Cue Ms. Betty Wright. You know how it goes. . .
Well, I couldn’t resist the urge
to tell you the end of my story—
for all those who wanted to know
was there life after the pain?
A little throwback to when songs were an hour long and made you feel something, you know? Sister Betty spoke endlessly in “After the Pain” about what it meant to endure in a relationship to get what you ultimately wanted — a long-lasting, unbreakable, unshakeable love. The kind of love that truly stands the test of time.
While I could spend more space here than I’m offered to write on that topic (hello, 21 years of marriage), it isn’t quite what I think of when I hear these lyrics. When I hear these lyrics, I think mostly about how, for a large portion of my life, I’ve wrestled with what it looks like to choose joy — especially when life is heavy. And y’all, life’s been heavy. A lot.
I mean, it does get better, right?
When I was younger, feelings — both emotional and physical — were a big deal to me. Like, a really big deal. What I’m saying is that I was an extremely, highly sensitive child (I’m still a pretty HS adult). It did not take much to crush me emotionally. I remember walking into rooms, even from a young age, and “feeling” the room and the emotions of the people who filled it. As it pertained to my physical body, well, let’s just say I had a very low threshold for pain.
One summer I was visiting my great-aunt in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I got to stay for an entire week, and one of my favorite older cousins, my Great-Aunt Alberta’s granddaughter, was there for the summer as well. To this day, of all the times I visited, it’s still one of my most favorite memories.
I don’t recall what we were doing in the backyard that day, but what I do remember is that I fell and scuffed up my knee pretty badly. Remember that low pain tolerance I mentioned? Well, yeah…it took over. I lost it. I’m almost certain neighbors heard me from miles away.
My cousin comforted me. She assured me that she could help clean me up quickly and that I’d be just fine. We went inside to the bathroom where she grabbed peroxide from the medicine cabinet and began to apply it. The peroxide bubbled and my eyes widened, but as the burn of the first few seconds subsided, life started to feel a little normal again. Outside, birds chirped, clouds broke, and there was a rainbow that stretched across the horizon. (At least that’s how I remember it.)
My point in sharing all of this is that it’s really hard to see the light when there’s a barrage of darkness and pain beating down the door of your life.
This is my life’s struggle: Most days I still feel like that little girl who scuffed her knee and cried out at the top of her lungs. Sometimes (read: mostly every single time), we need a little help to see our way out of life’s dark tunnels and into the bright, wide-open sky. On that day, my help came in the form of the familiar, a cousin who wanted nothing more than for me to be okay.
That’s not always the case for us as we grow older. Life morphs in ways you and I would never expect, and we often don’t have access to the familiar. A lot of times that help and hope come in the form of new relationships — sometimes it may even be the helping hand or words of a stranger. And even if we don’t always see or feel that helping hand, we can trust and have faith that the hand of our Creator will rescue us each and every time we need. A Creator who is well acquainted with pain. This is a truth I hold firmly.
So, if Sister Betty were here today, and she asked me, “Was there life after the pain?” My emphatic response would be, “There most certainly IS.” I think that’s maybe the point of it all: We are refined in the suffering. There is beauty to be found even in the pain if we choose to see it.
Tell me, what beauty are you finding — even in the pain?
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