Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Sometimes, the pain we have worked so hard to avoid is the one thing that leads us to where God calls us to go. Sometimes, feeling our need is the greatest work of faith we can surrender to.
I woke up like any other day.
But, when I got up from my bed, a sharp pain shot through my ankle. My leg jerked and my step crumpled. I couldn't walk.
What was going on?
I hadn't done anything strenuous. Hadn't hurt it.
Or did I?
Two months ago, it was a rainy spring Saturday morning. I wanted to give Hubby the morning off for some alone time, so I took the boys to get their energy out -- by going to Sky High -- an indoor trampoline gym.
The entire warehouse was practically wall to wall trampoline. I was stoked. I jumped higher and higher, laughing as hair and body shot weightlessly up through the air.
Until I landed on my right ankle. And laid writhing in pain.
That night, my ankle swelled up. But, I didn't think much of it. It's not the first time I've sprained my ankle.
The doctors have always said the same thing.
Take ibuprofen. Put your feet up. Ice it.
Stay off of it -- take it easy.
So, that's what I did.
I knew it was injured pretty badly, since it was swollen on both sides of my ankle. Especially when it turned black and blue in the days after. But, life was already busy and stressful enough, running the daily treadmill of life, taking care of my three year old toddler and six year old kindergartner.
So, I didn't think I needed to go to the doctors.
I didn't feel I had any need.
My inability to feel my need landed me at the doctor's office last week, pain pulsing through my ankle.
As I sat there with my feet bare, waiting for the diagnosis, a bewildered podiatrist sitting on his spinning chair asked me, "Why didn't you come in sooner?".
"Bonnie, you have a broken bone."
"Yep. You did a good job breaking your foot, " Dr. Podiatrist sighed as he pointed out the break on the film of my x-ray.
The doctor said I would need to have an MRI. We have to investigate what is going on inside. You see, all the signs of trauma my foot experienced has already left. There is no black or blue to show blood draining. No redness or intense swelling left to observe the extent of the injury.
From all appearances on the outside, my foot was fine.
But, it wasn't.
Something was broken.
Deep inside, there was pain.
I drove home, feeling ashamed for not going to the doctor earlier, beating myself up for allowing my foot to get worse. As I added insult to self-injury mixing in a good dose of regret on shoulda-woulda-coulda, I had an epiphany.
Bonnie, you have such a high tolerance for pain.
You didn't even know you had a need.
A real need.
A bone actually broke and here I was -- so high functioning -- so good at taking care of everything and everyone, I lost sensitivity to my pain... and my need.
As I drove into the garage and parked my car, something in me just unraveled. My heart seemed to throb under a heavy weight and a flood of tears pushed up through my throat. And I began to sob.
What else is broken?
What pain have I masked so well that I no longer have any feelings left to contend with?
I realized some deep seated fears and anxieties I've been battling to calm for many months cannot simply go away if I pray hard enough, study my Bible more thoroughly or double up my commitment to trust God harder.
It dawned on me -- deep in my soul -- God was gently speaking straight into me --
Bonnie, you are in a lot of pain.
Something is broken.
No one can see it, but I know it hurts. I know it is there.
Don't be afraid to trust me --
-- by feeling the pain.
-- by feeling need.
It's easy for me to pray and ask God to help me trust Him, when all I want is the pain or the problem to go away.
But, it feels completely foreign and disorienting to ask God to help me trust Him -- so that I can feel needy. So I can feel the pain.
This incident with my foot injury gave God, my soul's physician, to speak into some hiding places within me loud and clear.
Of course, I want to get an MRI and get to the bottom of this pain in my foot. I cringe at the thought of having to go the doctors for nth number of visits to try to figure this thing out.
But, one thing I do know.
I'm not going to ignore it. I want my foot to heal.
So, it is also with another heart sickening problem I am having to confront.
I am now praying and asking God to walk with me through places I haven't been before: the journey to feel pain -- so that I can find comfort and healing on the way.
This isn't a journey that I want to go on.
I'm trying to resist it, by trying to solve the problem and be as high functioning as I can.
I can do capable.
I can do faith.
But God is now calling me to experience the mystery of faith. And He's calling me to it by inviting me to feel pain.
Maybe you are also going through a season where you suddenly find your highly productive, competent-self encountering a wall of weaknesses and confusion.
You may be like me -- looking just fine on the outside. The hurt of the past appears to have subsided. You're not black and blue. Nothing is swollen or funny looking.
But, inside you've been working hard to move away from disappointment, loss or loneliness. From pain. And from need.
What worked in the past to make you feel better has worked. You've survived. But, it's not working anymore. Not this time.
For whatever reason, the difficulty you're facing right now is eroding the peace you had once experienced from God.
But wait. God is offering us hope. He says --
Your faith is still there. I just want you to use it differently.
You haven't failed. I want you to know that with me -- you can.
I haven't abandoned you...
I am only holding onto you tighter because I know it's time for you to heal.
It's time for you to need.
It's time for you to feel the pain.
It is that time for me, friends.
Together, our journey to investigate the pain starts with trusting God is good. He is the soul physician. He is extremely competent and kind. He has seen everything under the sun and nothing can shock Him or cause Him to abandon us in this process. Even if we feel like He would, He won't.
Let's hold each other up in prayer today.
Let's share what we can. And for all that is unspoken,the Holy Spirit will fill in the rest.
"Now that we know what we have --
-- Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God...
We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.
He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all
-- So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give.
Take the mercy, accept the help."
Where are you with God on the journey to feel your need with Him?
Share a bit of your story? Click here to comment.
I'm grateful for your voice here.
By Bonnie Gray, the FaithBarista serving up shots of faith for everyday life.
Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)Courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, due to release in 2013 by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.
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Photo credit: najma_es786 via Photobucket.