Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Power To Grow Beyond Your Pain

You’ve probably heard the popular motto that most athletes ascribe to, “there is no gain without the pain.”    
My son’s girlfriend, Saige just completed the Orange County Marathon after many grueling months of training, and an even more grueling 26.2 mile race last Sunday.  I got to see her, up close, as she crossed mile marker 7, 14, 20, and then ultimately the finish line.  As she crossed through these mile markers I could read the various expressions on her face, while she also passed through a multitude of emotions.
 It is taking Saige days to get her feet feeling normal again and I’m sure her emotions and her spirit are renewing as well.   And guess what?  Any day now she will be back to the same demanding training again, preparing for her next marathon.   

 I spent almost nine years practicing the martial art of TaeKwonDo and it took long hours of training, several days a week.  I also experienced a few painful physical injuries along the way, as well as some emotional ones. I had to hear a lot of flack from people who questioned why I would want to practice martial arts in the first place?  

Saige, running the OC Marathon.  Somewhere between miles 0-14?
 Sometimes we choose to endure certain painful situations, like the sacrifices we make in order to compete in athletics.  I know from personal experience that I've grown in many ways through these physical endeavors as they also challenge my mind and my spirit. 

 One of my goals in life is to also grow in those challenging and painful times that are not of my choosing.   I'm referring to those occurrences that seem to come out of nowhere--- like the loss of a job, painful family issues,  needing to relocate a home or an office, the end of a relationship,  a personal diagnosis of illness... or the illness of a loved-one,  or the sudden (or not so sudden) death of a loved one.  

Through my sufferings I strive to find a greater purpose for my life, which includes looking into the future and trying to picture a favorable outcome.  I also find that while in the middle of my trials I always have a choice.  I can rely on and further develop the good, humane, loving, compassionate side of myself--- my God essence.   Or I can allow my suffering to bring out the most broken, discouraged, negative side of my being--- my human side.

 I believe my suffering can only be experienced by myself and for myself.  No one else is feeling or going through what I am going through even though our outward circumstances may be the same.  This is where my faith comes in.  I can draw on God’s strength and power when I don’t feel like mine is adequate for the situation--- for the season I’m in.  God was, is, and forever will be;  therefore unchangeable no matter what I (or anyone) go through.  I strive to understand that God lives beyond the three dimensional world that I live in, which is the here and now.  He is all knowing and all-powerful.  He knows the beginning and the end, even when I am confused.

Allowing myself to be comforted by God, and a belief in the greater good, has kept me sane, compassionate, and alert to finding some reason for everything. 
These are a few of the ways my suffering has helped me become a better person and a stronger person:

-I learn to share in the pain of others. Empathy.
-I see God at work in my friends, and sometimes people I hardly know, all around me. 
-I learn to appreciate loved-ones (spouse, children, extended family) in new and powerful ways.
-I learn to love more unconditionally.
-I realize that I don’t get to choose when and how I experience pain.
-I lose control in the tough times I go through, which I do not like, but instead I learn to live with and in, the process--- the journey. 
-I see that this life is temporary and it goes by so fast.
-I learn more trust.
-When going through my “dark night of the soul” seasons I become a more fully developed, a more mature version of myself by learning to let-go of what I think the outcome of any situation should be. 

With each passing hardship I learn to dig deeper, to go deeper than I ever thought I could; to draw hope from the deepest inner places, when I think there’s nothing left.
 And somehow through it all, my pain propels me forward in this fragile, yet strong human body, on this challenging spiritual journey, that we call life.  

Saige finishes the OC Marathon, 2nd place in her age group, 9th of 545 women ,77th out of 1489 total men and women!
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
 Philippians:2:13 NLT

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