Newness always seems to inspire me. If you follow me on Instagram (I’m @colibri_homestead and you can see pictures here even if you aren’t a user), you’ll know we bought a used RV and fixed it up enough to take our first trip (to the Oregon Coast!). We had to come back mid-trip for a saline infusion (I talk more about that on a recent Instagram post if you’re curious to learn more), and decided this morning it’s better if we skip the second part of our trip. There was relief there, and sadness too. All these things together inspired these words from my heart. Cheers to embracing that which we are taught not to embrace!
It can literally bring you to your knees.
Deeper than your knees. Sometimes in a deep, deep pit where there’s just the smallest glimmer of something that’s not your body’s pain and the messiness spinning out from it.
It can bring shame or embarrassment:
At the parenting you cannot do.
The relationships you cannot maintain.
The independence you lose.
The doing you cannot do.
For me, the toilet in my bedroom and “grandma” diapers in my closet that yes, can be used by those much younger too.
For others the very cane, walker, wheelchair, shower chair, grab bars – the things that can bring freedom if you don’t listen to the shame of your pain.
I had a wise friend share what she had learned from another wise friend about chronic illness: Sickness can be a good teacher if you let it.
And I let those words sink in. Even at their first reading they feel immediately right, and my seeing – it started getting bigger too.
She says somewhere in that conversation: Illness is a chance to practice forgiveness and grace over and over for the things people say or the ways in which they unwittingly cause pain when trying to be helpful.
I now see it as a chance to practice grace for myself over and over too.
A once-avid gardener and backpacker, I look around me and back to what I know best: the ground beneath my feet. And all I see is death and resurrection. And I think: that’s the key. There’s death, but then from that death resurrection pushes up, like scrappy weeds growing from cracks in the ground to that beautiful unfurling into its fullness of the rhubarb. Even in the forest at darkest night, there is still life swarming all around, like the nematode my son just caught; a great dark-time surprise. My, what I – what we – can catch in the dark! Because there’s its own kind of beauty in the dark and in the dying too.
And I am brought to my knees, with pain still, yet a hope: All the earth’s deaths and resurrections and all the seasons of my suffering – my own little deaths and resurrections, bring me close to him, the One who was present at creation, who lived in an earthly body with its pains, and is the very archetype of dying and rising again.
So now when pain hits and brings me to my knees for days or weeks or months or minutes, I remember to listen and learn and bring with me all that I have gathered along the way:
To fall into death and remember it is always followed by resurrection, even if it is just a small enough break to empty that toilet by my bed.
How all those little resurrections build and they build and they build until they outstrip my fear of death; my fear of that pit.
How now, all that pit holds is the potential for new life.
And then the pit loses its death grip on me. And I am brought closer and closer through this dying and resurrecting that my physical pain brings to the One who embodied it resulting in deep, deep union. Ah, that sweet, sweet union. Union that only the co-knowers know.
And I realize all along what the Beatitudes have told me: that those things that look more to the world like un-gifts are really the greatest gifts of all. And I do the impossible, or what some would say is imprudent, foolish: I somehow embrace my physical suffering. Pain then becomes gift, even as you both wish it away and somehow rest in it.