Touching the Pain

My spiritual director had the room all set up for me when I arrived yesterday morning.  There were small stones set around a candle on a low table in front of where I usually sit.  Of course, I commented that it was different.  She asked if she had my permission to push me a little with some prayer that might help me examine my spiritual pain by becoming aware of my body’s pain.  The stones were tangible items I could pick up and hold as touchstones or fidget items as needed to move deeper.

I said yes – aware that I need to be all in with God as I said last week. As I closed my eyes and thought about the pains in my body, I noticed a slight twinge in my back.  Nope, that was just regular pain; nothing all that spiritual or sacred about it.  I shifted position and explored more of my body.

And there was a small ache right at the center of my chest – we would call it my solar plexus, if you were ever wondering where that is. I reached there with my heart and mind and the pain was gone.  But I knew it had been there and I knew it was something we had been looking for.  We spent the rest of the session exploring where it had gone, whether and how I might need to coax it back out again, and how God would need to be in on healing this big hidden ache in my life.

I lift this to you, not knowing if you also have a big hidden ache in your life.  I suspect we all have them, but perhaps yours is right on the surface just now and not at all hidden. Or maybe yours is so deeply buried, you’d need a special exercise like our body prayer to even suspect it is there.

I truly believe that God wants us to be free from the pain in our lives – spiritual and physical.  But there are some pains we cannot seem to manage and others we have had to learn to live with.

Many years ago I seriously hurt my back.  For months of pain medication and physical therapy there was very little improvement.  I could not stop life entirely, so after a week or so I learned how to do many of the things I usually did while in constant pain.

Fortunately, that physical pain eventually went away for me, but many others live with that pain without an end in sight. My father died from an infection following knee replacement surgery several years ago.  People have asked me if I am sorry that he had the surgery, but I am not.  I knew the pain he was in before surgery and this was all his doctors had to offer.  I sure do wish he had not died, but I wouldn’t want him to still be living with that constantly worsening pain either.

Likewise, we often think we have to live with our spiritual pain, and it is true that we sometimes do.  But God wants healing for that pain too, and is willing to work with us to make that healing happen. I will have to do a lot of work to uncover those places that hurt.  It can seem like it is more trouble than it is worth – certainly if it is mostly hidden, I can just live with it as if it doesn’t exist.  But through several years of spiritual direction, my director and I know that as much as it seems hidden, this pain affects my ability to live in joy and freedom.  It is time to touch the pain and work through it.

I picked up a cracked odd looking rock and held it in my hand. There were more beautiful stones on the table, but I needed that broken one. I hope that you might have the courage to pick up that broken rock in your life soon too, and that it will lead to wholeness.

Do you have pain in your spirit that needs to be healed?  If you take a moment to explore places where your body hurts are there any of those pains that feel sacred or spiritual?  Do you think that our spirit’s health and our body’s health are connected?  Do you have any experiences that show this?  Would you be willing to experience more pain in the short term in order to heal the spiritual pain you feel in the long term?  How could spiritual pain be holding you back from true joy and freedom?

If you need a companion on your journey of healing, consider a spiritual director.  You can find our more at Spiritual Directors International or my website at Openings: Let the Spirit In.

I will be out of the country in South Africa until November 26th, so if you contact me, I may not respond until then.  I am leaving my computer at home and will not always have internet access.

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