Growing in Change

We change. We grow. We collect scars. We mature. We make mistakes. We learn. We carry wounds. We heal. We build relationships. We burn bridges. We hurt. We ignore. We decay. We develop.

We change.

I believe everyone changes. I don’t believe that the change is necessarily healthy or good, but all of us change. We can change into people who become more and more caustic and hateful, or we can choose to be people that grow towards health and wisdom.

I believe people can change because I can see the change in myself and the people around me.

I have grown wiser, more cautious, more outgoing, and occasionally more judgmental. I have become a better parent, wife, and pastor. I’ve developed my patience. I’ve learned to center myself in something besides myself.

I’ve seen my relationship with my husband, John, change over the past eight years we’ve been together. We’re still learning how to communicate with each other. I’d have thought I would have gotten more of it down by now. Apparently we keep changing and learning about ourselves, and keep bringing more to the relationship than we are aware of. This has been helpful to learn and challenging to navigate.

I’ve especially seen my daughter change. It’s easier to see: she adds a new word to her vocabulary each day. Her change is in greater increments. But when she reaches kindergarten, puberty, high school, college, or adulthood, she won’t stop changing. I’ll keep having to get to know her as we each keep changing.

I’ve even been able to tell that the daughter I am carrying is changing. Her kicks are getting stronger. She moves within me and listens to me sing. She grows.

I had a terrible migraine this past week thanks to Hurricane Irma that lasted four days. I cannot remember the last time I had a four day migraine. It was before I started trying to conceive our first child. The bonus is that I cannot take the usual medication I take to handle my migraines. I had tylenol and the ability to relax my body. After three days I got a rescue dose that knocked me to sleep and kept me out of the emergency room. When I am in the midst of a migraine that long, I have a hard time believing that I will never not have a migraine. I know, logically, that this is not the truth, but I feel like I will hurt and be exhausted forever.

What amazes me is that I lived through a season of migraines like this for a year and a half. I survived them hitting me in waves every single week.

What astonishes me is that it has been over three years since that season. I’ve gotten twice as far past that time than the time I spent in the midst of it. I’m far healthier now. I know my body better. I am more resilient. I enter centering prayer more easily. I am more able to relax my body through the pain, so that it doesn’t hurt as much.

As I spent hours upon hours mindfully relaxing my shoulders, jaw, hips, and neck, I realized I was receiving a small gift in the midst of the pain. Relaxing through an unmedicated migraine is not unlike relaxing through natural childbirth. The technique I use for coping with the pain of migraines is the same that I used for my first birth.

However, the pain itself is different. The experience and purpose of it are radically diametric. Migraines hurt because they hurt. Birth works the body in order to deliver a child.

Birth ushers in a radical change. The labor of childbearing, though intense, is productive.

Change in our lives will hurt. It either hurts because it is producing something new, or because we are caught in a cycle of trying to stay the same while change happens around us. I often get a migraine when a major weather system blows past. My body struggles to catch up to the change in the pressure around it. The weather eventually changes, and I eventually stabilize. But I am changed.

Every day, I change.

Grace in Weakness

Christ says: “My grace is enough for you, because [my] power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 CEB

Recently, I have been more weak than I would like. I suffer from migraines, which means I am a Migraineur. About a year ago they began hitting me. I have more help now and medications that can quell the pain for a while. However, with all the help, it seems that they are not letting go so easily.

I don’t want to take on this identity. I don’t want one of my identifying characteristics to be that pastor with the migraines. I am praying that this is only a season in my life, and that soon we will be able to find something that breaks the cycle of pain and brings me relief. In the meantime, life goes on.

I spent a wonderful day with the children in my church this past Tuesday, it was a day outside with rides and sunshine and laughter. And then next day I paid the price with my head. It is like I had a “fun hangover.” I’ve had days where I pushed my body physically, in running and other strength and endurance training, but I wasn’t sore the next day, I just hurt.

I’d rather be sore. When I am sore I can feel in my body that I did good work. When I am sore I can feel how hard I pushed myself and know that I came out the other side.

When I am migraining, my world shrinks. It becomes an effort to get dressed. Food becomes optional, even when I can feel my stomach growl. It hurts to move, to walk, sometimes to merely open my eyes. Sometimes it hurts to lay on my back in bed. It feels like the world is more cruel when I have a migraine.

But the world isn’t more cruel. I am still a pastor in those times. Sometimes I am called up and out and into the world, even when my perspective is clouded in pain.

When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he mentions a thorn in his body that he begged God to take away from him. I think there is grace in that. I think there is grace that we don’t know what the thorn was. We don’t know why Paul claims weakness, and so we can claim weakness along with him.

I have always had something wrong with my body. Growing up it was my foot. Last year I had that fixed with surgery; I had to heal from that. Now that my foot is healed, resplendent in scars, I’ve got headaches to deal with. I’m still weak.

Paul says that his weakness is so that his message remains strong, and he doesn’t get conceited. Like Paul, I prayed that I would be healed, that my foot would miraculous become not bent. Now I pray that I wouldn’t succumb to my Migraines. My prayer has changed, slightly. I don’t always pray that my migraines would be taken away, but I pray that they would lessen, and that I would be able to continue ministry in the midst of them. I pray that my ministry would continue in spite of them. I pray that the ministry that I have undertaken because of God’s call on my life would be made stronger, even though I am weak. I pray that Christ would shine through my weakness. I pray that Christ’s strength would be displayed, possibly even because of my weakness.

I haven’t gotten to the point of bragging about my migraines yet. I would like to not be stuck in a hurricane of pain every week. But I am blessed that grace is sufficient in this place for my weakness. I am grateful that grace has been extended to me, and that I am able to extend grace to others, even when I am in pain. That’s only because of Christ.

Any grace I extend is because of Christ’s work in my life. Especially the grace that I give out on days when my world is clouded in pain, that is grace working through me. My immediate instinct might be to snap, to jab, to strike, but Christ works in me, in the midst of my pain, to allow me to offer grace to those around me.

That is why I continue in ministry, and why I feel called to continue. The pain of this world may never end, but I look forward to the time when I will no longer hunger, thirst, or be in pain. I look forward to singing with all the saints, and celebrating that God’s grace was enough for me.