Recently, a friend of mine recommended that I read Sue Monk Kidd's When the Heart Waits. Kidd's writing is beautifully descriptive as she shares about a season in her life where she was called to wait. The biggest take away is that the only way out of the pain of waiting is settling deep into it. Sounds fun, right? Counter-intuitive?
The image present throughout the book is that of a caterpillar's metamorphosis. A caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon and stays there until the change is complete. There is no rushing the stages of metamorphosis. "It's truly a fantastic mechanism developed by nature, yet while all may seem fantastic on the outside, this transformation looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis. In short, for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly it digests itself using enzymes triggered by hormones, before sleeping cells similar to stem cells grow into the body parts of the future butterfly." (ZME Science). In other words, in order to feel the greatest change, we have to enter into the painful and long process of digesting our old self and turning into something new.
Several months ago I began counseling. I consider myself a well-adjusted person, but over the past two and a half years I've experienced a good amount of loss in different forms. I am no longer teaching - a profession that I am deeply passionate about and felt great success and satisfaction. My husband and I have struggled with infertility - a journey filled with disappointment and loss of a life we thought we'd have. Then there is the adoption - the wait that seems to never end and the ache that won't go away. I found that I was crumbling under the weight of these struggles. I would be able to handle the pain for a period of time, perhaps through telling myself the trite pieces of conventional wisdom that we have all heard - "It will all work out," "It is for the best," "At least you have ___," "Everything happens for a reason." Or times when I was feeling more spiritual I may have been able to cling to God' promises of His goodness. The only thing is, these little nuggets of wisdom weren't helping. They simply weren't permeating my heart. Aside - If you have a friend or family member experiencing some kind of long trial, advice on how to get out of the pain or "band-aid" comments like those above aren't helpful. Just say, "I'm sorry you are in pain. How can I support you during this time?"
My counselor explained to me that all people have a reaction to pain or trauma - 5 F's: fight, flight, freeze, fidget, and faint. She discerningly deduced that I faint. When faced with pain or trauma, I deal with it as long as I can and then I check out or metaphorically faint. She explained that we have to pave a new path in my mind, a path into the pain. She has helped me find my way into the depths of the pain (which goes waaaaayyyyyy deeper than we think), and coached me on how to stay in it. You know what's strange? I began learning how to support myself in the pain and I have begun to feel a positive change. I am not crumbling like I was before. Don't get me wrong, I cry, but I can stay in the place of pain without fear or avoidance.
I am not sure how long I will be wrapped up in a cocoon and when I will emerge. But, I am now confident of this - I will emerge different, better, and with wings.
"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" Psalm 27:13-14.