When I was a young adult, I named two things I vowed I would not allow to happen to me. An ulcer was one of them, even though no one in my family had been bothered with ulcers, and I had only once in high school been diagnosed with a “nervous stomach.” Throughout my 30s, however, and into my 40s, chronic stomach problems persisted.
The stomach problems were finally diagnosed as an ulcer, and I knew I had lost control of my life. As related last week, I went to my pastor for comfort, only to hear him give me a strange directive. “It sounds like a rebirth to me,” he said. “I think you need to go home and listen to the message the pain has for you.”
He had never said anything so unusual to me–or so important. I sat down at a table with paper and pencil and began asking the pain inside, “Why are you killing me?”
Immediately a response came. “Do you want to live or do you want to die?” My head began to think about my life and all the drivenness that seemed to motivate my every action. And I realized I did want to live but not the way I had been living. I realized I did want to live–to be glad just to be alive without any need to drive myself, without any guilt over not constantly doing, without any need to do at all.
And in the short conversation, I realized that something in me needed to die in order for me to live in that new way. And that I could not consciously sort out and kill the part that needed to die. And that the force beneath the pain in me could do for me what I could not do for myself.
And all it needed was my permission.