The Gift of Vulnerability

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

 

Two weeks ago I had surgery. The nature of the beast was such that minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery wasn’t an option, so mine was the more intrusive kind. Since then, I’ve been at home resting and healing. I won’t bore you with details.

Physical healing comes gradually. I’m uncomfortable and grow impatient at my progress. And I was not prepared for the emotional impact.

I felt bad, at first, for the tears that slipped unbidden from my eyes. The surgery was necessary to tend to something that needed to be tended to, and I was grateful for the speed at which my medical team addressed it. Yet I was grieving.

It wasn’t so much the pieces of myself that were no longer that caused me distress, as it was the vulnerability at having had my body violated. And even as I tap out the word, I feel guilty for claiming it. But that is how I felt. It scared me, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

I shared my sense of having been violated with a few trusted souls. One, in particular, facing a violating surgery of her own, whose heart had been knitted with mine years ago. I trusted that she would see my heart through what she was already facing.

And she did, of course, because those who have walked through the valley understand the darkness. Those willing to risk vulnerability to say “hey, this hurts” understand that no one has a monopoly on pain, and know dropping our masks of having-it-all-together is where relationship lives.

Relative, in terms of what others have endured, I might argue that my violation is small, and yet God doesn’t deal in relativity. My pain and fear and grief is just as real as anyone else’s. Yours too. We run into trouble when we compare our sorrows and our joys.

We are not asked to minimize our individual pain. Rather, to take it to our Healer where we find balm precisely suited to our individual need.

I’m still struggling with feeling vulnerable, and I’m treating it as a gift. The season is one of comfort and soul care; of listening, thinking, going slow, and being present. In this there is richness.

Word wrangler. Photo taker. I'm here early most mornings with one of my photos and a few words about life and those thin places where faith intersects.
14 comments
  1. Heal fast and take care! No one should be “shamed” for having lesser pain than someone else. The worrying part is one of the toughest stages to go through prior to surgery.

    1. Thanks for your kind words this morning, Paige. Sometimes it’s hard to admit when we hurt, but when we do we find kindness in the hands and hearts of others. Such a blessing.

  2. You are heading in the right direction, Linda: Directing your attention to suffering/healing as a gift. Last week my ophthalmologist noticed from the tomography that my left eye is starting to show bad signs. The good news: he addressed something early enough to save my sight, I hope. At first I felt thankful he caught it in the early stages, but underneath is the grief over both my eyes being at risk now, though there is treatment that we hope will prevent further vision loss. I’m focusing on the sight I have, good enough to read, write, and drive.

    May you be blessed with steady recovery!

    1. Oh, Marian, I’m sorry for the concerns with your vision and join you in gratitude for a fast acting practitioner. I understand that underlying grief. Our gratitude doesn’t make it disappear.

      “I’m focusing on the sight I have.” Wise words in many aspects, my friend.

  3. Fear and loathing. That’s how I’d describe my reaction to pain (of any sort) & vulnerability for the most of my life. However, like you, I have come to see there are just some things one learns or experiences inside pain’s cloister that cannot be had anywhere else. It’s how I’ve learned to comfort another, or to see the beauty in small strides, or to comprehend God’s proximity on a whole different level ~ to be still and trust. It’s not the only place of wisdom-getting, but certainly wisdom can be born in it. I’m so sorry that you are somewhat “benched” for the time-being, but I’m also very grateful that the Lord has begun weaving that new thread into the fabric of your life’s story. Stunning beauty.

    1. You’re so right, Kathleen. It’s in our dark times where we learn to trust in God’s faithfulness, and it’s where we’re equipped to reach a hand out to someone else who is struggling. Thank you for your words, this morning.

  4. Great post, my friend! Heal fast!

    1. Thanks, Laureen. Loved your post this morning too.

  5. Linda, you are in my thoughts and prayers and though you are going through a difficult time you are using it as a teaching. That’s the best way! Hope you are healed and feeling better soon.

    1. Thank you, Joan. I’ve come to believe that the difficult times are the times of great learning–as hard as it can be at times!

  6. Linda, you know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I understand the pain and grief that come uninvited into our lives. It is a violation, no matter its relative size. You spoke to this so well. God is not a God of relativity, but of love, hope, and compassion. He will heal you, body and spirit, but in His own time. Know you are loved, dear friend.

    1. Sherrey, I think of you, and others, who are walking a challenging path right now with grace and I am inspired. God is most certainly a God of love, hope, and compassion and gifts like you are conduits of all of those things. Isn’t it beautiful?

  7. I’m sorry you have pain, and I wish you quick healing.

    1. Thanks so much, Karen.

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