As I write this, I have just come back from physical therapy at the OSU Martha Morehouse Center for physical therapy. After some warm up on a hand bike and some pulleys, the therapist stretched my arm in all directions. Thankfully he did tell me to let him know when the pain from the stretch was becoming intolerable. He said that in my exercises that I should ‘push into the pain.’ And be aggressive about it. He says this is the way for me to gain more movement. The pain cannot be avoided. Thankfully there is ice, and at night a hot shower, and a pain med here and there. Even so, some pain cannot be avoided if I want to have full use of my shoulder and arm again.
I have thought a lot about ‘pushing into the pain’ especially when doing my exercises, my arm stretched on the table, or when pulling my right arm up behind my back with a belt. My healing will have some pain to it, and that’s part of my path to growth. Like most, I naturally want to avoid pain, whether that be physical or emotional. But my experience with therapy and exercise is becoming my personal parable. There are other situations in life that are necessary for me to ‘push into the pain.’ I don’t like conflict, and tend to want to avoid it, but it is sometimes necessary and advantageous for me to ‘push into the pain’ and become more engaged. That is more likely to bring a fuller range of growth that is needed. Parenting requires some ‘pushing into the pain.’ So does sitting with someone who is themselves in pain such as a deep grief. We may be tempted to try to ‘cheer them up’, but what is most needed is to dwell in that pain with them, to lament with them. And more healing and growth will come from that acceptance of pain than the aversion to pain.
Our congregation is experiencing some pain, both personally and collectively. We have the pains of surgeries and mending, many of our more mature (older) members are experiencing the pain of becoming more homebound and frail. We have the pain of feeling that our church can seem to be downsizing. (I don’t really want to write this, but I want to acknowledge the pain and disappointment that you may feel that we are not as big a congregation as we once were, and not able to do some of the things we once were able to do.) There was pain when the WELCA (women's) organization within our church was disbanded some years back.
And we also have, and will have, growing pains as we move into the future. That’s unavoidable. Some practices and experiences we try may feel uncomfortable to you. We will not be able to avoid pain, but hopefully, like with my therapist, we can tolerate the painful stretch we are going through, and see it as part of our overall growth into the future. In this time of Lent, and approaching Holy Week, I remember Jesus’ journey. He was tempted to take an easier way, and not to ‘push into the pain.’ (I know that his pain was way beyond tolerable.) If he hadn’t gone the way of the cross, and through that way to the empty tomb, we would not have eternal life in and through him. Actually baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection commits us to a life of growth, through the pain, like the pain of repentance, of looking more closely at ourselves and our struggle to really trust in God and serve God. And as we keep on receiving Jesus’ forgiveness. And other people (God’s angels) can help us especially when the going seems to be too painful for us to go on. I pray that God will give you the strength to ‘push into the pain’ where that will bring growth for you and those around you.
— Pastor Tim