On Being A Good Steward Of Pain

You’ve been there, right? In the left lane behind the person who has forgotten what the left lane is for. So, you get a little closer hoping to get their attention. And, if that doesn’t work, surely the three cars that just passed them on their right will. Finally, with no other option, you also pass on the right – even though passing is what the left lane is FOR.

As you zip by, you realize they have no idea the chaos they are creating. Okay, MAYBE chaos is too strong of a word here. Maybe they are just providing an opportunity for you to grow in patience.

Recently, I had this very opportunity and I found myself loudly, though internally, telling the driver to “STEWARD THE LEFT LANE!” as I zipped by thinking of all the AI advancements yet to be invented that could detect lane usage and alert a driver who is on autopilot that they’ve just been passed on the right. Seriously, someone way smarter than me needs to make this a thing! Now, steward may seem misplaced here, but if you’ve been on a single lane road then you know that the left lane is indeed something that has significant purpose which has been entrusted to those with a license. 

As I drove farther, somewhat embarrassed by my reaction, two things dominated my thoughts… stewardship and autopilot.

For many of us, stewardship often takes us to the principles found in the parable of the talents – managing and looking after the things that God has entrusted to us. The things that we have, we have for a purpose. We often list things that we want to be good stewards of like our: relationships, voice, position, finances, influence, etc. These things have been entrusted to us FOR a purpose, a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking more about stewarding our stories, our own personal experiences. The things that we’ve done and have been done to us. The things that we’ve seen, heard, and felt. The pain that we’ve caused and that which has been thrust upon us, brokenness in all of its various forms.

Hours into the drive I thought about several church leaders I know who have experienced significant pain in their lives, some by their own actions and attitudes, and others by those around them. As much as humans are pain avoidant, life doesn’t afford anyone the luxury of such requests.

Pain is something that everyone deals with, and deals with differently. When it comes to pain, some simply try to forget it. And at least sometimes, this is necessary to survive. Others, seem to be trapped by their pain, never moving forward, just living it over and over again. Others become known by their pain, somehow it justifies their life; it’s all their life is about. Others make a joke out of pain; they hide behind laughter. Others see their pain as a sense of accomplishment to compare to those around them.

Maybe you’re picturing yourself, or others you are walking through this life with, because most of us have done each of these at one time or another. It’s easy to switch to autopilot when we experience pain.

This year I got to hear the story of a Muslim woman who has had a great deal of pain in her life. What struck me was how, instead of dealing with her pain in the ways that are so human to us, she is leaning in, owning her story, and learning how to steward her pain. With God’s help, she is putting on her new heart, falling in love with our loving and forgiving God who surely aches when His children are in pain. Her courage and tenacity is inspiring as she enters law school to become an International Human Rights Attorney.

Pain is different than talents, but we still get to decide what to do with it once we have it; it’s ours to steward. What we do with it might very well be one of the most significant ways that Jesus walks with us, and we walk with Him.

As much as I am frustrated by the person on autopilot in the left lane, I know that I am that person too.

Awake us, oh Lord. Show us those places where we are burying the things you’ve entrusted to us instead of stewarding them. God, show us where we are on autopilot. Remind us, teach us, show us, that you invite us to come with all the heaviness that life brings, and that you will give us rest. Help us to be good stewards of your love, truth, and grace. Help us steward hope. Impress on our hearts and minds that you are a good steward. The best steward. There is a purpose… all that we have is for something and you make beautiful things. 

A great book that has influenced this writing and has been a gift for me in this area is, A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Holy Power of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner. I’ve found the audiobook version to be a good friend while traveling and changing lanes, doing my best to remember what all the lanes are for. 

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Melissa Diem

Melissa Diem

NextGen and Connections Director at Faith Church
Melissa Diem is the NextGen and Connections Director at Faith Church. The best part of her job is having a front row seat to life change. She likes reading, family, laughing often, learning from others, and meeting new people.
Melissa Diem

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