My best reading happens on planes. This past weekend was no exception. The book I was reading was a find from listening to the Being Known Podcast. They had referenced it too many times for me to ignore, so I got it. I read the majority of it on this trip. The book is Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird.
I’ll post another blog about this book later, but here’s an excerpt that applied to my running experience for this I-35 Challenge. In it, he is describing a patient who was living with a rare, auto-immune disease.
Health-care professionals, family, and friends arrived to help her and left feeling helped by her. They would end up bringing up their own problems, their own life pain. She would say, “Don’t think about the pain. Be still before the pain.” She didn’t mean to give, and they didn’t intend to receive. But the more she was able to surrender to the loving silence at the center of her pain, the more she was a vehicle of this loving silence.
Medical writer Steven Levine observes “true healing happens when we go into our pain so deeply that we see it, not just as our pain, but everyone’s pain. It is immensely moving and supportive to discover that my pain is not private to me.” This is precisely what Elizabeth discovered about pain. If she could be silent within herself, in the midst of her pain and not get caught up in commenting on the pain, she saw her isolation vanish and what she found, even in the midst of this pain, was communion with all people in the silence of God.
I didn’t come close to Elizabeth’s status while putting myself through self-inflicted pain, but I caught a glimpse of what being still before the pain was like. My quads were already in pain before we started the half on Sunday morning. But as I ran, I focused less on my pain by noticing others who seemed to be dealing with their own that was greater. Communion happened.
This one runner in particular that I came upon around mile 7 got my utmost attention. She may have been 5 feet tall. From behind, it appeared she ran as if one leg might have been shorter than the other. For whatever reason, she seemed to run leaning to her right side. And she ran with a limp. Was it painful? I don’t know. It appeared it was a chronic condition that she lived with every day. And yet, here she was running a half marathon. There we were, fellow embracers of pain.
I-35 Lesson #3: Be still before the pain.
There’s more to see past your pain. There’s more to experience through your pain. Communion. Humility. Maybe even peace.
I’d say I’ve been on this lesson journey all summer. The result: Rather than avoid or complain about pain, embrace it. In the embrace, communion with your fellow embracers is found, and together you experience the presence and peace of God.