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I don’t know your pain but I understand pain.  I don’t know your path but I know a path that has been full of hurt and disappointment and sadness.

Here is a reality I have come to grasp.  Life sucks.  Really.  Life is an obstacle course with sharp edges and heavy loads and every time it seems the path starts to get easy there is another turn that is full of sharp edges and heavy loads.  That’s just life.

The good news is we choose how to look at the obstacle course.  We can choose to only see the sharp edges and feel the heavy loads and let life wear us down OR we can choose to see life as a journey full of challenges we can overcome.  We get to choose.

I have a burden on my heart for the hurting because I have walked that path too.  I have hurt so bad that I wanted to end the pain and suffering right there and then.  Maybe I was too scared.  Maybe I could still get a glimpse of what life might offer.  For whatever reason, I didn’t take the next step but it didn’t make the pain go away.  I lived with it for years.  It was the pain of never being enough.  It was the pain of feeling like a disappointment.  It was the pain of feeling like I was less than everyone else.  It was that pain and more that has brought me to a place where I have a burden on my heart for those who hear the voices of pain and the voices of giving up and the burden breaks my heart.

I recently heard a story about a lady who wanted to surf but couldn’t.  For 3 hours she tried surfing and never could get up on the board and ride the wave.  Eventually, she found herself sitting on the beach watching.  A surfer came up next to her, looked at her and said, “Dude, you look rough.”  She told him she was trying to surf but couldn’t and asked how he did it.  He told her, “surfing isn’t just riding the wave.  Surfing is 80% work and 20% fun.  We get up at 5:00 to catch the best waves.  We swim against the current over and over to get in a position to catch the best waves.  We sit and sit waiting for the best waves.  And, every now and then, a really good wave comes along.  Surfing is a lot of work and most people miss that.”

Isn’t that life?  I always want to ride the wave but it’s hard to catch it.  Life is full of sharp edges and heavy loads and the only way to ride the wave is to choose to deal with those things that sometimes make us want to quit.

When I was living in my pain all I saw was the battle of swimming against the current with my surfboard in tow.  Now, with the help of good friends who embody the love of Jesus to me, I realize that the work is there so I can ride the wave and enjoy it for a few brief moments.  Then I have to swim back out and catch the next one.

The pain of my life is my story.  I used to see it as my identity.  I am still learning that my pain is not my identity.  I believed I wasn’t good enough.  I believed I wasn’t “right”.  I believed there was no need or place for me.  I let my pain become my identity and it nearly killed me.  That was wrong.  Just wrong.  I am learning that my pain is my story.  It is what I have to share.  It is what I have to help me remember that sometimes I have to swim against the current and I have to sit still wondering what is next…all the while, I am waiting to ride the next wave, even for a brief moment because the waves are exhilarating.  The waves are a rush.  The waves are the easy path, the time of rest, the time of renewal, the time of pure, unfiltered joy.

The wave will die down and then it’s back to my choice.  Do I choose to swim out again or do I choose to give up?

I want people in pain to know that their pain is not their identity.  The pain is a station of life and it is a hard station.  So many people go through pain I simply cannot understand but I do know it is creating a story of life that they have to choose whether to wear or share.  They can hold it in, internalize it, wear it and let it define them or they can choose to share it, to let it out, to set it free, if only for a moment, to release the pain and ride the wave.

Grace and peace.