Friday, November 30, 2012

pain, hurt, life - Part 2

Sometime in the middle of all the ignoring of pain I had embarked on,
our tight family of 5 moved to an idyllic mountain home nestled in a storybook town.
We planted roots.
We were intentional.
We grew.
I buried stubborn desires and lingering embarrassment beneath the blossoming branches of my boys.
I ignored pain a little longer, determined to
"laugh at the days to come" with flinty resolve and applied rebuke to myself liberally.
After all, who was I to complain?, I demanded of my own heart.
I condemned myself as ungrateful, ridiculous, exasperating. Here I was with 3 healthy children...and still my heart would not be silenced.

Gently, God recklessly lifted my bedraggled wishes
giving them flight only long enough to patch their wings...
and that's all it took.

As I sang my broken songs to Jesus, confiding my raging tears to my husband
 I found that instead of relentless grief and bottomless liability
the ship's rudder turned hard and we sailed a new direction altogether.

I expected hurt's smoke to consume me.
Instead, it faded.
In its' shadow something brave bloomed.

That spring, thousands of miles away, across an ocean,
an African woman became pregnant with the daughter she loved
and the daughter I hadn't know I was allowed to hope for.

Before the calendar year ended my daughter was born.
Within two months, her mother had died.
Imperceptibly and miraculously the details aligned to connect all of the myriad dots
until my daughter was placed in my own arms.

The pain of my traumatized body was not forgotten,
the scars still present and the stored boxes of weighty burdens still to be emptied and sorted
but the hurt magically dispersed.

My fists, first pried open with skepticism
were now the widely splayed hands of gratitude.
The pain I had endured -
the shame of inadequacy, the whispers of failure, the huntedness of victimization  -
I could appreciate their profitability.
I needed the memory of the pain to grasp the revival of life.

"Okay, Esty. That's great.", you are saying. 
"You had some minor trauma in childbearing years and you got yourself a daughter at the end of it, that's a real nice story but it's not like you've experienced actual loss. Not like I have. And where is God? 
Why didn't He stop my pain if He's as you claim and He's fixed your situation so speedily? 
Where is my alternate ending?
How dare you stake a claim like: 'this is how God is' 
when you don't know what I have been through, what I have done?"

Because, dear reader, this is How Life Goes.
Tell me of life that hasn't been birthed from pain.
I dare you:
Show me a tree whose seed hasn't first been split wide open before sprouting.
Show me a spring without a frozen winter preceding.
Show me a squalling, wrinkled newborn without a spent and wasted mother.
Show me a marriage ripened to admiration without first enduring fire.
Show me a job accoladed without treacherous energy perfecting it first.
Show me a diamond shimmering without heat, pressure and stamina.
Show me life without precedent pain.

Luke, Graham, Ethan, Rissa...they are the best picture I know to illustrate
Isaiah 66:9
"'I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born', says the Lord."

Just think.
Pain in your life - hurt and pain...abuse, trauma, dashed hopes and dreams, scars and wounds...
has something new been born from this?

Can you find even a sparkling shard amidst the smoldering rubble?

Do you want to?

Have you seen iron butterflies forged from the melted cocoons of disasters?

Can you picture a world where we didn't naturally expect beauty to rise from ashes?
What if the shiny, mylar balloons which arrived at my hospital room
while I was grieving the shaky birth of a premature son instead of brightly shouting congratulations had gloomily declared:
"So sorry for all that hateful pain."
"Try to bury it now."
"You never have to think of all that unpleasantness again."

How doomed my marriage if the agreements we made and shook on
when faced with confessions and forgivenesses
as all marriages are had been:
"We'll ignore this."
"We shall make a pact to lock this all away."
"I won't call you out on your mess if you will turn a blind eye towards mine."

What if Mary hadn't birthed the Messiah, only carried a scandalous pregnancy while her reputation and relationships deteriorated? What if He hadn't actually gotten born? Or what if Jesus showed up and hadn't lived His destiny, even His painful final act on the cross of Calvary? What if His life wasn't Isaiah 66:9 made tangible, His pain bringing LIFE for all who recognized this truth?
How can we live this life on earth and NOT affirm that whether it is palatable or not?...

pain* births* life*

We can't will sweetness to soar from scorched earth.
We can't predict how faith climbs a ladder out of desolation or
how it will look when we are miles from the pain, watching it recede in the rear view mirror.
But we can apply Isaiah 66:9
first as a lifeboat, when a storm capsizes
then as an anchor, when we are off course,
finally as a sail, when a minty, bracing wind sweeps us on.

This verse has been MY lifeboat, MY anchor, MY sail the last few months
when I have needed to be reminded that pain's solar flares
inflame hurt to barely tolerable levels.
I am always tempted to turn tail and book it,
the child of abuse still terrified that My Greatest Fear
something precious to me will be wrenched away
will be realized
my default to shield myself from pain so that I am not devoured by hurt.

My children are walking reminders that there is a purpose for pain.
My husband's presence a memento that surrender creates wonder.
My destiny assured that pain, hurt and life are strangely linked...but since they are
I needn't fear, for when pain arrives NEW LIFE is never far behind.


  1. Esty, I had never read that verse from Isaiah before, and I loved seeing it in the middle of your writing and all that it captures of God's love. I have seen beauty come from the ashes, too...a little boy who raised his hand to declare his desire for Jesus in his heart, the very night after we'd found out I'd miscarried twins...a marriage that went through the fire of residency and came out stronger from the pressure and heat...a little girl full of life, whose days began shortly after those little twins returned to their Creator...those are the big ones in my life. Every day, I see God turning what looks hopeless into something full of promise and hope. I am glad you are using your writing to give Him praise, and I pray for all who read it to have open eyes and hearts to grasp that love, too. Praise Him! --Alison

  2. Oh YES! Beautifully said. I completely agree. My daughter was stillborn 1 year ago and there has been so much good and growth that has come and is coming from the ashes of that pain. I miss her terribly but am so glad for what the Lord birthed from her death. That is mercy.

  3. Amen, sister!!!! All praise to God our King! :)

  4. Oh, Esty. This is beautiful ...and powerful. I am so stirred after reading this.

  5. I love your blog. I nominated you for the Liebster Award. You can see the instructions here:

  6. I needed to read this today. A dear friend lost her second child in less than a year--her first, an accident in the home where her 2yo son died. Last night, she miscarried. My heart is bleeding freely for her today. And I'm shopping for your Christmas gifts. : ) Pain and joy all jumbled up together. Love you, friend.