I have spent a great deal of time in my life around children. As first a babysitter, then a teacher, mom and children’s ministry director, I have been in rooms full of those precious gifts. One thing that is guaranteed in that environment is noise, consistent noise. One child may be able to be quiet for a while but add a couple more into the recipe and quiet is much more difficult to manage; and then when it happens it can sometimes be cause for concern. I find there seems to be a connection with what I learned while working with children and what I am learning in my struggle with chronic pain.
There is a fascinating balance we must find with children when teaching them to be quiet yet wanting them to express themselves. I had to find many different ways to teach them to know when the best time for each was. Kids naturally seem to know that when the adults think it’s time to be quiet, it is the perfect time to express themselves; but when the adults want them to express themselves, somehow quiet rules. I and many of my teacher cohorts could tell you how many hours we spend coming up with creative ways to get quiet and expression at the right times. We have also learned that there will be a certain expectation of quiet that has to be thrown out the window if you are to be in charge of any group under the age of 10. Yet, we strive and hope for success.
One method we have to help children both be quiet and also be able to express themselves is the option of whispering. We love whispering because while they can communicate to the person next to them, ideally, the rest of the room won’t hear them. This was especially utilized on the weekly visit to the school library. As a preschool teacher it was my job to first introduce the students to this new concept. I would sit them down during our circle time and we would practice what whispering was like. I would try it and then have them repeat after me. If you ever need a laugh try teaching whispering to a first born, verbal processor. They are the loudest whisperers you will ever meet. Somehow in their genetics, they need to be heard and so while they also try really hard to follow directions and their body language says whisper, when they actually try to do it, someone in the hall could still hear them. That is why we, teachers need lots of self control and patience.
The connection I see with my current situation is that I have discovered one other thing that has a very loud whisper; pain. As I have been struggling with constant pain over the last year I have realized it too seems to have genetics that make it need to be heard. Pain is an important tool our bodies were created with to tell us when something is wrong and therefore, it is very necessary. However, when what is wrong has not been able to be fixed and pain remains, balancing life with it can be a struggle. As you can see in the chart below that when a person is dealing with chronic pain half of their thought process goes into just handling pain leaving only half for the rest of life. Since those around me are not “hearing”the pain that is loudly whispering in my head it can be hard for them to understand my lack of focus or inability to do certain things that I used to do well, I mean, I look normal.
So, even though the outer me looks fine, the constant pain can feel like having a large group of rowdy children in my mind trying to grab all of my attention. I have spent hours with doctors, medicine, diet, and rest creatively trying to find the best way to quiet it down. Pain, just like children, seems to naturally want to be loud especially when I need it quiet. I am in the process of learning, similar to how I did as a teacher, to change my expectations yet still hope for success.
In that new perspective there has been one voice that seems to be able to shout louder than my pain. It happens to be the voice of the best teacher I’ve known, the Holy Spirit.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26
What He brought to remembrance was to try a couple of my best methods I used when trying to get my children’s attention and quiet them down. I would either turn the lights off and on or clap my hands. It was a way to activate their senses to get them to stop what they were doing and turn their eyes to me. So I have been asking Him to clarify to me how this can help me though this struggle. The following is what I think I understand and am practicing.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12
First I realize that Jesus, as the light, seems to find a way to activate my senses and get my attention away from my pain so I turn my eyes on Him. There have been literal times when I have been so caught up in pain then suddenly a “light switch” will go off and on in my head that directs me to a verse of scripture or a lyric of a worship song. In that moment the pain quiets beneath the shout of heaven’s call. I am so grateful for those moments and so am learning that as I feel the noise of the pain growing, to turn to the Psalms or turn on my worship music.
Clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with a loud cry of joy! Psalms 47:1
Second, I have started to practice being grateful and full of praise. I say practice because I fail and then have to try again. It is not an easy method, harder than I ever thought, but I think that is probably why the Bible often refers to it as a sacrifice.(Hebrews 13:15) I do know that God has asked, even commanded us to do it. Why? Could it be that since it was God who created our physical bodies, He knows that when we praise it does something physically to help our bodies heal. I found an actual study by Dr.Vladimir Poponin, a quantum biologist, that states: “the DNA CHANGED ITS SHAPE according to the feelings of the researchers: When the researchers FELT gratitude, love and appreciation, the DNA responded by RELAXING and the strands unwound.” No medicine can do that without serious side effects. Yet God, in His creative wisdom, has prescribed praise over and over in His word. Plus, I don’t even have to worry whether insurance will cover it.
I know that, in this world, all of you are in or will deal with some sort of pain whether it is acute or chronic. Can I tell you, in my loudest whisper, when that pain is acting like a group of rowdy children, I suggest you try these two methods. Turn to the Light and clap your hands. Your rowdy pain will quiet down, your DNA will relax and you will too.