Kara’s Collection: Embracing Life Amid Pain

from an article originally posted June 3, 2014...

Choices, always choices meet us in our daily living. I have often talked to friends of the pull of the darkened room where I am tempted to spend endless hours facing a screen and checking out of living. The pull is not a light one—it’s a strong, desperate pull to stop. To quit. To check out. I still have suffocating moments that steal my peace and leave me ragged. Most evenings are a battle for peace before sleep. That is why I posted yesterday about the struggle in going, going, going. But if I’m truly honest, my going is a result of my fear of stopping—stopping and never getting going again. And perhaps if we are all honest, our going is so we don’t have to look at the condition of our hearts. I know that is my fear. If I slow, I stop, I listen, I might hear the depth of my sadness. But there is a lie in that fear, isn’t there. Yes, I know the sadness to be true, but what if I faced it? Would I be left?


I am currently dealing with pain. Not little pain, but awful pain. Pain that has lived with me so long I forget what it was like not to have it. Pain that indicates a tumor pushing hard on something or a new tumor within something new. So not only is it painful, it’s peace stealing. Mouth sores have returned, but I simply cannot talk about them. Jason asked, and I broke. Shattered. When these pains are felt, the thoughts come: my medicine isn’t working, my cancer has spread to my bones, the horizon of my days are growing more limited. The thoughts run rampant, the fears enormous, terrible. So I go. I plan my days full to the rim, and I embrace joy where I can: sunshine, girlfriends, a park, a run with my littles, listening to Billie Holiday, chopping dinner vegetables.

As my days progress, people ask. Driving to the library I returned a call to my sister. My favorite. The one that has full access. We laugh, we remember, we share our going. Then she asks. She asks real questions, and my mood darkens. Not a little dark, but deeply dark. I give her short answers that reflect my fears, and I run off the phone as quickly as I can. I tell her the dates of my tests. My endless bleeping tests. And I run from the phone. I know it’s unfair not to give all the details, but I’m so sick of the details. Illness is a beast. A bleeping, bleeping beast. The constant focus on me, the constant waiting for answers. It’s a knot I have bestowed on everyone that knows me. A knot of yuck we all carry. The brave ask the questions and get my dark mood to meet them. Even my love, my closest love, only asks in the bravest moments. Have you made the call? Did you make the appointment? And he deserves the answers, but the dark that follows remembering... I can hardly escape it. My dear sister sends a loving text after the call: I’m sorry, I love you, I know you don’t want to talk about it. I I love her for braving the questions, but I love her more for pushing past my darkness and loving me. Her text said, I hear your ugly my love, but I’m not going anywhere. Try, Kara, just try and push me.... That’s love unconditional, and that love is what motivates me to want to deal with my darkness.

So we all have these places, these dark corners of our hearts that we hate, we protect, we struggle through daily. I have lived so long with this I’m simply weary. Painfully weary. Jason knows what the winces in my face mean, but not too many others do. He knows what the calendar reflects, the passing of a short amount of time means the dreaded snorts will return—PET scan and brain MRI. The dreaded answers will come.

So the battle—the battle of my heart, the battle of your heart to live honestly. To live kindly. To live in pain, but push past it and live. To not be afraid to be quiet, to remember that my heart is loved. So the battle, the battle is to live. Simply live. Not to find a pace that disconnects me from my heart, and not slow to a pace that gives up. It’s a terrible balance that I cannot strike on my own. I need Jesus. I need grace and goodness to meet me in the midst of my hard. We all need Him. We are all living in the tension of today. We all live at the edges of the fall—sin, disease, brokenness, pain. We all need redemption, big redemption, and daily redemption.

So, I’m swathing us up in sunscreen. I’m going to take the pills that will dull the pain. I will look at the place on the calendar I dread, but I won’t stop (though I really long to). I will thank Jesus for the little faces that keep me going. And I will pray for the light, the only light that can lift my face to meet me. And that light—Jesus—the only light that can work on my heart and deal with my darkness and fear. Only He can change my heart. Only He can shine light on this darkness.

Jesus, dearest Jesus, you know, how you know darkness. You faced it on my behalf. You met it. You took it on so I don’t have to live here. Would you lift my face this day and give me joy in the midst of pain, calm in the midst of fear, and kindness in the midst of terrible pain? Help me not be afraid of slowing, help me not to be afraid to talk to you about these fears. Help me to live honestly in my community, pushing past my own anxiety of having yet another burden I need help carrying. I’m so tired of me. Help us all live honestly in community, even when the story isn’t the one we had hoped to share or ever dreamed to be living. Thank you for providing me the community that does want to carry me on the mat, tear back the roof tiles, and lower me in front of Jesus. (Mark 2:1-12) Thank you.

So please don’t feel sorry for me for my pain. That is exactly why I haven’t been talking about it. I really loath pity. But if my dark places, my pain, my hard can help you take an honest look at your own hard and run to Jesus, then it wasn’t in vain. The honest sharing of my hard is not to gain a team of pity that backs me, but rather a community that honestly looks at their own heart in pain, and in that place meets Jesus. That would be breathtaking. In those broken places, we could meet one another in love and pray for the nearness of God to carry us, meet us, speak gently to our broken places and darkness.

So who of you is running? Who of you is afraid of looking honestly at your own heart? Who needs reminding of Jesus today? Thank you for coming and braving my hard and honestly looking at your own.