had time to think, I found myself standing at his bedside, wiping vomit off his face, telling him it would be alright. I held his hand and spoke reassuring and kind words. I told my mother everything I knew and helped her make a decision for his care.
An “I” for an eye.
He survived. Life went on. They went back to their old ways, and I went back to the new me. That pain was still there, but it was different. Quieter. Tamer. Declawed.
In Genesis 42, when Joseph meets his brothers again, 20 years after they’d sold him into slavery, I imagine a deep and familiar pain surfaced. I wonder if that’s why he held them captive for three days, before going back to speak to them. Even though he was the Governor, second only to Pharaoh, in that moment, he became an abandoned little boy, wanting to be loved. Yet, in his pain, God graced Joseph with the ability to care for the ones who hurt him and, in the process, began the healing process in his own heart.
God, Thank You for helping us through difficult moments and bringing purpose out of our pain. You waste nothing. Give us the courage to expose our painful places, so You may heal them. Amen.
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