Called To Endure
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
The day after my surgery, the pain in my body gave me flashbacks to my recovery days as a kid who had corrective surgery on her legs so that I could walk with some semblance of normalcy. Lying in the hospital bed, having the daylight appear and disappear across the opposite wall in streaks as the days passed by, reminded me of 5-year-old Jamie waking up to endless balloons spelling out, "Get Well" in fun letters and foggy vision seeing strangers peering over me. The out-of-body experience that left me feeling like a floating head as I watched my body endure and disconnect from what was happening to it.
In spite of the rotating dosages of pain medicine dripping into my veins, I couldn't help but remember the sweat-drenched nights where I tossed and turned and moaned and whimpered in silent agony as the muscles in my legs clenched and stretched and pulled around the incision marks that scarred more than just my memory. The hot tears were more from my depression of being in such a helpless position and just having to endure.
Confession: I am tired of having to endure.
My soul is so fed up with spending every waking and sleeping moment just TAKING the hits as if this is what God has given me as my portion. I long for the Eden days where all of this endurance wasn't necessary because there was no need for this long trek back to God after foolishly realizing we can't possibly be without Him. I dream of a better time where Adam and Eve never made their mistakes and sin wasn't known, because then suffering wouldn't be this normal part of life simply because it is so common. I hate how common pain is whether it is physical or spiritual. I hate how numb we have to be just to survive it until the next wave hits us, both expected and unexpectedly.
Truth is, I never really let go of the pain of my childhood.
I may have moved on and released to God my clinching fingers knuckled around the burden of newly formed skin and revitalized motion in my legs, but I have never forgotten the dips and surges of moments that left me with scars that are still visible today. I may have healed just enough to keep moving and pushing myself to reach for a life that I desire so much that it keeps me awake at night from the impatience of too many times in missing the marks that I set for myself. My goals aren't too high, but at times it feels like I am too low. My arms are too short. I can't jump that high on the balls of my feet. I trip too many times. My pain leaves me feeling inadequate as though I am at a deficit. Not in comparison to others, but to God, Himself. My scars make me painfully aware of my need for God in every aspect of my life, and some days this makes me sad that there's this possibility I was born without enough. The part that could have made me a perfectly capable Eve somehow got left in the lab because it wouldn't fit with all my sin and inclination towards darkness. The pang in my heart is shame that I have to be the one to break the barriers and blood curses that my ancestors sown into our family tree. There's the anger we all know very well. I have to endure like this because they weren't strong enough to. Being strong gets tiring. Being strong carries this weight of responsibility that somebody needs my strength, but I am mad at the fact this is how it has to be.
Where's my moment to say, "This is enough."
Where's my chance to pass up some anguish because I don't want to suffer anymore?
Where's my free pass at a moment of weakness without repercussions?
Somehow, physical pain tends to linger a little longer than any other kind, because it is what permeates and seeps through the cracks in my mental and spiritual barriers. It takes up residence in my memories so that every time it recognizes itself, it peeps its head out to say hi. It grabs every opportunity to remind me of its existence.
"Hey, I'm still here, you know?"
That's what it feels like for me after my body has suffered serious trauma. It's interesting to me that doctors describe surgery and any injury to the body as trauma, because most of the time, we associate trauma to the emotional and mental planes of our existence when quite often our pain begins as a physical intrusion to the body that God gave as a temple. It's wild to me that because of the damage done, the healing of my temple has to be just as much of a wrecking ball to a weak wall that has been deemed uninhabitable. The cuts may have drawn blood, but it is the searing pain of cauterizing the wound that leaves me raising my pain threshold to accommodate this new sensation that reminds me that there's something in me that even needs to be healed to begin with.
The surgery I had was intense. My surgeon explained that she had to cut through multiple layers of skin, muscle, and blood vessels to get to my reproductive organs buried deeply underneath my big and small intestines. The rest of my organs had to be pushed up and out of their usual residency in my abdomen. Healing can be so inconvenient sometimes. It always looks like it stops progress and normal processes, because nothing else can run smoothly enough while it's being completed.
This disruption to my system prompted me to spend my recovery explaining why I wasn't crying. To brush away the comments of "Wow! You sure are cheerful and polite!" or "It's rare to find someone so kind!" or "Most people in your shoes are nasty and rude to us!" This often pulled the words, "I'm used to it and I have a high pain tolerance." from my lips, stinging my gums a little out of the realization that I, in fact, have gotten used to pain. That's truly depressing. I have become so familiar with pain so much so that when it happens, again and again, I treat it like an everyday occurrence. Pain was never meant to be normal, even less to exist.
And, yet, somehow, normal for a woman like me to not just know pain like a best friend, but to know how to tolerate it. There's no prompting of strategy to remove what causes us pain or prevent it from happening again. We are just expected to deal with it, store it away in the capacity of who we are, but sometimes that capacity gets filled to the brim that it outruns our tired hands of pressing it down and making room for the next round of "what hurts us won't kill us".
For men, this is the same and it might be seen as worse because there's even less verbal communication about what hurts a man, but somehow, it's hard to wrap my mind around something that is so widely acceptable and yet there's no solution or relief. That pain is just accepted for its ugliness and willingness to take up so much space in our lives that it affects our relationships and ability to be our full selves. There's just no room left for us to be us. I crave and cry out to be me.
So, with every, "I have a high pain tolerance" or "I have a high pain threshold", the cringe I feel is magnified with the awareness that it shouldn't be this way. I think that's what bothers me the most. The fact that we are living a life that God never created us for. The paradox is that He's still made it possible for us to do just that.
Even though, it breaks my heart every time a moment where I am required to endure shakes loose the reality that pain, in fact, does exist and makes people's lives, like my own, far worse than it needs to be, I still find this small wrinkle of hope to cling to what God says. He's the one that doesn't shame me for the humanity in me that despises this need to increase my tolerance for something that was never a part of the original blueprints in the relationship between God and me.
"Therefore, we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 CSB)