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Seeing Through the Lens of Pain

“Most people want to grow, but the price of growth is pain.” Dan Allender [1]

We all want to be confident about life. To know for sure what is true. To understand where we are going and how to get there.

But few of us want to accept a hard truth: a key ingredient to clear-eyed seeing is experiencing pain.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Silver Chair, Puddleglum and his friends were lost in an underground world. They were being slowly lulled into believing that there was no overworld. When Puddleglum’s foot caught fire, something mysterious happened. When he smelled burning flesh, his thinking became clearer. He remembered the world he’d always known. The illusion faded, and the pain brought him back to reality.

In her book, Phosphorescence, Julia Baird, says pain has a way of opening us up to reality. It makes us sensitive, clears our mind of unnecessary clutter and fluff, and points us back to what is of ultimate worth. She would know; she herself has suffered deeply in her battle with cancer.

Esther Lightcap Meek says that pain is an important way to “invite the real.” During her own extended period of pain, she discovered many new insights about herself and her world.

Pain clears our senses, sweeps away illusions, and reminds us of what’s lasting. We can get in touch with what's real when we open ourselves to the necessary pain of life.

In my own life, deep emotional pain was the catalyst to growth. Through it, I discovered bodily awareness, self-calming, and sensory poetry. Pain reunited me with my innocent, creative childhood self. Dan Allender said, “Pain enables us to discover ourselves."[2]

As long as we are stuck in the patterns and merry-go-rounds of everyday hustle, fear, and perfectionism, our minds are often lost in a fog of illusion. But when pain breaks through that fog, we realize things about ourselves and our world that resonate with reality. Pain is often the catalyst that makes growth and change unavoidable.

It may seem easier to deny our desires than to open ourselves to the beauty and pain of unfulfilled longings. But when we do, we realize that pain helps us access reality. The illusion that “everything is fine” and “I’m doing great!” never opens our eyes to the true range of feelings. When we embrace the necessary pain in our lives, new worlds open up to us.

How could accepting pain be a catalyst for growth in your life?

[2] Allender, The Healing Path, pg. 37


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