Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: dealing with pain

What I’m Reading: Lane Steen

I admit I shed a few tears the first time I listened to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rock opera, Beethoven’s Last Night. When Mephistopheles strikes a bargain with Beethoven to give up one piece of the music he’s created in exchange for his soul, Beethoven rants at Fate for having left him with this awful choice after the lifetime of hurts he’s already faced. She allows him to revisit scenes from his past and erase their pain from his life. But the hurts, disappointments, and losses sprinkled throughout his memories aren’t what moved me.

After reliving each painful experience, Beethoven makes his choice. As he sings “This is Who You Are”, it becomes clear. Beethoven can’t erase any of his past without erasing the beautiful music created from the things he experienced. One event changed in his past would change everything else about his life. He chose to keep the pain so the world would not lose the beauty drawn out of it. It’s a choice that probably hits close to home for many of us as we consider the mistakes and hurts of our own lives.

I imagine it’s a theme that played throughout Lane’s life in Lane Steen by Candace West.  Before she was out of her teenage years, Lane Steen’s life held enough hurts to fill ten people with the ache to erase the past. Raised in a shack on the outskirts of town was enough to make Lane feel like an outcast without adding in her tattered clothes and father’s bad reputation. Even those paled in comparison to the horror of living with an alcoholic father who didn’t need the addition of alcohol to make him physically and verbally abusive to his wife and daughter. With her own mother being emotionally disconnected from her, the only bright spots in her life are school and her friendships with Tabitha, Guy, and the new teacher who encourages Lane to find what she’s good at and pursue it.

Even these gifts in her life don’t lessen the hurt she feels or take away the hate Lane has for her father. Her only thoughts are to escape the town and her family and never look back. As opportunities open up small windows of hope into Lane’s life, Lane begins to wrestle with the possibility that God is there and, despite her awful circumstances, He may care about her.  

Lane takes a journey of self and faith discovery through the story. Each secret revealed about herself and her family’s past gives her more understanding. Lane learns what brings her joy and purpose. She finds out how healing God’s forgiveness and love can be to receive, and she is confronted with the need to extend that forgiveness and love to others. Lane’s eyes and heart are opened to what it really means to love someone and let them love in return. And she struggles to define what forgiveness should look like on a daily basis as she tries to move forward from the damage caused by others in her life. Lane had to learn how to let the past shape her without allowing it to trap her in a world of hate and retribution.

Whether it’s in the fictional world of Lane Steen or in our sometimes all too real lives, the past plays its part in who people become. Good and bad circumstances influence our outlooks, decisions, and emotions. Left on our own, we often turn to unhealthy ways of dealing with the past. We, like Lane, attach ourselves to ideas of retribution, hate, or despair.

It doesn’t have to be this way. God’s word offers hope that as we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive others whether they deserve it or not.  They don’t even have to accept it. We find freedom in ourselves to move into a better place when we choose forgiveness.

Scripture promises us that while the hurts may not fall away, God can grow good things in us despite and even through the pain. God assures us He will never leave us. When we feel we are all alone, we can cling to this promise and know that feeling is not from Him. He’s there to provide strength, encouragement, and direction in the middle of our hurts.

Navigating our pasts to become God’s best for us in the present and future isn’t an easy path. And it’s relevance in our lives is what makes Lane Steen’s fictional story resonate even if your pains are very different from hers. But coming to the places of acceptance of our pasts, forgiveness for those who hurt us, and allowing God to work in us will bring us to the place where we can be everything we were created to be.

Right Stuff Wednesday – Very Bad Days

Have I told you that I love quotes? I do. I love movie quotes, quotes famous people, and quotes from books. But some of my favorite quotes come from children’s books. The ability to wrap up an adult sized truth in a package that children can understand and relate to is amazing. The fact that the words are as meaningful to adults as they are to the books’ youthful audience makes them nothing short of beautiful.

“It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that.” – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

It’s a simple end to a story chronicling the misadventures of a young boy. Nothing seems to go right for the story’s main character. At the end, there is no redemption. He simply states what a horrible day it has been, and his mother doesn’t attempt to talk him out of it. She doesn’t point out all that’s gone right. She simply agrees. Yes, some days are like that.

I’ve had days like that. I’m sure you have too. No matter what you try nothing seems to work the way you planned. Those days leave me wondering why I didn’t stay nestled in my comfy bed. Too bad hibernation is not a valid method of dealing with things.

Then, there are those events and issues in our lives that encompass more than a single day. They are those heartbreaking, spirit shaking pains that are light years away from the troubles of a bad day in childhood. No matter how they’re handled, it cannot be escaped. These trials change us.

In recent years it has become popular for believers to adopt an attitude that faith in God will protect us from the pains of life. If we believe enough and pray enough, God will bless us with only good things. Jesus tells us differently. He warns we will suffer for our faith. Men like Paul gave us God’s word on how to deal with hard times when they come. He wouldn’t need to if we wouldn’t face difficulties. Paul, himself, asked for a specific trial to be taken from him but God refused.

Life gets messy. Life can hurt. “Yes, some days are like that.” And some weeks, months, and years. But it doesn’t leave us without hope.

I have experienced pains I thought would break me. I have old wounds that cause me pain years after they were inflicted. Events beyond my control forever erased the way I thought life was going for me. I won’t get into specifics. I don’t need to. My trials may be different than yours, but I’m guessing yours probably left you feeling much the same way. The events causing our pains are different but it doesn’t make one more or less important. When someone experiences life changing situations, the initial results are the same. Confusion, hurt, and anger vie for our attention and energy.

But, and I don’t say this lightly, I don’t wish these experiences away. I learned more about God and myself during those times than I did on hundred bright, happy days. I was more focused and spiritually minded during these trials, and I realized how much I had taken my faith for granted. It sounds trite to someone who’s currently in the flames, but seeing where I am now, I appreciate the refining fire I found myself in.

Does this mean I want to go there again? Absolutely not. Does it make the pain of the old wounds disappear? No. But God might even take care of those one day. Do I find myself skipping through the heartaches with a smile? No. And I wouldn’t be even if I did regularly find myself skipping through my days. I cry. I get angry. I complain.

Then, I turn to the one place I know I can find strength and peace for the fight. I realize my limitations and my God’s limitlessness. I wish I could share with you an easy to follow five step plan for peace and contentment in the midst of devastation, but I can’t. I have lessons I’ve taken to heart from scripture. You might try Philippians 4 and Psalm 121. I often find direction and peace when I reflect on and put these into practice. But God is using these things to change each of us in a very personal way. Maybe your focus needs to be on God’s love where mine needs to be on His provision. Whatever it is we’re looking for, we can find it through God’s word, prayer, and the godly support of Christian friends.

This attitude adjustment isn’t easy. It’s not a quick fix. You’re still going to feel like some things are terrible and horrible. You may experience more days that seem no good and very bad. But you’ll notice the shift in perspective and be able to say, “Some days are like that.” And one day, if you let God work in you through the circumstances you may even realize that while you hated going through it, you’re grateful for the person they’ve grown you into. A person who is more Christ-like than the one that existed before the trial’s refining fire.

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