“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
It’s been awhile! I’ve been meaning to sit down and write for a minute now and it just hasn’t happened until now.
I’m going through the death-and-rebirth phase of another creative cycle. I begin to grow tired of the old grind and way of doing things and itch to reinvent myself and to issue forth new creative decrees… Or something along those lines. Well, I’m just at the very beginning of a new creative phase.
If you’re in the right browser, you’ll see my blog layout. (I believe wordpress reader is the one that strips it down to just the words, I’m not sure.) It has changed, if you happen to remember the last one. So, in a way I’m turning over a new leaf here too, I suppose. I’ve always felt a little awkward and unsure of the execution of this blog, and blogging and creating in general. To be honest, I’m not sure if this platform really suits me. But wherever I go and however I create, I know there will be one consistent goal: speak truth, and speak it as clearly and as beautifully as possible. That’s the only thing I can really hope for in my creative vocations.
Things are happening within me lately, too, besides the creative endeavors. I am a lot different. I do change a lot, as much as your everyday Alice in Wonderland. Which is good.
I read about the Jabez prayer a few weeks ago (thanks to my friend, Sarah Arwen, for sending me a copy of The Prayer of Jabez for Teens, one of her favorites) and something about it really clicked and helped me to finally begin to move forward in a lot of small, but big, ways. I’ve been in this wild season of wrestling jealousy, insecurity, and discontentment, as well as coming to terms with a lot of pain. And it’s funny, the first two days I started reading about and actually praying the Jabez prayer, I was so discouraged. I felt like God was doing the opposite of what I asked for! But before I get too far ahead of myself, I might take a moment to explain what the Jabez prayer actually is.
So, this guy, Jabez, is essentially two verses in the Bible. Pretty sure that’s it? (I’m not a scholar by any, any means, I am just speaking from what I’ve personally read and learned) His name means literally “Pain” in Hebrew. What a reputation! What a name to live up to! What kind of future could a guy named “pain” possibly expect to have? What could he possibly be hoping for? Well, here’s what this guy prays:
“Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain…” – 1 Chronicles 4:10
What a bold prayer, right? Just before going back to the regularly scheduled program of listing of lineage, the next line of 1 Chronicles tells us that God answered Jabez’s prayer. He granted Jabez’s bold request. And he made sure that he would have a story that was more than just human suffering.
I thought this story was kind of mind-blowing. Simple, short, but profound. So, of course, I started praying the prayer too. Pain is something I end up dwelling on, and in, a lot (as many/most of us do) so a man named Pain praying this bold prayer and God answering it — well, that’s my kind of story. So, yes. I started praying it. But like I said before, by the end of the second day, I was so, so discouraged. Fall-to-your-knees discouraged.
It rooted in this issue — I’ve been way too focused on Brooke-furthering things. There are deep, deep worldly things still holding fast inside of me. There is pain and darkness I’ve not dared to make eye contact with. When I prayed my Jabez prayer that first day, God answered it in the form I needed it most: humility. I could see my sin-nature and my brokenness, plain as day. We truly are Jabez-people and pain is something we’re very good at. But maybe that’s the first, biggest blessing we need before we can move forward. Humility and brokenness and eyes to see the truth.
And, you know what? I just want to be braver. More and more. I want to be “hardworking and unafraid of toil” like the courageous little Hufflepuff I am aspiring to be (the good thing about Harry Potter is that it is literally always appropriate to bring up and applies to absolutely everything.) I want Reepicheep-valor; I want to be as bold as a mouse. And I want Trufflehunter-steadfastness, holding fast to the good, old truth in spite of it all. I want to be filled with lion-strength. I want to be a lioness again. (I’m talking about Narnia here now, don’t mind my lunacy, unless you feel like joining in.)
I want to be braver, I can be braver, and I’m called to be braver. I’ve been praying for God to alleviate me from my all pain, to come and save me from it. What I know now is that he’s calling me to step out, boldly, in spite of the pain. To feel the pain, to know the suffering, to survive and persist and pursue the truth in spite of it all. If humility and seeing my brokenness clearly was the first step, the second step is pushing through the deepest source of pain with all the Lion-courage that’s in my soul in order to follow what is good and right and true. Pain isn’t something to be ashamed of. Outright, here’s the point I’m trying to land — pain is not only temporary, but God actually also uses it to perfect us. And it is nothing, nothing compared to the enormous glory of God. (For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17)
I do honestly feel a change since I started praying Jabez’s prayer. Yeah, I find myself still measuring my worth based on worldly things, but I am encouraged as I move forward. It’s funny how the world keeps shifting under your feet, but how God keeps putting the pieces back into place, little big things gathering new meaning as circumstances change.
After all of this was revealed, the Jabez prayer made so much more sense to me. “Bless me indeed” (bring what will make me better — whatever will lead to truth and real joy) “Increase my territory” (give me ministry! Give me work! Give me assignments! Let me be a help to the kingdom!) “Be with me.” (we need his strength, we need it) “Keep me from evil” (oh God don’t let me stray off of the path, keep me focused) “—so I may not cause harm” (because God, when I falter, I betray you and I hurt myself and I hurt others.)
One thing I noticed about this prayer, is that Jabez doesn’t pray for the pain to be over. He just prays for blessings in spite of the pain, that God would be with him and keep him from evil, and that he may not be a pain to others. And I believe that God answers everything about this prayer. What a wonderful thing that we, the Jabez-People, named and well-known for our pain, we get to be more than our suffering.
Yeah, I think it’s always, always going to be my nature to hide away and stay in my comfort zone. Now that I’m a Christian, however, it’s no longer possible for me to ignore the adventuresome, wild, “something Tookish” that is rising up inside of me and calling me to do the brave things.
(So do I get points for referencing three different fandoms or should I try to work Marvel in here somehow too?)
“I stand by Aslan. Have patience, like us beasts. The help will come. It may be even now at the door.” ~ Trufflehunter (the best of badgers)