The gift of pain
by Doug Geiger
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I don't have a specific number of "lesser known gifts;" but I suspect that the list is near infinite - as nearly infinite as the list of unpleasant feelings that plague us. Furthermore it is arguable that pain is the most basic and fundamental of them all; a hallmark of every lesser known gift. That fact aside, I feel it does desrve its own entry into the hall of fame for a couple of reasons. First the concept of which I speak is so foreign to our pain averse mindset that it bears repeating, even if it shouldn't need to be...repitition might prove to be necessary to overcome our inertia in our pursuit of pleasure above all. The second reason, admittedly not to disimilar from the first, is that if one were not convinced about pain's benefits, all other observations would be fruitless, in that they share pain as a common denominator.
What is life, if not movement? Proteins dance in an ancient dance to split the cells genetic equitably during meiosis. Trees wave their tips toward the sun, adopting the positions of the wind as the undulate like so many hands at a concert. Babies flicker and twitch to some silent song, aiming an unfocused stare at their parents as they lie on their backs in the crib. Pain, among its sister emotions seems to elicit the response of movement. We stay where we are comfortable, we stay where we are pleased. We fight, or flee when we are in pain, or anticipate its coming.
It has been said that the best comedians came out of painful homes. Many of the best albums are written as a retaliation against the pain of a breakup. The speeches that still reverberate throughout the chambers of oratory, were borne out of the inspiration that follows pain. He had a dream. He dedicated the fields of Gettysburg. He requested the tools to finish the job. Some progress can be made without a corresponding pain; but I argue that that is rare. Not since creation has any progress been made without pain as at least a partial motivator. If we hope to be signifigant, we must accept its chief catalyst; and while we may never heal from its work in our lives; its benefits should not be overlooked, simply because it is unpleasant.
The gift of pain pays us more than mere stimulation. Pain has a rather dichotomous relationship with our happiness as well. Not only does it seem to remove our happiness; but; I would argue that it ALLOWS our happiness. If we had no comparison, our happiness would be muted, and perhaps not even percieved (Was this why Adam and Eve fell from Grace? Because of this, might our experience in sinless Heaven, be more precious than their experience in sinless Eden?). Think of the best days of spring. Are they not right after the winter? Do our bodies not feel the most well the day after a sickness? Do we not enjoy the presence of a loved one more after their absense? We must swing backwards to acquire the momentum to swing forward.
For the Christian, pain alludes to the joy which will be our on the other side of Heaven. I read recently a quote about photography; which paraphrased said, "the darkest negatives produce the brightest pictures." These troughs of acute hurting, feverish dissatisfaction, abandonement, and the pinpricks of dissapointment all show us the extent to which ultimate pleasure will be ours. Would we believe God when he described the joy of our home if we had not been stretched by pain to accomodate that depth of experience? Would we crave the afterlife if we were stretched instead by pleasure itself? I believe the answer to both is a resounding, "No." He that would feel full must first feel hungry; he that would feel totally loved must feel totally abandoned. (The thoughts about pains relationship with Heaven are borrowed from John Eldridges book, "Journey of Desire")
A catalyst to change, ability to taste pleasure, and a promise of Heaven are only three reasons to thank God for pain; but I suspect that there are more. More than providing an outline that attempts to be exhaustive, I hope that as you look over my shoulder at my thoughts and methods of reconcilling this spiritual being with its physical shell; you will be moved to use the METHOD I am using and open the gifts with care and gratitude rather than waste the gifts of the Father like I have and only opened those that arrived with brightly colored paper and fancy bows.
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Hi Doug - Your writing drew me into a completely different reading genre. Your philosophical bent is evident in your writing. It isn't a peice that can just be read once and set aside. You have used a number of interesting illustrations to point out the 'light/ learning' side/element of pain. One thought: I wonder if simply introducing 'pain'as a lesser gift, rather than noting that you don't have a list, might make for a stronger start.
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