My morning routine usually includes browsing through the BBC News app. One morning as I stood in my pocket of space on a packed train, I came across this article about a woman who could not feel physical pain. She has literally gone through her whole life without feeling any pain. And instantly I thought about how lucky this woman was. She never had to be crippled over in agony during her period, she didn't know the unexpected impact of a stubbed toe or even worse a paper cut. At the end of the article, even she readily proclaimed that despite the difficulties of her condition, she would never give up her ability to not feel pain. That was also the moment I realised that I wouldn't give up my ability to feel pain.
Pain is odd. It hurts, but it's on your side. Like a stubbed toe, it draws your attention to an issue you need to address. Without the pain, I could walk around leaving a trail of blood on the pavement unaware that I've hurt myself. Or even if I was aware of the stubbed toe, without the pain I might not be motivated to fix it. It sounds ridiculous to say that, but this is something we do regularly. We might notice little niggles in our bodies, but still put off booking an appointment with the GP. Or if you’re anything like me you might put together a list of concerns, but never actually go and see a doctor. Well that is until something hurts, until your body forces you to book an appointment and carve the time out of your usual schedule to put your health first.
Most of us also do it with stress, again if you’re anything like me, or I should say who I used to be. I used to have this bad habit of pushing myself too hard and ignoring my body when it tells me it’s tired or it needs sleep or just a few minutes of relaxation. I had goals and a schedule, so I was going to be superwoman and my body was going to have to catch up. Unfortunately, superwoman would only stop to take care of her body when the physical symptoms of stress started hurting. I guess I said all that to say, pain is good. Pain or at the very least discomfort forces us to stop and take care of us.
However, I’m left wondering about emotional pain. While I wouldn’t give up physical pain, I struggle to see the benefits of emotional pain. I’ve been blessed to not be subject to ongoing physical pain, so in my experience, emotional pain has always been the more difficult of the two to shake. It comes in so many shades and you never know when to expect, whether it's heartbreak, disappointment or loss, it's always painful. I think back to the times I've been so sad that my joints have felt hollow and my chest has ached with heaviness and I wonder if I would choose to still feel pain.
Speaking as someone knows what it’s like to lose someone you love and who knows the constancy of mourning as it stalks through the years, I find it hard to say I would choose this. When it comes to the things that break our hearts, there's no painkiller, apart from sleep and even then, in waking up your body and seems to sink straight back into the sandpit even before your mind remembers why you should be crying. Yet I can’t bring myself to say that I would choose to live a life without emotional pain if given the choice.
It’s not because I want the pain. I think there’s a part of my brain that understands that the reason certain things hurt so much is because it once felt so good that losing it haunts. And it might be my limited imagination but saying no to pain also feels like saying no to joy. It feels like saying no to loving completely, saying no to hoping that you could have a better life. If it doesn’t hurt to not have it, then having it can’t be that good. Reluctantly, I have to admit that if I had a choice, I would still choose emotional pain because not do so feels like choosing a life of mediocrity. A constant neutral with no lows, but also no highs.
And for those of you that might have the imagination to picture a life with all highs and no low moments, here’s the reason I would still choose to feel pain. Because God designed us that way. While His intention was for us to live blissful lives in the garden of Eden, He did design us to feel pain both emotional and physical. He gave us tear ducts for a reason, so I choose to trust that He knows best. I choose to cry in the moments that I need to cry and laugh in the moments that I can.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven
Ecclesiastes 3: 1