August 18, 2011

Living in Tension

Dan Grayber, sculptor
The other day I was inspired to read ahead in my devotional book. My son's birthday is August 19, so I read his day's reading. Of course, it spoke to my soul and inspired me once again to consider the beauty of tension. Having had physical and emotional conditions in the past that caused deconditioning and resulting chronic pain syndrome, I understand the importance of tension, balance, and strength working together to support the physical body.

I have firsthand knowledge that having strong core muscles in concert with the healthy tension created between muscles and ligaments in balance with a healthy spine can allow us to live and move and have our being without pain or discomfort. I have firsthand knowledge that being able to live in the tension of joy and sorrow that floods any given day allows us to live and move and have our being without depression or hopelessness.

Dan Grayber Sculpture
The other thing I learned from my life experience is that there is a major difference between healthy tension and unhealthy stress. In fact, it was chronic stress produced by fear, perfectionism, and avoidance of emotional pain that led to my condition in the first place. Chronic stress floods the body with fight or flight chemicals, and the chain reactions these chemicals set off within our bodies have a profound physical effect (which I dare not try to explain here).

What I can explain is the emotional effect. Pain in every fiber of my being, so exquisite that a simple touch to my arm or leg would cause me to cry out. Constant and chronic, the only relief came from the mind-numbing effects of a brain on overdrive and anti-inflammatory-enhanced sleep. Sleep that was never restful, but welcome only for the escape it offered from a life of unfinished business. Housework piled up around me with only physical agony in store if I tackled it and self-hatred if I didn't. A vicious cycle of pain and misery.

Dan Grabyer, Sculptor
I hid it well, being a sunny optimist and a cheerful lover of all manner of people. But inside I was dying, and my body seemed to be matching step for step the death march my soul was intent on making. I know this may seem dramatic to you, but if you've ever lived with fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome, you'll know I'm not exaggerating. It is impossible to explain, and most people either compassionately offer whatever help they can or they avoid the sucking sound I made when I walked into a room.

I remember the day when things started to change. It was easily three years ago, maybe four. I was standing my kitchen staring at the counter and the floor, and I said to God, "My life is not a testimony to your goodness. I am a mess, and I do not exhibit any of the fruit of Your Spirit that the Bible talks about. I am depressed, irritable, and downright crazed sometimes. I'm always in pain, and I have no energy. I want off this carousel. Please help me."

Dan Grayber, Sculptor
Things got worse before they got better, but slowly and steadily my mind began to be washed with the refreshing water of His Spirit. At first the message came through lots of static, and it seemed like my behavior actually got even worse as I noticed more and more the muck I was drawing up from the dirty well that had become my heart.

Over time, the message become more powerful. I was even able to begin giving it away, but I still didn't believe in my very core that what He was telling me was true. Today, four years later, the message has sunk to my core and I now draw good clean water from the well of my heart. My muscles are still rebuilding, and my soul still has some work to do, but my spirit is strong and the chronic pain is gone. The pain I experience now is the same as anyone else who is building up strength or who sits in the same position too long (like at the computer).

Life is Beautiful
What is the message?

It's simple.

God really loves me.

Hazel Eyes
Not because He has to...

but because He made me wonderful.

And who am I to argue with God?


  1. Angela, if I could summarize this article with only four little words, they would be: "Been there, done that." A goodly part of my life (mostly in the past now) as I'm sure you are aware, was consumed with chronic pain. It's only been in the past 9 years that it has finally lessened to the point that it doesn't actually consume me anymore! I KNOW for certain that God healed me of the devastating, painful headaches I suffered for so many years. I look back on those years and wonder how I ever made it through them, but I know it was only by HIS grace that I did.

    One of the "personal" heartaches that most chronic pain sufferers share is that they try to "hide" their pain, just as you (and I) did. I think this is what brings on the hopelessness and depression you speak of in this article. Hopefully others who have chronic pain will be helped when they read this article, and will know that there is hope and help for them.

    I love you! Gram

  2. I'm so glad you are on the other side of this experience and so sorry it was part of your life for so long. Love you!

  3. Thank you Mom & Gram! I love you, too.