Reliving Pain

black and white woman girl sitting
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I dreaded this doctor’s appointment. The last time I saw him was a little over year ago—the last check up before my last round of fertility meds and my final pregnancy test, the one in which, like all the others, the strip did not turn blue. In the ten months leading to that last appointment, I saw this doctor at least once a month. Each time, we spoke about things that felt too painful to talk about, I was poked and prodded while wearing a funny gown, and in the moments when the doctor stepped out of the room, I whispered desperate prayers.

So now, about a year later, I was afraid that sitting in his office would bring it all back and I would fall apart. I can do this, I told myself. It’s going to be okay. I’m not going to cry.

I had seen this doctor so much that I had gotten to know him and the nurse that assists him. I liked her. She was sassy and told me stories when I wanted to be distracted from the poking and prodding. And as I sat in the waiting room, I waited for her to call my name and greet me.

“Esther!” It wasn’t her. The woman who greeted me was friendly, but she was a complete stranger, and my heart sank. When this woman looked at me, what she saw was another patient who had come for a routine check up. She had no idea that I was in anguish.

She didn’t know that at my last appointment, I asked the doctor if I needed to send him a message if my final pregnancy test ended up being negative. “No need to send a message,” he said, “If I don’t hear anything, I’ll assume you’re not pregnant.” At the time, I thought he just didn’t want to deal with all of that. But now I understand that he knew that despite my best intentions, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to call or write.

She didn’t know that the months that followed my last appointment were the darkest of my life and that it was a miracle that I no longer woke up crying every morning.

She had no idea about any of this when she looked at my file. In the midst of all the questions she had to ask me before I saw the doctor, she asked, “You’re still married with no children?”

Yup. She did nothing wrong; she was doing her job. But I really wished that the person asking me the questions in that moment was the nurse I knew and the one who knew me in return. She would have known to not ask; she would have known that my heart needed different questions altogether. But it doesn’t serve us to dwell on how we feel our circumstances should have turned out. And in that moment, I focused on the one goal I had for that day: don’t cry at the doctor’s office.

She left the room and I was alone. And it all came back to me. I relived all the pain I experienced over the past year and a half. But something else began to wash over me, something I didn’t expect: I also relived every beautiful moment of God’s grace and comfort. This isn’t how I expected my life to look, but it’s more wonderful than I could have imagined.

When God brings healing to our souls, it’s not a one time deal. The comfort of God doesn’t remove our memories. At some point, we will remember our pain. We’ll see something or someone will say something in passing, and we’ll remember.

And when we relive the pain of old wounds, we must allow God to heal us again. The key word is “allow”: God can’t heal us if we don’t allow Him to.

We tend to avoid reliving pain—we must protect our fragile hearts, after all—but we must be careful to not avoid reliving pain altogether. Sometimes reliving the pain can help us remember all that is beautiful: the victories, the moments that kept us going, the ways God entered our darkness and gave us glimpses of His abundant goodness.

I don’t want to forget. I want to remember all of it, even if that means feeling the pain again. For by remembering, I can know hope and joy and gratitude. By remembering, I can keep moving forward.

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