The ART of Pain

Not to long ago, a friend of mine recommended I see an ART specialist for some severe back pain I was having.  If you’re not familiar with ART, it stands for active release technique and it’s practiced by only a small number of professionals across the country, many of them chiropractors.

During an ART session, the practitioner will apply pressure to the areas of the body that cause pain.  The idea is to influence adhesions to release so that mobility can be restored and pain can go away.  I’m probably butchering that description and ART specialists will now send me hate mail, but at least that’s what I understood it to be.

During my first visit to the office, I sat in the waiting room not knowing what to expect.  I was halfway through a painfully boring magazine when I heard a woman scream from the Dr’s office, “OWWWW!  LORD HAVE MERCY!!!  It didn’t exactly give me a warm fuzzy feeling about being treated.  When they called my name, I wanted to run!

I was ushered into a changing room where I had to strip down to my undershirt and a pair of shorts.  From there, I stepped into the Dr’s office where there was a very masochistic looking table in the middle of the room that he jokingly called “the rack”.  Oh boy…

When I got on the table, the Dr asked me about my mobility and where it hurt.  When I told him, he waved his assistant over and gave him some instructions.  This is where the fun (err..torture) began.  The assistant proceeded to pull my leg back in an unnatural direction while the Dr dug his hands deep into the most painful parts.  I thought, “Holy crap!!  What have I gotten myself into?!”

There I was laying on my side, leg being stretched behind me like he was trying to tear off a crab leg and the ART Dr was digging, with both hands, full force into the part of my leg that’s uncomfortably close to the groinal reagion.  (I made the word “groinal” up, but you get the picture.)

It hurt like crazy, and all I could do was lay there, eyes watering, holding back the urge to yell like the woman who was in here before me.

After what felt like forever, he was done.  He extended his hand and helped me off the table.  I was a little light headed from the pain, but he was done.  You know what else?  I felt better.  For the most part anyway.

It made me think though.  (If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing about it.)  How many times have I been in this place with God?

Sometimes our lives get off kilter.  We allow thought patterns, attitudes, offenses, and just junk into our lives, and before we know it, we’re walking kind of funny.  Maybe not enough for the whole world to notice, but slightly off.  This small hobble eventually effects our decisions and can lead us away from being who God made us instead of towards.

When this happens, I usually see God work in me much like the ART Dr.

First, He strips me.  My cool exterior gets peeled back to reveal the guy inside who doesn’t have it all together.  I’m exposed, naked, and I have to make an honest confession to someone in my life.

Next, He instructs me.  The Dr told me to lay on my side.  Sometimes God will instruct me to read a passage, say a prayer, get help from my accountability partner, make apologies, and so on.  It’s important to follow God’s instructions or the next part can hurt even worse than it needs to or, even worse, you won’t complete the process fully and the needed restoration won’t come.

Third, He stretches me and digs deep into the wounded areas of my life.  Having a bruise poked at, scab peeled off, or deep wound addressed sucks.  There’s no other way to put it.  Allowing God to shape us and heals us requires doing things we may have never done before.  It can get extremely uncomfortable.  You feel like an eye without a lid, vulnerable and insecure, but The Doctor knows what He’s doing and we can trust Him no matter how bad it hurts and no matter how much we want to run back to our comfortable baggage.  Let Him do His work in you so you can get to the last part.

Lastly, He helps me off the table and tells me it’s going to be all right.  It’s an amazing experience when we feel the arm of God around our shoulders.  He’s proud of us when we endure the pain needed to be corrected, adjusted, healed, restored.  We quickly forget the pain and just love and trust the one who helps us to walk like Him.  I write this with tears of gratitude for all the times He’s given me His hand, helped me off the table of painful lessons, honest rebukes, and jarring adjustments.  Every time, He tells me He loves me and that He’s proud of me.  I’m thankful for every one.

Search your heart.  Are you experiencing pain today?  Are you sure God isn’t trying to adjust you?  Is He building character in you, making you more like Him?  Go through it, not around it.  The pain will fade and you’ll experience His joy and blessing.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

Resistance Isn’t Futile

I was at the doctor’s office recently and we had a conversation about the Swine Flu.  I’m not a huge fan of vaccines and my question was, “What’s the worst case scenario if a guy like me decides not to take the shot?”  His answer? “You’ll be laid up for a few days until your body builds up the antibodies and fights it off.”  Interesting.  When we get sick, our bodies build up the strength to overcome it.

I find it extremely interesting that heavier weights (also called resistance) increase muscle strength, unfamiliar subjects fortify our minds, and difficult circumstances cause us to grow in wisdom, patience, and faith.

Pain, resistance, difficulty, adversity.  These things toughen us.  We’d turn to mush without them.  In fact I’m sure I know people who have turned to mush because they go into denial, dodge pain, or give up and wallow in self-pity.  After all, it’s far easier to quit, blame, or feel sorry for ourselves than go through the ringer one more time.  “Who wants more patience?”  “I have enough, thanks.”

I once heard Sam Chand say that our capacity to grow is directly proportional to our capacity to endure pain.  How true!  Once we decide that we’ve had enough, we stop growing.  I love Tylenol’s recent marketing slogan, “Push through the pain.”  When we want to give up, when we can’t find the answer, when it all seems too hard, PUSH THROUGH!  I’ve found that simply NOT throwing in the towel has tremendous value.  Most of the time, breakthrough happens just the other side of wanting to give up.

One of these days I’ll probably tell my story on this site, but let’s just say it’s not a pretty one.  I’ve had to endure some pretty great pressure and, even though I wouldn’t want to repeat all the obstacles, I treasure the work God has done in me through them.  I’ve gained wisdom, insight, endurance, and compassion for others.  Those things have prepared me for the work He has called me to and I thank Him for all of it.

Romans 5:3 & 4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”

If you’re feeling pressure, resistance, or stress stay the course!  Your muscles are growing, your mind is sharpening, your emotions are getting stronger.  Growing is more important than the false peace found in giving up.  When it’s all said and done, you’re gonna be a butt kicker.  Just wait and see!