Saturday, January 24, 2015
What is Pain?
A personal trainer I know has a sign on the gym wall that reads: "Pain…is just weakness leaving the body."
It's very motivational, a great line to defy the burn and squeeze out a few more reps, but it's more than just a perspective thing. It's actually true. Muscle is what makes you strong. To grow new muscle, you must literally damage the muscle you have. Either through volume, weight, explosive movements, or a dozen other training techniques, you must cause these micro tears in the muscle to trigger your body's rebuild-overcompensate response. Pain, really is weakness leaving the body.
That got me thinking about a direct parallel to living as a Christian in a broken world. But rather than Pain being WEAKNESS leaving the body, it seems like something else. Self.
For the Christian: Pain is Selfishness Leaving the Soul.
Jesus tells us if we lose our life, we will find it. He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him. He tells us to serve others, to die to self, to love all the time, even when it hurts, even if it leads to death. But, you know, it hurts a little to do any of these things.
The longer I've been a Christian, through trial and much error, I have watched many sins that used to haunt me, begin to slowly die away. But sometimes, it really hurts. Many of us might not admit it in public, but we have certain sins that we cling to. I'm not going to name them. We all know what they are. And some of these sins aren't really sinful in and of themselves, but because we put them before God in our lives, they have become snares…sinful snares.
About ten years back the game of golf had to die in my life. This might sound silly to some, but it's not. I was really getting into golf. It was beautiful scenery, fun competition, and even a bit of "man time." In essence, nothing wrong with it, but it became clear to me, that it had to go. Why? Well, each round of golf takes between 3-5 hours, more if you travel and grab a bite to eat with the guys. With a young family at home and the calling to be a novelist, I no longer had that time to spare. But, I fought it. I fought it for much longer than I'd care to admit. I made "my golf time" an idol and placed it ahead of my wife and kids, and worse still, ahead of God. And it hurts to let what we call "our stuff" go. When the guys call and invite, when the best ball tourney shows up…and I need to say no, it takes a chunk of flesh with it.
And golf, honestly, was the least of my worries. Over the years, sin after selfish sin, had to die. And each time, if felt like a mortal wound. But in the end, you know what if feels like? It feels like freedom.
It's not over. I haven't "made it" yet. There's more pain on my horizon, that is FO SHO. But the dynamic is very real: if you die to self, God gives you freedom and life. Like Paul, we can probably all admit: "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."
What is that secret sin your clinging to? Or maybe "sins" plural? Time to let them go. Time for them to die. Supplant them with service, love, giving...whatever God asks of you. And don't do it alone. Invite God into the process. Ask Him to put these selfish "idols" to death. Make no mistake, it's going to hurt. The longer you've clung to each sin, the more it hurts to rip that scab free, but it's worth it. You'll find life.
Pain is Selfishness Leaving the Soul. Good riddance.