Monday, December 24, 2012

Productive pain

Pain is something we all go through as human beings. Be it physical or emotional, pain is something that none of us are exempt from. Sometimes we find ourselves in pain as a result of our own stupid choices, other times we find ourselves in pain through no fault of our own whatsoever and due to circumstances beyond our control. How we respond to pain, however, is up to us - we can choose to sit and suffer with it forever or use it for our own gain and for the gain of others.

As I've said before, one of my favorite movie trilogies is Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Brilliant movies in every sense. One of the most powerful examples of someone using pain productively is Christopher Nolan's depiction of Bruce Wayne (who of course leads a double life as Batman) played brilliantly by Christian Bale. He was forced to watch the deliberate murder of his parents as a helpless young boy, unable to stop the man who killed his parents in front of him.

This deeply affected Bruce - the anger and the guilt that it was his fear that lead them to the darkened alleyway where they were murdered, plus his distress about being too little and helpless to do anything about it. Bruce was in pain - terrible pain. He could have sat around and moped for the rest of his life and done nothing with the pain other than suffer from it - but his pain motivated him to travel the world and learn about both himself and the criminal mind. His deep hatred of injustice and criminality drove him to train as a ninja and finally return to Gotham as the masked vigilante Batman who fought with everything he had to clean up the streets and by all accounts did a pretty incredible job. By the end of his time as Batman he gave his life to save the city (or so the people thought) and ended up having a statue erected in his honor, while he secretly began a new life on the other side of the world, married and happy.

Bruce spent years living in darkness and in pain as a result of his parents death and he used that pain to drive him to do something that had a lasting impact in the city he grew up in - an impact that remained long after he departed. Eventually he was able to let go of the pain and anger and move forwards with his life but while he was still stuck in that dark place he used his pain as a vehicle to bring good into the world around him. This is a prime example of someone dealt a bitter hand by life yet managed to find a productive outlet for his pain and in his pain, the productivity it produced created something amazing. Even though it's (obviously) only a fictional story, it's a powerful message nonetheless.

A true example of productive pain was King David in the bible. Relentlessly and unjustly pursued by Saul, David fled into the caves and hid from Saul's men in a desperate attempt to save his own life. David knew he had done nothing to deserve any of this and that he did not belong in these darkened caves yet he had been forced there anyway, due to the sinful actions of another person. He could easily have spent that time just sulking and moping around, being depressed. Instead he chose to turn that pain into productivity by writing the Psalms. Some of the Psalms speak of great light and peace - others however are irredeemably dark and introspective. David's brutal honesty with both God and himself throughout this time of terrible pain (which did pass eventually) created a powerful legacy which has spread worldwide and still speaks to people thousands of years after David's death. If that's not pain at it's productive best then I don't know what is.

I have spent my life in terrible pain. Even most of my years as a Christian were spent wondering what on earth was so wrong with me and why I was constantly in almost unbearable inner tension and agony. I couldn't see a sense and a purpose in my life - until God put it on my heart that I was to write a book and tell my story to the world - a story which has now been picked up by a major publishing firm in the USA. Writing the book was very hard - it sapped an enormous amount of my time and energy, so much so that over a year after finishing writing the book I still haven't found the energy to put any serious effort into the follow up. The book was written in a very dark place, where the pain and confusion were beginning to become overwhelming. Then, the final revelation which was the key to the tension I'd struggled with my whole life was revealed to me when I was right at the end of writing it and not only did it give me an epic conclusion to the book but it was the beginning of a better life for me.

Now that I am getting better all the time, I am realizing that the time for the terrible pain in my life has finally passed. But I used it in the most productive way that I believe I possibly could - the book I have written in this time is not something that could have been written out of a happy, peaceful heart. It was written by who I used to be - a turbulent, dysfunctional soul. But the work that has come out of that time has the power to really change people's lives. I believe it could leave a real, lasting legacy for me and could really count towards my dream of having my life count for something. Not to say that there hasn't been casualties for me along the way in this journey - there certainly has been. But I realize now that my pain has had a far greater purpose than what I could have imagined.

If you are going through pain today - ask God to help you understand the pain and why you are facing it. Ask Him to help you turn it into productivity. You never know who you might reach and what kind of legacy the productive output from your pain may leave behind you.

Take care and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Godly frustration

Frustration is a subject I know well. As most of my life has been consumed with the healing and/or managing of mental illness which has sapped most of my strength and energy, I haven't been able to contribute fully with my life the way that I would have liked to. I've never been able to truly connect in relationships without being held back to at least some degree by my struggles, I've never been able to completely focus on the job I was doing at the time due to just trying to survive the constant internal anguish and I've never known what it's like to just be able to sit completely still and relax, something others take for granted.

Now that I have substantially reduced my medication thanks to advice from my doctor as well as the ton of deeply rooted spiritual and emotional issues I've dragged myself through over the past year, the frustration is now lessening and I am more able to enjoy life and connect with others in a way I never really could before. The real me is beginning to surface at last. However, the years of frustration have taken their toll and I am finding myself borderline explosive regarding my temperament at times due to the amount that has been held captive within my soul over the past 29 years and also due to the fact that I realize that even though I have learned a massive amount about how to survive, I don't really know how to just sit back and live. It's all a very new learning experience for me - learning to live for the first time.

I've never been able to truly make peace with everything that has happened and there are still some things that have happened to me over the past couple of years that I am still deeply frustrated about. I used to think that this frustration was evil and bad and that God was a God of peace and love and joy and wasn't bothered about anything and was basically some greenie passive hippy sitting up on His cloud going "just peace out, dude." That vision irritated me but I used to see it as true. However, that image of God has now been dismantled out of my thinking process and I've become aware for the first time of something I like to call "Godly frustration."

I have always had a strong sense of justice and wanting to see the right thing happen and the truth be uncovered despite how ugly and violent it can be, simply because I know that the truth sets you free and that living with buried truth is living in heaviness and living a lie. There is nothing that I hate more than seeing the truth buried and covered up where no one can find it while a nice pleasant whitewash is painted on the outside of it so that no one ever thinks to look within. The truth that is buried within that tomb doesn't die. It may be able to be blocked out of one's conscious thinking through years of denial and "shifting focus to other things" but it never really goes away - it just remains as a weight subconsciously pulling one's soul down, sapping their energy and keeping them restrained from becoming who they were created to be.

I find it infuriating and almost exasperating when I am standing up for something that I know is right especially when I feel I am doing as God has told me to do and I am either told to shut up by others or people tell me that I am wrong about something or someone, that I am being too harsh or that I just need to "peace out and let it go and chill out, man." There are times when God puts the truth about something on my heart and I try to communicate what God has told me and I am ignored. This drives me to the point of flipping out and losing the plot as the frustration becomes overwhelming. I used to think this was bad. But now I realize otherwise. This is the frustration that God feels.

God is all seeing and all knowing. Nothing is hidden from Him. God warns people and sometimes He uses His people to warn others - I know He has used me in this capacity. Yet His warnings are ignored and all the while the people that He warns walk blissfully into a slippery slope headed for terrible destruction and the truth that God is trying to get them to face is buried within themselves yet they refuse to heed it and just ignore it - continually blocking it out and walking blissfully into disaster. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be especially seeing as God has made it clear to the world that He will not interfere in free will. He gives people choices but that's not to say He is not deeply grieved and frustrated by the choices that others make.

I know understand that frustration directed towards the right thing is quite righteous. Jesus screamed at the Pharisees out of the incredible frustration He had with them - their double lives, the truth that they concealed within themselves, the fact that they were "like whitewashed tombs, attractive on the outside but internally are full of dead men's bones." But despite His screaming at them He knew that they would never change - hence his overwhelming frustration that lead to such a public spectacle. But it was still the right thing to do.

As I stated in my previous blog, I am learning to become a "Godly agent of chaos". Meaning - that I am learning that there are some things that cannot be kept silent about and truths that cannot be hidden and simply must be told and fought for, else the frustration will simply burn within me until I do say something. This is where the old image of the peaceful, hippy Jesus would come to mind saying "just peace out, man. Let it go." Sometimes that is still the case. But there are also times when truth needs to be told and to "just chill out" and not stand up and fight, not stand up and call out the repressed truths that people don't want to face and not give a voice to issues that will never be spoken of unless I speak of them can actually hold back what God wants to do.

There are some things that will never change - unless we, as God's hands and feet in the world, get off our lazy, peace loving backsides and actively do something about them. There are some issues that will never be spoken about and some stories that have the power to change the lives of others but will never be told unless we tell them. We need God - but He also needs us just as much. The still, small voice of God in the hearts of man is (unfortunately) easily ignored. The voice of a man - especially a voice driven by unresolved anger can be easily ignored. But the voice of a man spoken loudly and clearly into the darkness with God using that man to say what He wants to say can be incredibly powerful and liberating.

My message to you, dear reader, is this. Is there something frustrating you today? Burning on your heart? It could be that you aren't just to "let it go". It could be a Godly frustration, a frustration that the truth isn't coming out about something, that needs to be expressed. Don't fear your frustration. Pray about it and ask God for insight. It could be that your frustration is actually from God Himself and that if you act on it and do something about it by speaking it out and refusing to sit on it and remain frustrated for any longer, you could change someone's life forever. Or the world. There could be casualties. But to my mind there's no casualty worse than the right thing not being done because someone is afraid to do it and therefore the frustration eats them alive.

Take care out there.