Wednesday, March 12, 2014

strength training of a relationship...

Many of you know I'm coming off of a year-long hip "injury" from repetitive overuse last summer.

Whew.  Almost a YEAR.  (Seriously, how do these professional athletes recover from injuries so quickly?!)

It's been a long, grueling process of physical therapy:  flare ups, modifications, orthotics, and a ton of strength training.  I'm FINALLY to a point where things don't constantly hurt anymore.

Through this year, I've learned so many things, but perhaps the biggest lesson in this journey of muscle rehabilitation (that I think can be so applicable for life itself), is that many times you have to stay in the pain and work through it if you ever expect it to go away. 

Here's what I mean...

On the days where my pain was at its worst, it seemed like I should do nothing else than lie on the couch motionless.  It hurts!  Why would I want to MOVE?

But with the type of injury that I had, I actually needed to move.  Just in the appropriate way.  My physical therapist would show me the small, slow, specific movements that I needed to begin if I ever wanted to stop the hurting.  Really?, I questioned, This is going to create MORE pain, not LESS!  

It seemed totally counterintuitive.  Nevertheless, I began faithfully doing the exercises... only to be met with more pain.

This is not working! I complained.  How is this ever going to go away?!?  (As if things were going to heal in one week or even one month, Amy.  But don't we always want the quick fix?)  In fact, things worsened for me.  Badly.

I repeatedly came back to the physical therapist in TEARS.  Not pretty tears.  With every setback, I'd lose faith. "I need you to tell me again how this is going to help," I'd cry.  She would patiently talk me through my doubts again and again.

Slowly, and I mean slowly, I'm building back my strength.  But I'm realizing that this idea of working through the pain isn't just for our bodies.

It's for our relationships as well.

As we come into fellowship with others, we should expect there to be some measure of pain involved, if it is to be a REAL relationship.  (now, pleeease hear me-- I'm obviously not talking about expecting pain to the point of abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, etc.)

But if we realize how broken we all are at our deepest levels, a REAL relationship means it will also be a messy one.

Every relationship is like learning to partner dance... inevitably, toes will be stepped on. 

You're going to see parts of me for who I truly am, and vice versa.

You're going to say things and I'm going to say things that hurt the other, whether intentionally or not.

You will be disappointed in me at times, and other times, I will be disappointed in you.

If we're going to have a REAL relationship, as opposed to an acquaintance relationship, where everything is "good" all the time, there will MOST SURELY be times of misunderstanding and times of tears.  Times of reconciling and PLENTY of opportunities to forgive.  Marriage is certainly one example of this, but so is every type of relationship that we enter.

And when the painful times come, the question in that moment will always remain:  Are you committed to work through the pain?

When I don't do things the way you would do them, will you write me off?

When I say something too harshly and hurt your feelings, will you take offense and pull away altogether?

Too often our first reaction is to turn away.  Or pull away.  We retreat, both physically and emotionally.
We tend to give up on people and relationships way too early and way too easily.  Maybe we add that person to our "I tried" list of failed relationships and resolve to go find another friend.

Or maybe we lash out and attack.  Often times we mask over our hurt with anger.  Anger is the easy way out, because it's a wall that keeps us from admitting our own vulnerability.

But what if, instead of pulling away or going on the attack, we took the risk of moving towards the person in love to be honest about our feelings?  What would happen if we moved towards the person with the hopes of restoration?

In the tough moments, it can seem so counterintuitive to stay and reconcile.  To attempt to work it out.  Like my physical therapy, it seems like that route would only bring about MORE pain into what's already been damaged.  Why would I want that?  Escape in any form would certainly be the easier option.

But working through the pain is ultimately the route to experience healing.

This past week, I sat on the couch across from a new friend as we did the difficult work of a real relationship for the first time...

That hurt my feelings.  Let's figure out why it hurt.  Let's talk about why you said that.  Let's try to understand where we're coming from so we can go forward from here.

I wouldn't say it was an emotionally pleasant conversation for either of us.  It was facing the pain and working through it.  But I'm so thankful she and I were committed to understanding the other.  We each saw areas in ourselves that were being challenged and grown by the other.  And then it hit me,

This is the strength training of a relationship.  What temporarily left us sore has made us stronger because of it.

Our relationships are only as strong as our ability to work through the times of pain.

The process of seeking to understand, apologizing, and offering forgiveness is a "messy necessity" for a healthy relationship to grow.  Our friendships will only be deepened through a faithful, long-term commitment to work through the pain instead of running from it or attacking when we feel it.

The past year (and the past week) has revealed that I am so, so weak.  Both physically and relationally.
God has shown (and is showing) that to me more clearly.

Thankfully I have a strong Savior who, himself, worked through pain to reconcile a relationship with me.  Even when I didn't want anything to do with Him!  (1 John 4:19)

That is an utter mystery to this broken, always-failing sinner like me.   But hallelujah, praise Jesus that He did.

It's that love, and that reconciliation that gives US the strength to stay, and not run.

To forgive, and not lash out.

To trust, and not build even higher walls.

To be vulnerable, and not to hide from each other.

And to continually resolve to work through the pain.

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