I’ve been away from this blog for a while because I've been wandering. I hope you don’t mind too much. When I wander – just taking life day-by-day – I try to open myself up to new experiences. Those experiences become learning points for me. When I hit a lesson that really strikes my heart I have to take some time to process through what I’ve experienced. If we don’t thoroughly examine our lives regularly we miss out on a lot of potential personal life change. That’s why I haven’t written for a while. I’ve been in the examination room.
I was recently at a conference at the “Jersey shore”. I was with some good friends and we enjoyed productive conversations. The conference was very good. The topic was “fear” – why we have it, how we deal with it and putting it in its proper place. However, one of my greatest discoveries that weekend wasn’t in a seminar or keynote presentation. It came from a wounded wing.
As I pushed the green-tinted glass door open a gust of ocean breeze filled my face and I was greeted with the morning sun, the crash of waves and the call of sea birds. It was so refreshing to soak up these creation-gifts so late in the season. I love the beach. It’s where I find my center. Listening to the rhythm of the waves, the song of the sea beckons to my soul. It’s my favorite place to be. I probably would’ve made a decent pirate.
As I returned from my walk of gathering sea glass and shells – I found some really cool, green sea glass for my wife – I noticed something wriggling just outside the door of the hotel. As I got closer I noticed it was a Hermit Thrush. Apparently, it had flown into the large glass windows and came to rest on its back at the threshold of the door. As I bent down, it writhed even more violently, unable to turn itself onto its feet. I tried to upright the Thrush but it fought me even harder. Not wanting to hurt it, but wanting to find out exactly how injured it was, I persisted. When it finally got it on its feet it scrambled behind me and stopped. Dazed and injured it stood just a few feet away wobbling on its legs. I took a few photos and then reached out.
God has been teaching me a lot about pain over the past 3 years. It’s not that I’ve had greater amounts than at other times or more than other people, but I do think I’ve been primed to learn the truth about pain now. Through this little Thrush God spoke to me very clearly and has continued to use that moment as instruction. You see, once I stopped writhing, God was able to work with me.
When others are hurting we often try to reach out to help. I’ve found that many have fairly violent objections to my intrusion, just like this Thrush. Extending our assistance to others can only truly help when the person stops flailing about. I’ve seen many people, even myself, become more injured because they wouldn’t calmly accept loving, needed assistance. There has to come a time when we cease struggling and, wobbling on our legs, let others reach out to us with help.
As I extended my hand to the bird it didn’t fuss this time. Rain began to fall and the wind became more objectionable as I held the small bird. I took a few more photos and the bird began to close its eyes in the warmth of my palm. Not wanting to bring it inside the hotel, but also desiring to protect it from the incoming storm, I looked around for a suitable refuge. Finding a large clump of ornamental grass, I was going to place the bird beneath it on a dry patch of soil but something surprising happened.
We can only help people who want our help. I believe lifeguards learn this in training. A person flailing about in the water is a danger not only to themselves but to the guard as well. Other tactics must be employed to assist rather than direct, personal contact. We can only speak into people’s lives when they allow us to. To force our help upon others is a form of disrespect – both for them and for us. We don’t see Jesus forcing healing or help on others in the Bible. In fact, when He did point out other’s shortcomings, they became infuriated and violent. On one visit to His hometown, because of the people’s resistance – their lack of faith in Him as God – He couldn’t do many miracles. At other times, He simply asked if He could help and the person received a multitude of benefits.
This is also true when we are trying to assist someone, regardless of the kind of struggle they are facing – emotional turmoil, addiction, relationship failure or just plain blindness to their own devices. We cannot force others to live the life they, God or we want for them. Sometimes we just have to let them thrash and resist and it can be painful to watch.
As I put the bird in the thicket I was surprised that he wouldn’t let go of my fingers. He clung to them with both claws. His nails sharply against my skin he just wouldn’t dislodge from my hand. So, I paused for a moment and continued to speak to the little bird, as I had been doing. Now, I’m no bird whisperer, but I just felt compelled to explain to the little fella what I was trying to do. After a brief and gentle monologue, it acquiesced to my desire to place in under the grass. It nestled in and I proceeded, late I may add, to my next seminar.
People are a lot different than birds, far more complex. But God spoke to me very strongly in that moment and during my reflections on that day. So, why have I included this post in my “Beauty of Pain” series? Because without the pain I’ve experienced in my life I wouldn’t have been open to the lesson I learned with the bird and been able to apply it to people. Wounded people are fragile and worth helping, without doubt, because they are made in the image of the LORD. However, you may have to experience some flailing about before they’ll actually let you aid them. And, when you do, be gentle yet firm. Administer truth with grace. And, don’t let them get too attached to you – there will come a time when they need to stand on their own, although wobbly, legs. You’re not their Savior, just a helper along the way. And, when you’re the one who’s hurting, don’t fly from the help that’s offered.
This is just one of the many lessons I’ve been learning about the Beauty of Pain.