The Purpose of Pain
The words drag through my heart, claws digging deep into tender, vulnerable places. I feel betrayed, rejected, abandoned. I wonder where it all went wrong. I only ever did the best that I could.
I struggle to breathe.
My eyes puffy from sobbing, my body exhausted from the emotional struggle, I am weary and wary. Sighing deeply, I try to just let it all go.
But I can’t. I draw a strange comfort from hashing and rehashing the words and the gestures and the moments, turning each one this way and that looking for that one moment that could have been different.
It doesn’t matter how many times I turn it over. The story ends the same. Broken, hurting people hurting broken, hurting people. The pain rises again, and the physical ache in my heart magnifies as I remember again the moment of betrayal.
Guilt begins to swell followed by regret and hopelessness. Surely there must have been something I could have done. Surely.
Days, weeks, months…perhaps years pass. I wonder how the pain and sorrow could have been avoided. I return in my mind to the scene to replay the events, wondering how far back I need to go to find an answer to assuage my pain.
But it never comes, not back there, not in reliving the moment word by word, action by action, pain by pain. I’m wearing a rut in my brain. I’m getting trapped in my thoughts, in the remembering.
What if there were a better way? What would happen if I simply let the story go, learning from the pain, adjusting, shedding the old behaviors and mindsets? It feels so scary. What will protect me from the next time?
Except there’s already been a next time. The protection was thin, and the pain barreled right on through, drawing in with it every past hurt I’m still holding onto, creating a vortex that sucks me into a deep, dark hole that can take days or weeks to climb out of.
Reliving all this pain over and over again no longer serves me. It blinds me to the current gifts and joy in my life. It blinds me to the gifts and joys that were present even during the hard and hurtful moments. What if I take off the lens of pain, if just for a moment. What will I see instead?
Cautiously, I bring my hands to my face to remove these heavy lenses. They’ve been a comforting presence but now they just leave me weary and exhausted. I’m ready for change.
I’m unprepared for what happens next. Suddenly, what was all grey and dismal is transformed by light breaking through, like the sun on the dawn of a cloudy day. Pink tinges the edges of the clouds as they part to allow the light in that illuminates the treasures and gifts found in the cracks of my heart.
I now see how pain has enlarged my heart…the cracks are like stretch marks…no permanent damage here, just a reminder of the experience that allowed me to birth deeper, beautiful qualities like compassion, understanding, and strength. The oppressive weight on my heart has lightened, and my lungs fill as I breathe in deeply. Colors seem brighter, the air clearer.
Hope begins to rise again as my eyes are opened to finding purpose amid heartache: no longer am eye clueless to the plight of others, no longer powerless to identify with agony, I am free from irrelevant judgments and criticisms of people whose stories I simply did not understand. My whole world has become more three-dimensional, more ample, more diverse.
Sure, there’s still pain. But now I can embrace the process of grief and forgiveness of self and others because I know that there’s beauty in the midst and healing on the other side.
The truth is, valuable treasure comes from the broken places.
Finding the treasure changes everything.