Pain sucks . . . Literally.
No, really, pain is one of those forces that can suck your life dry if you let it.
Whether it is your energy, your capabilities, or something else — pain is an unrelenting force.
Living with chronic pain, therefore, is understandably frustrating.
It’s hard to chase after your dreams when the act of getting out of bed seems a monumental task.
Even more insidious, however, is pain’s ability to begin sapping joy itself out of your life.
Now , to be clear, I fully believe joy and happiness as two different things. Happiness is an emotion, and a fleeting one at that. Happiness is reliant on situations.
Joy on the other hand, is more of a deep abiding peace, it’s not based on feelings (you can experience joy and sorrow at the same time not happiness though) but on a deep abiding knowledge of peace.
So, what does this have to do with me?
This week I’ve been in class studying the Pentateuch. Not to overstate things but it has been amazing!
Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a more relevant class. That said, it’s hard to be relevant without posing a challenge or two. Passive acceptance of life doesn’t generally lead to a passionate existence it leads to status quo.
Take a class on the Pentateuch you’ll find a challenge or two.
This week, aside from the awesome connections my prof has postulated to us, one challenge which was issued stems out of the story of Abraham and Isaac. I’ve known about this account since childhood, but have you ever experienced one of those times where the familiar feels brand new? Yeah, that’s where we are.
For those who don’t know, in the story Abraham is asked to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. Now, here’s some more background. It clearly says that Abraham was being tested. This is key. God’s not into child sacrifice. This is good, it’s nice to agree on things.
Secondly, Isaac was the child of promise. Breaking this down. Abraham was old, Sarah was old. We aren’t talking middle age couple trying for a family. These two were done. Menopause was well settled in, Abraham wasn’t exactly offering much himself either. The arrival of Isaac was not only miraculous but the beginning of God’s fulfilling of His promise to His people. On the flip side, this means that if Isaac were to perish, the long awaited promise that had driven Abraham’s entire life, the promise on which the world’s redemption rested, would be over. We could live and die and that would be it.
Now, into that God asked Abraham in a test to give Isaac in sacrifice.
So, fast forward to the future. Class has challenged us to find our Isaac’s and lay them down. This makes sense to me. Isaac’s are good but because of their value they can easily take the space intended for God. To lay these down, is a good process but not exactly a pleasant one.
I’ve been doing a lot of wondering, as a result, about what Isaac’s are in my life. You should have felt my heart lurch when my prof mentioned good health as a potential Isaac. This semester has been hard. Between health problems and feeling like I’m falling behind my peer group it’s easy to see how, for me, good health is starting to become an Isaac. This idea that if only I could get reach this imperceptible level then things would be fine. But that’s not living by faith. Ouch.
I really want to be independent and healthy. My reasons for doing so aren’t exactly pure though. I don’t want to have to wrestle through old fears of being a burden. I like controlling my own life. Living in community is messy and I’m a little OCD (this isn’t literal, kind of). None of these are good reasons to seek societal ideals of health. Even as I process, and yes this is rough thoughts, it makes sense to me that striving towards the best I can within my situation and for God’s glory is the goal I should be striving for, even if it means setting aside selfish ambitions.
It’s fascinating to me that most instances of laying down an Isaac actually increase our dependence upon this God we can not control. It’s so counter intuitive but even as I think about it I can see the shadows of my consciousness beginning to make sense of how these acts could be beneficial. That which is good for us isn’t always immediately apparent. It’s like my friends children. They often don’t understand why giving up the things the truly desire, like a day of only candy, is actually better for them in the long run. Hmmm, being compared to a child isn’t any less painful than it is true, ouch again.