It's 2:00 am and I sit upright on my bunk bed in a little chalet in the hills of Wales. Sleep eludes-- not because tiredness hasn't set in but because some flu/virus is wracking my body with pain.
It's not an unfamiliar feat for me when I come to this side of the world. Apparently the sickness that goes around here has a different strain to the ones in America. I haven't developed a whole lot of immunity which most years results in sinus infections, pneumonia, stomach viruses... you name it.
Every year I'm just a little more determined to go home healthy. And almost every year I end up in the same predicament I'm in now.
Truth be told, my heart wasn't all too peaceful when I woke up this morning with the familiar symptoms. And even less peaceful when my attempted early night before flying internationally tomorrow (wait, I guess it's today now) turned into hours of wishing the searing joint pain away.
Believe it or not, the point of these paragraphs is not to make you feel sorry for me. A week or two will pass and I'll be healthy as ever and it won't be a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It's really not a huge trial.
I write because it's only against the background of pain that the beauty of His mercy can be best distinguished.
I move from my bed to the couch, frustration levels rising high, and I complain to Him for the thousandth time that this is not fair.
And that's when He whispers gentle. Can't you embrace this? Can't you open your arms wide to the pain? Is it really worth fighting Me?
I think of the hours ticking by on my clock before my alarm goes off. Of the drive to London, the long flight back to the states, the layover, arriving back at work sick and completing shifts in less than an ideal state.
But His whisper sinks deep. Didn't I ask Him to lead me anywhere as long as He would come too? Didn't I tell Him that I trusted His heart above my own?
Do I now?
Do I trust Him when I'm confused and my own efforts have failed? Do I trust Him when my tomorrow looks impossible?
Or do I fight?
Do I tell Him that it's not right, and that my early nights and many attempts as well being should have stopped this? Do I insist that I can't afford this right now? Do I fight the burn of the flame because it's inconvenient to my own plans?
Yeah, Jesus, I still don't exactly get why I'm here again. I don't get a lot of things right now (probably due to the unseasonable hour).
But I do get one thing.
His hand is not one to be fought. The flame He allows is not one to be cursed.
My little virus situation (or whatever this undiagnosed wonder happens to be) isn't going to last forever. But this truth will.
Pain is most transformative when it is embraced.
Fighting does us no good. Listing all the reasons it's not fair never solves a thing. Pushing away the Arms that hold us never heals.
It's all about opening our arms. About wrapping them around the fire-- and around the One whose own arms are outstretched to us.
That's what transforms. That's what turns misfortune into privilege... frustration into glory.
Perhaps I'll sleep now. Perhaps not. No matter either way, because the God who holds me?
He only allows pain to sear so that I can be transformed.
And that? That is glory.