“How’ve you been, man?” Such a simple question often returned with loosely connected surface somethings. Quite often, I volley back one of a few pre-packaged responses always ready to buffer conversation passed me and into decisions needed to be made or details floating in my days. Or the shallow response gently deflects the question back to the other person. My automatic responses vary slightly into some form of “great” or “busy” or “well”. It seems as though even when things aren’t great, busy or well, those words are still regular in my friendly responses.
I haven’t been asked that question lately. At least not as often. There was a time in the not too distant past when I heard those words everyday. Many times over in each day, actually. How was I adjusting to life after the death of my wife? How were my three young daughters? What were we going to do? These questions and more were all motivating the constant questioning and concern. But time moves on. Concern and curiosity from friends and family remains but naturally waned a bit in time passing. A year. Nearly two. Healthy smiles and new adventures and the constant questioning softened to a lull.
Because of one word, this particular time the question caught me a bit off guard. The distinguishing word in my friend’s questioning: “man”. Maybe, too, the way the question was asked and who was asking made it stand out.
Shortly after we met, John grew naturally into a friend of great stature in my life. Committed to doing something about what he knows, John often finds himself in the right place at the right time. With little concern, my friend is quick to respond to needs. His quick abandon and committed response drips of Jesus. And people draw to him as John closes in on their need with genuine, deep concern. One of the most profound things that John ever said to me was in the form of a confession. Driving me from the hospital to my home so that I could shower and get a change of clothes, he fumbled with a confidence bigger than himself and the moment through feelings conflicted. My wife wavered between life and death, I sat shocked and sinking and overwhelmed and his words were simple.
“I really don’t know what to say, man, but I know God is in control.” Those were his words, my friend John’s. And they were more than enough.
And just a couple days ago, sitting in the warmth of evening sun John’s question slowed my thoughts and stopped me from conquering the world for a moment of honest reflection and simple words.
“Good, I think.”
I hadn’t stopped to really think about how I’ve been doing lately. And maybe my lack of thought and constant emotional self assessment revealed something new blooming in my day to day.
There were countless days when the thought of something wrong with me hung overhead like a following, defining cloud. Following. Defining. In my bleak estimation, life didn’t add up, my wife’s sudden death was a variable I had not accounted for. Life held an incalculable value and happiness, meaning and joy alluded me.
Somewhere along the way I forgot. Not in the way a person forgets due to uneventfulness or inactivity, but because of replacement. Maybe love. Maybe laughter. Maybe the newness of life as adventure. Whatever replaced hurt exactly in my life, days unfolded easier and laughter more frequent and honest.
Here’s the thing about hurt and pain: it’s leachy and holding.
When you decide it ends, it just does. Hurt and pain give way to life and resumption. Pain doesn’t just run its course or simply end. It remains as long as you allow it. And pain defines throughout the time it remains.
Pain is hurt still hurting. So many allow pain residence and place in their heart. You can see it plainly on their face and in every move and seemingly every decision made. Pain becomes them.
Healing is the faith of painless living.
I heard a story years back of a man who grasped tightly to a specific hurt so grievously inflicted by another that he lived with it for years. Bitter still in old age, he walked right up to his offender’s house one day long beyond cause for remembrance and punched him then for reason still apparent only to him, the offended. The hurt one holding onto pain holding onto him.
That is precisely what pain does. It encapsulates you. Hurt happens. It will time and time again. Some hurts will be small, mundane jabs that threaten to cling to you and others will be near fatal deathblows that drop you to your knees. In both cases of pain and hurt and beyond, you decide when it ends and when you begin to turn your face north to a new day inviting.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
In each day, both darkened by the stain of hurt and glowing in the goodness of God, his love gives certain cause for joyful continuation and resumption of life free of pain. When you decide it ends, it does because God's love never relents and is always present.