In the dead of sleep, one of the last things you like to hear is the sound of your child crying. However, this has been my experience on several occasions over the last few weeks.
My three year old has been experiencing what I believe to be growing pains. And, of course, like all good tragedies, they always happen in the middle of the night. What starts as a whimper quickly escalates as she wakes up to find herself in pain. The first words out of her mouth are a blessing and a curse: “Mama!” Why do Daddy’s not get called in for this? I guess we’ll never know.
It doesn’t matter because immediately I’m on my feet and my adrenaline is pumping so hard I’m Olympian-esque. And if you think having a conversation with a three year old is hard when they are awake, try conversing with one when she is half asleep and in pain. Fun.
However, I’ve gotten used to the sound and the cause. I thank God every time for a quick dose of pediatrician-approved pain killers. The aching that takes over a limb can be quite debilitating and frightening for a child so small. In fact, I remember my own growing pains quite well.
The thing they don’t tell you when you’re a kid, however, is that the growing pains never stop. They just feel different and take over different parts of your body as you age. They move inward like a tremor deep underground. The ache of a deep stretch when your limits are being tested, the strain of mounting resistance, and the pulsing throb of change makes even the strongest and most mature call out in the night.
I hate change and my immediate reaction to this foe, in any form, is to dig in my heels and shout “no!” I’m Gandalf fending off the Balrog and declaring, “You shall not pass!” At least that’s what I like to think…that there’s some valor in my resistance.
But the truth is I’m not usually fighting off an enemy; instead it’s the working of my God that I’m resisting. God is the Master at shaking things up just when you feel comfortable. I should be used to this by now. These pains come in seasons and I’m starting to feel them sneaking up in my chest and threatening to sideline me, again. Thankfully, I’ve begun to recognize change, the way it makes me arch my back in defiance, and the aching it causes deep under my skin, and I’m slowly relinquishing.
Change rarely just changes our circumstances; it usually changes us and that’s the point. It is not just our boundaries that are stretched but it’s the very fiber of our hearts and our minds. In the process of the pain and the questions and the doubts, we find ourselves with two choices: to resist or to rest.
You know, when God orchestrates the changes and begins to work with these vessels of dust and clay, resistance is foolish work. And yet, resting in the changes, refusing to resist, can feel like floating down a river that ends in a waterfall. We fear being dashed against the rocks, taken under, succumbing, or worse, washing ashore in a place not of our own choosing.
So, when we feel that dull ache of growth begin in the muscles, the pulsing tension of change in our souls, we choose. We choose to be carried away by the rivers current and thrash and wail, or we can stretch out our arms, float on our backs, and take in the scenery.
I guess I write this to say, it’s OK. Just as we tell our children when their limbs ache that the painful stretching of muscle and joint is only making them taller and bigger, I am reminding myself that this ache is only making me stronger and bolder and kinder and freer and, well, more like Him.
And, although it hurts to watch friends move, to say goodbye to the way things used to be, to let go of expectations, to feel the glaring sun of the open unknown, it’s OK.
It’s OK because “Aslan is on the move!”
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