when the only way out is through
Over the weekend I took the kids to go buy some ice cream at the grocery store. We have one right around the corner but they wanted to get out of the house for a little longer so we went to a store further away. About three quarters of the way there I was regretting my choice, tired of driving (during the ten minutes that it took to get there!) and wanting to be back home. In this moment I was reminded that sometimes you have to just keep moving forward.
Over the past year there have been a lot of "just keep moving forward" moments. The only way out of the discomfort of pregnancy was through the delivery. The only way out of the pain of labor was through it. Usually the emotional pain in my life is the same way. The only way out is through. My reflex is to try to avoid the pain, or just cope with it. Pretend it's not there. Smile and say "everything is fine, how are you?" Or I'm looking for the nearest off-ramp - how can I get out of the uncomfortable situation?
It's important for me to look fear in the face. It's hard, I want to run away from these feelings, so desperately want to run, but I have found that the best way to deal with pain and fear is to work through it. To look it in the face and say "what is going on?" usually my first answer is "I don't know" but I'm learning, slowly, one baby step at a time, to not be afraid and keep digging for answers.
Daniel & I have been married for fourteen years and I am just now finally learning that just smoothing things over with my husband usually means that the dam breaks down the road. I read a great quote on Jess Connolley's Instagram the other day about how good marriages take good fighting, or something like that, and I could not agree more.
I am fantastic at avoiding difficult conversations, smoothing everything over with a smile and something nice and trivial to say. I can swallow my pain and my pride like nobodies business, unfortunately I'm very likely to vomit it up again on the nearest person who is least likely to hurt me back, most likely my kids. There have been so many moments when I have had to say to my kids "I'm so sorry for the grumpy way I have been behaving towards y'all. I promise, it's not you. I'm upset about something else and I took it out on you."
It's so much easier for me to be angry than hurt. It's so much easier to blame someone else for making me feel this way than to actually look the pain in the face and try to see what is happening. It's easier for me to gloss things over and avoid that hard places then to dive in and risk hurting more on the way through.
Avoiding the things that I fear will cause me pain has usually caused me more pain at the end of the day. It's so much harder to have that difficult conversation when the the inciting incident happened weeks ago and neither one of us can really remember any of the details we just know that we feel distant and locked in what Brené Brown calls "cold war maneuvers" (I love that! So true.)
I have been learning that just coping with pain, fear, disappointment etc. is not the same thing as endurance, patience or perseverance. Coping usually means looking away from the thing that is causing me emotional discomfort and becoming passive but to be patient during a season of suffering means that I am actively seeking God. I am actively seeking God's perspective on my situation. I am actively surrendering my will to God in worship. I am leaning hard into God's provision and standing in faith that God is going to work something good. I'm not just holding my breath or clenching my jaw until this is over, I'm letting go of my expectations for how this thing is supposed to feel and how I want things to resolve and I let this season do it's work in my life.
I've written a lot here about how important it is to me to let a difficult situation or season do it's work in me. I believe that there is so much power in ceasing the fight against hurt and pain and simply let the difficult thing do it's work - to open my eyes to places in my life where fear is ruling my decisions and responses, to soften these hard corners, to learn compassion for myself and others.
During seasons of intense struggle over the last year or two I've learned to let my guard down, to reach for the phone and say "I need some help and perspective" to speak more openly about the things I'm struggling with. In the moments I've felt like I was drowning I was able to be open instead of hide behind my "everything is fine, I don't want to burden you with my mess" mask that I feel comfortable hiding behind.
I've learned that pain, when I let it, opens my heart towards others and softens my heart towards God and He begins to do what only He can do. Giving me patience and perspective, giving me hope and endurance and love when I am feeling, in my own strength, nothing but hurt and offense.
I'm learning more and more that the best way out of pain is to walk through it. To face it, to feel it, to let it do what it needs to do.