Fear is a powerful thing. It can make one hesitate. It can make one doubt. I can be debilitating.
I remember a time in my life when my biggest fear was being wrong. Imagine cashing out your life savings, going to Vegas, and putting it all on a spin of a roulette table. Imagine the surreal, slow-motion experience of watching that little white ball bounce around searching for a place to land. Imagine the angst and anxiety that comes with the waiting and the wanting …. and the praying.
The bouncing stops, the reality is confirmed, the gravity of it sets in.
Shock. Disbelief. Nausea.
I was wrong, by the way. Wrong in so many ways. As I look back at that time and experience in my life – now more than eight years removed from that seminal moment – I see it not as the tragedy I thought it was, but as the moment that my life turned for the better. Yes, for the better.
Of course, when you’re drowning in your own misery and crying yourself to sleep (or, in my case, passing out from the booze), it’s impossible to see the positive. It’s such an incredulous proposition that any good can come from so much pain. But sometimes the answer to what you’re seeking can be found only at the rock-bottom of your soul, and yes, time does heal all wounds.
So if you feel yourself on the precipice of a decision or life choice, or if you’re hoping and praying for a particular outcome you’re terrified may not happen, simply remember ……..
I think the last time I was in the emergency room of a hospital as a patient, I was about six years old. I had stuck the bomb of one of the model planes I was building so far up my nose, it required medical attention to have it removed. (Don’t judge me …. I was just a kid).
I spent the better part of this past Sunday afternoon in discomfort with a shoulder problem that had been on again, off again for the better part of 18 months. Nothing serious, just a sharp pain in an isolated spot on my shoulder. I historically shrugged it off as having slept on my shoulder incorrectly or having tweaked it while lifting something heavy.
But on Monday, the pain was constant. It aggravated me all day and impacted by ability to be effective at work (I spend 8-10 hours a day at a keyboard). Later that evening, as I dropped my daughter off at her mom’s house following dinner to celebrate her eight grade commencement, I noticed my left had was terribly swollen. What started as isolated pain in my shoulder turned into a sharp, shooting pain in my entire arm. I couldn’t close my hand, and I had virtually no mobility with my arm. My wife agreed and we made the trip to the ER.
The service I received from everyone at Florida Hospital in Wesley Chapel was wonderful, After a sonogram, an x-ray, and a few hours of waiting, we were able to rule out some possible causes. Thankfully, the tests ruled out blood clots – my biggest fear given all the swelling – and bone injury. I was discharged with several prescriptions and sent home.
On Tuesday, too stoned and drowsy from the Flexeril and Vicodin, my wife drove me to an orthopedic doctor who assessed my situation. The diagnosis was severe bursitis and tendinitis in my shoulder. The doctor gave me a Cortisone shot and sent me home with prescriptions for both medicine and physical therapy.
As I sit here typing, I can feel the numbness creeping back into my joints, the fingers on my left hand laboring at times to stroke the keyboard. And all I can think to say is, “Thank you, God.”
Thank you for not letting it be something life threatening like a blood clot.
Thank you for letting it be something that doesn’t require surgery to repair.
Thank you for letting it be my left arm and not my right.
Thank you for letting it be manageable pain.
I have a family member undergoing surgery on Wednesday to remove his thyroid. Then he has to endure radiation treatment to ensure the cancer found in his thyroid doesn’t return. I remember the other patients I saw as they wheeled me from my room in the ER to radiology. They all looked to be in so much pain and anguish. By comparison, the pain in my shoulder was merely a toe stub. Nothing serious. Nothing lingering. Something that will get better with time.
My faith allows me to accept the challenges God puts in my way. His promise to me is love and salvation, and not smooth sailing or coasting through life. It’s in moments like these, where simply putting my hands in my pockets causes me to wince, or typing another paragraph requires a certain amount of mental push, when my faith in God is strengthened and renewed. Because as annoying, aggravating, inconvenient, and – on occasion – tear inducing this pain has been, I see how it could easily have been so much worse.
Random Writers: Write about a new beginning in your life.
I recently told a friend of mine, “Pain is when we look at God’s will through human eyes.”
As I look back on the event of my life that lead me here today, the vast majority of them occurring in the 2004 – 2005 timeframe, it’s clear to see that every new beginning was preceded by a moment of pain or crisis.
There are so many metaphors and analogies bouncing around in my head right now, it would probably take me hours to write them all down. Still, they all can be summarized with a simple formula.
Pain + Time = New
Yes, it really is that simple.
Pain (or disappointment or crisis or burden) plus the time you spend experiencing it, learning from it, and healing as a result, equate to new beginnings and new opportunities.
True, there are some opportunities that came my way either as a result of hard work, sheer determination, or dumb luck. But the moments in my life that I can honestly qualify as new beginnings all stem from an event that was not fun to go through.
I feel I’ve always lived my life as an open book, and those who know me also know my story. For me, I will always have the one life event that served as the BIG domino that fell and set in motion all the other dominoes that make up my life journey.
Here’s my story, from right to left.
I live my life surrounded by my core group of friends. These are the people whom I trust and whose opinions I value the most. They serve as my gauge as to how I am doing and whether I am doing it right. When I think about that inner circle, I am still amazed at how I came to meet and know those individuals.
We met through our mutual love for music. Specifically, the music of Sister Hazel. The genesis of how we came together was a beach weekend the band put together back in 2006 in South Carolina. It was an event called the Hazelnut Hang, and it was an event that has proven to change my life.
What lead me to go to that event was dinner conversation with my girlfriend at the time – Lee, who is now my wife – and our mutual friend. Our friend was going through a tough time so Lee and I decided to take her out for a bite and be there for her. In the course of conversation, our friend mentioned her mother’s house in South Carolina which sparked the idea of going to the Sister Hazel event.
Lee and I became exclusive in January 2006 following a very tumultuous 2005 in which Lee would learn to open her eyes to the idea of something new only to find me continuing to struggle with the idea of letting go of something old. That something old came to a head in December of 2005.
That was the moment of the big domino.
It’s evident to me, as I trace back the key moments of my life, that I would not be where I am today had the door I had so desperately wanted to run through back in 2005 not been slammed shut in my face. I could not see where I am today through those tears I was shedding that painful December evening over six years ago, yet here I am nonetheless.
I’ve learned that in those darkest and most painful of times, we must have faith that a new light will clear the darkness, and a new path will be revealed. It’s not any kind of easy and everyone learns that lesson at their own pace and in their own way, if ever at all.
Another band that has been influential to me in my life journey is NEEDTOBREATHE, and they have a song that succinctly sums up my life events from 2005. It is what Lee was trying to tell me all along that year. What I didn’t know back then, which is clearer to me now, is that I needed to keep my eyes open. What I also failed to see is that God was directing me every step of the way.
Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason – His reason – and I believe coincidence is our human way of interpreting God’s will. And yes, pain is when we look at God’s will with our human eyes. Instead of allowing the pain to govern our experience, we should remind ourselves that with time and with faith in God, the new beginnings in our lives will be realized.