Thursday, August 8, 2013

There is Beauty in the Breakdown

Remember the first time you got a thorn stuck in your finger and your grandma got out the tweezers and a needle? And that thorn sucked, but the thought of your grandma ramming that needle and what now appeared to be a pair of pruning sheers into your tiny, little finger caused quite a bit of trepidation. And then when that needle finally hit, the pain was much worse than the actual thorn so you pulled your hand back and argued the virtue of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and how you were willing to develop a little character as long as she would no longer hack away at that thorn. Remember that?

I'm pretty sure this is my grandma.
Well, maybe what you actually said between waves of convulsive tears was, “No. Leave it. The needle is much worse.” It reminds me of what I frequently say whenever I clean my office or bedroom, “It has to get worse before it gets better.” Sometimes you have to destroy some things in order to rebuild them. Sometimes the doctor has to re-break a bone before it can heal properly. Sometimes you have to inflict more pain before true healing can begin.

I started down this track of thought because I have a literal thorn stuck in my thumb, a burn on another finger, a little poison ivy on both ankles and my wrist, a strained Achilles and a random lower back pain surge that doubled me over this morning. It’s really pretty awesome…you know, what you think about when you are pondering what would be the best things in the world combined.

As I was digging into my thumb, attacking the thorn with great gusto I just thought about those moments with my grandma. My grandma understood better than I did with my five years of accumulated knowledge, that the thorn was a hindrance to healing. She knew the needle hurt. She tried to tell me it wouldn’t, because that thorn was more important in the long term. And so, she got firm…and she got the thorn out. And for a few minutes I was miffed. But then an hour later I completely forgot about it. I wasn’t necessarily thankful for how mean she was, err…how much she helped me I mean…obviously that is what I meant.
But something about those encounters has been hitting me this week. Sometimes we have to get a bit rough with ourselves or those around us. Sometimes we have to make others around us endure. Sometimes we have to get a bit pushy. It’s not that we want the other person to endure pain…it’s just…the only way to bring true healing.

Which reminds me of my friend Doug Matthews. Really, Doug was more of a mentor…and one of the most perfectly timed mentors I have ever had. If you have ever heard the story of the mentor who told me to release my rage singing a certain phrase…that was Doug. If not, ask me the story. It may shed some light on why I am the way I am.  Doug really pushed me, like in good ways, to deal with what I was going through…and not just the things I presented, but the things he could identify that were in my life, but I just couldn’t say.
In that season I revisited a song by Frou Frou called “Let Go.” That song, though secular became a mainstay in my quiet times for a few months. And it addressed one of my greatest fears. I had this fear that if I let my issues come to light I was going to lose it. It was really a pretty illegitimate fear. But for some reason I just thought that if I spoke out what was going on inside, chaos was going to break loose all around me. What I learned was it is really quite the opposite. What we keep bottled up is a much greater threat than what we let out. Quite a pair of ducks, eh?

But between Doug and my friends Betsy and Guillermo, the question I was confronted with was, “So, what? What happens if you do lose it? What happens if it gets messy? It gets messy that’s what…and you are messy already just being afraid of getting messy.” So, their questions plus this lyric from that song, “So, let go and jump in, well, what you waiting for, it’s alright, because there’s beauty in the breakdown,” kept playing in my head. And so I decided, “Let’s get messy. Let’s deal with the issues.” It was a great, painful, amazing time of my life.
And, I think there is something about that that hit me again this morning. I put on some Frou Frou and that phrase hit me again, “Because there’s beauty in the breakdown.” There is something beautiful in the messiness of breaking down things. Whether it be preconceived ideas or thorns in our thumbs, or thoughts in our minds that separate us from others, we just need to allow the process to happen.

It reminds me of the Scripture, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels--a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24). Sometimes we do our best to revive and resuscitate things in our life that frankly need to die. We hold on to old ways that really haven’t worked in the past, but somehow are so engrained in us that we can’t imagine life without them. Somehow death and decomposition are actually better options.
It reminds me of unhealthy relationships. You see your friend struggling going back to that boyfriend or girlfriend that is terrible for them. They treat your friend like garbage. Your friend doesn’t deserve it, but is so beat down they don’t see any other options. They finally build up the courage and leave. But in a moment of weakness they go back, because it is all they know. But if they could have found the strength to let that relationship die, they could have found new life. If they could have endured a little more pain the healing could have been more complete. That is the kind of thing that is going through my head.

There is something beautiful about the breakdowns in our lives. Sure, at the time they suck. In the midst of it you can’t see anything else around you. I was talking with a buddy last night over coffee and reminded him, from Tolkien’s LOTR: ROTK about Frodo and Samwise’s conversation about heroes. They really didn’t feel heroic at the time of their storm (or story…either way works). They just did what needed to be done. My grandma didn’t feel like a doctor, but she did what had to be done to bring about healing. And she knew that tearing the flesh on that little finger, breaking it down, was what I needed…and that is somehow beautiful to me today.

And finally, I broke the thorn in the process this morning. Any of you in Alabama want to dig the rest of the thorn out of me…it’s kind of annoying…and I need a little beauty in my life.

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