Archives For pain

I am a recovering coward. Don’t believe me? Check out the caption below my picture over there on the right. It’s true.

And some days I still fall of the wagon and find myself subconsciously living the coward’s creed:

Indecisiveness is next to godliness.

(We’ve got t-shirts, bumper stickers, even a website in the works. Well, the ideas anyway. We’re too nervous to actually launch them.)

(OK, honestly, there’s not really even a club. We couldn’t figure out where to meet).

I hate making decisions. Making decisions inevitably irritates people. Making decisions creates conflict. Conflict means people may not like you. And people not liking you is painful. We instinctively avoid pain, because pain…you know…hurts and all.

The only problem? No one said following Jesus would be painless. Just ask, well…

Jesus.

Climb back up on that wagon.

Any other recovering cowards out there? What are you afraid of? Does it ever interfere with your ability to follow Jesus?

I’d love to hear from you. Maybe even meet for coffee (if we can ever decide on a location). Until then, the comments on this post may be a safe place to start.

It’s Valentine’s Day. The Taylor Swift lyric of holidays. Sweet. Sappy. Romantic. I think I got a cavity just writing that sentence.

Watching all the Twitter @ mention and Facebook wall post love flying around this morning (you know, those online digital expressions that have officially replaced the paper Hallmark cards and handwritten notes that are so 2003) got me thinking.

I’m a ridiculously lucky man.

Today, I woke up next to my beautiful Valentine of 15 years. We’re light years from perfect (and we know it), but our undying commitment to one another has led us on quite a journey. An adventure that now includes three little valentines and more undeserved love than we know what to do with most days. Valentine’s Day reminds me to celebrate this.

But I’m not ignorant. I also know this day threatens to swallow some of you. To remind you of what you don’t have. What you fear you may never have. Or maybe something you’ve lost.

An unexpected divorce.

Your annual tax filing status (once again) checked single.

A bouquet of flowers laid on a gravestone instead displayed in a vase on the kitchen counter.

Brokenness. Pain. Whether by poor choice or no choice of your own. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Today, as everyone else celebrates with balloons, candygrams, and romantic dinners for two, you quietly mourn.

I wish I had neat, easy answers. That Rosetta Stone Scripture that could clean it all up, snap it into focus, force it to all make sense.

But I can offer hope. Our God understands our sorrow.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
-Isaiah 53:3

So if you find Valentine’s Day more bitter than sweet, just know you’re not alone in feeling alone. Pain is far too often a real place. God didn’t design you to live there. He doesn’t want you to stay there. But if you are there today, just know that He will be right there with you.

My God is close to the brokenhearted.

Dealing with Death

Erik Cooper —  January 19, 2011 — 3 Comments

Some days weigh a lot.

Yesterday definitely needed Weight Watchers, Biggest Loser, or some other soon to quit New Year’s resolution.

At 1:56PM I received an automated call from my kids’ school principal. A seventh grade girl, who undoubtedly passes my daughter countless times in the hallway each and every day, had unexpectedly and mysteriously died. Home sick with what must have seemed like a simple fever, her parents found her unresponsive.

She never woke up.

Gone.

What?

Why?

Shocked parents left to relive that last meaningful interaction with their little princess. A school full of devastated students forced to carry a burden their emotional muscles aren’t ready for. What do you do with death? Especially when the one that died was only 12 years old?

Everything that’s in me wants to explain it. And even though we don’t know this family personally, my kids will be expecting something brilliant from me. I need to find that ideal Scripture about perfect peace or eternal life that will deaden the sting or bring logical understanding into the confusion. That’s what pastor-dads do, right?

Actually, yes. We desperately need the illuminating truth and perspective of Scripture. But sometimes we use quick explanations, even accurate Biblical ones, to dodge the reality and avoid the pain. We think we’re doing a good thing, but maybe we need to take a closer look.

Do you know what Jesus did when His friend Lazarus died? Jesus. Son of God. The One with all the answers. How did he respond?

He cried.

He wept.

He fully embraced the pain and emotion. He stepped into it raw, authentic, and whole.

And maybe that’s what we need to do first. Resist quick answers. Swallow the cliches. Just feel the pain of our broken humanity. Fully. Together.

And experience the presence of Jesus, who knows our every sorrow, walking right there with us, too.

Please pray for the Acton family today, as they find themselves traveling a road no parent should ever have to walk.

One Heck of a Week

Erik Cooper —  January 10, 2011 — 1 Comment

Last week was difficult, I’m not gonna lie.

The perfect blend of emotional soup.  Moments of pure elation followed by waves of fear and sadness. Like your favorite football team just took the lead on a 50 yard field goal only to lose it 53 seconds later as time expired ending their season (wait, that really happened didn’t it?).

Here’s a little recap and a few thoughts (if you’re interested):

THURSDAY:

My 5 year old son, Austin, gets a miraculous medical report.  Born with optic nerve hypoplasia, doctor’s originally warned of potential blindness or even brain development issues.  Thursday’s doctor visit confirmed the continued positive progression we’ve been seeing in his recent visual development. Both eyes have slowly corrected to 30/20, what our ophthalmologist terms “normal” visual range for his age.  We celebrated the answer to years of prayer.

(He’s keeping the glasses though. They’re just too stylish).

FRIDAY:

My wife, driving our daughter to her evening basketball practice, loses control of the car on an unsalted stretch of icy road. The front end of our little Chevy Cobalt is torn off by a swerving pickup truck, her driver side door t-boned by a 15 passenger van. Thankfully, extreme bruising and a few terrifying dreams seem to be the only residual damage (Well, besides ol’ orange. She’s driven her last mile). A few inches either way and I could easily be typing this as a single father of two.

SATURDAY:

My brother and sister in-law move to Houston, and an early morning breakfast goodbye turned a bit more emotional than we had originally planned.  We celebrate their new adventure, but already feel the painful sting of their absence. My daughter’s tears did me in, although after the previous days accident I was just grateful she was there to shed them.

So as Saturday drew to a (Colts-losing) close, this triple cocktail of human emotions had us ready to curl up under a warm blanket and hide from the world. God seemed to be so evident on Thursday. What happened?

I think there’s an unfortunate tendency to miss God in the pain of life. To think His nature is only expressed through our happily ever afters. The easily explained. The comfortable. The positive doctor’s reports.

And I think that cheapens God. Turns Him into a servant of us.

God never promised life would be without pain. Easy to explain. That your favorite team would always be ahead when the final buzzer sounds.

But He did promise He’d always be with us.  That He would never leave us or forsake us. That He would be near to the brokenhearted.

So I’m learning to see Him everywhere.  In medical healings, ugly car crashes, and sad goodbyes.

Yep, there He is.

Yesterday I counseled a ninja.

Not an actual stealth soldier trained in the martial arts, but someone nearly as talented.  A person undeniably adept at verbal ninjitsu, the dark art of maneuvering around an issue by distracting everyone else with all the wrong questions.

It was a frustrating exchange.  Regardless of what I said, this person continued to loudly and emphatically repeat questions that moved the dialog away from the real issues. The ones that were just too personal. Too painful.

The right questions are vitally important.  They illuminate. But they also force our hand.  Good questions can be scary, especially when they make us look inward. So we’ve all become quite clever at not only avoiding them, but throwing out well placed distractions to move the focus elsewhere.

That’s why Jesus often answered questions with questions. If you look throughout the gospels, He rarely responded directly to an inquiry, especially from a religious leader.  Not only were they usually asking the wrong things, but their questions were laced with hidden meaning intended to trap or distract Jesus from the real conversation.

Jesus was the ultimate verbal ninja. He always knew how to bring the dialog back to the things that really mattered.

Which got me wondering.

Are there any questions I’m asking that are just veiled attempts to avoid what Jesus is really asking of me?