I don’t know when the dawn will break for you or for me, but I know that the healing comes in the trying. And that even in the dark we have to keep practicing our callings. Whatever they are. We have to keep doing the things we were made to do. The daily acts of creativity and honesty and service as much for what they bring about inside us as for the good they do in the world. Practice your vocation and calling whatever you understand that to be because the practice of it will keep you connected and to the God who planted those things inside you.Shauna Niequist
Last Monday, on the first day of Orthodox Lent, I had a wisdom tooth extracted. As the dental surgeon’s assistant was giving me instructions, she reminded me that the first few days I would get steadily better, and then by days 3-5, it would feel much worse. “It’s like so many things,” she said. “You get worse before you get better. To heal, you have to go through a process.”
I didn’t think much about it that day, so focused was I on the procedure and on the wads of gauze and local anesthesia that made me sound like a cartoon character. But days four and five came, and though I thought I would be unique and spared the pain of those middle days, the pain came on with a vengeance. The only thing I could do was follow the paper of instructions given to me as I left the dental office. Ibuprofen, rinsing with saline, soft foods, and waiting. I had to keep doing those things because I knew that ultimately, they would aid in the healing, and the healing would indeed come. I had to keep trying.
“The healing comes in the trying.”
But on Saturday I wanted to give up. I wanted to stop trying and call the dental assistant and say “This isn’t working. I need something else. I’m not healing.” In truth, I was. I just didn’t like how it was going. I wanted to speed up the process. I was sick of the pain. I didn’t want to believe the dental assistant’s words.
Today is a new day. In the world of tooth extractions, the dawn broke and with it was a tenderness replacing the pain. I know now that every day will be a bit easier.
Though they are nothing to do with healing from a tooth extraction, Shauna Niequist’s words above are not unlike those of the dental assistant. They are both about process, about doing all those things in the dark that we learned to do in the light.
If you’ve been following along with me, you know that I’ve had some healing going on during the past few years. Healing from pain far worse than that of a tooth extraction. Every time I think the dawn is about to break, it seems the clouds come over and instead of the brilliant colors of sunrise, it’s all greys and muted colors. In the midst of this, I’m continuing to learn what it means to keep trying. To make plans and follow through with them. To cry heavy tears in the shower and then get dressed. To pray soul-aching prayers and then get up and make dinner. To wait for answers and then actively process through writing. The dawn has not yet broken, but God is present, gently reminding me that healing comes in the trying.
Reminding me that someday, the “grey horizons must grow light. It is only the immediate scene that shouts so loudly and insistently.”
Author’s Note: This season is Lent for those of us in Christian Traditions that celebrate Lent. Lent is perhaps a bit like a tooth extraction. You know you need it, but initially you dread it. Lent is also about believing that the dawn will break, the resurrection will come, and with it – a healing greater than we can even imagine.