Pain and Growth
A long time ago I read a book written by one of my heroes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is entitled “Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder”. It was and remains a great book – part memoir, part instruction manual - and I still have a copy on one of our bookshelves at home.
In the book, there is a throw-away line that leapt off the page at me the first time I read it – at the time it made me laugh because it’s typical of Arnold’s attitude towards adversity, but over time it’s become, for me at least, one of life’s more profound truisms. It says this -
“Don’t worry about pain. It means growth.”
The point being made in the context of the book is that weight-training hurts while you’re doing it and for a time afterwards – it has to if it is to stimulate muscle growth. If it’s easy (and therefore painless) then the muscles won’t be being overloaded and there would be no need for them to respond by getting bigger and (therefore) stronger. No need to adapt and grow.
Twenty five years or so after reading that book for the first time, some things have become evident to me. I’m a slow learner you understand, but I’ve discovered a secret technique by which I can hang with the brainier types. I call it “thinking a lot”. It’s amazing how sharp and insightful you can seem if you come into the conversation having applied this technique ahead of time!
So, a quarter century after first coming across Arnie’s pearl of wisdom, I’ve come to understand how that throw-away line can have a profound effect on my life-in-general and on the lives of anyone else for that matter – if we choose to apply the lesson therein. Bit like bodybuilding really.
Sometimes we go through times of great pain, when we’re stretched way beyond our comfort zone and it feels like we’re not strong enough to cope. However, if we hang in there, that season will pass, we will recover and - presto! - we will discover we’re so much the stronger for having gone though the whole experience. It’s simply a process of growth. It hurts, but it works.
Right now, to take a not-so-random example, EBC is going through just such a painful time.
We have recently lost our Senior Minister, Chris Porter, and our Chlidren’s Team Leader, Ruth Porter, as they have responded to God’s call on their lives to move to Andover Baptist Church. As well as losing from our midst two great friends in Chris and Ruth (not to mention their lovely daughters Emily and Jessica) we have also lost two very important members of our staff team.
Chris and Ruth were (still are) “A-Game” team players – they are motivated, driven, hard-working and simply great to work with. Losing two such team members (one of whom was our team leader!) is inevitably a big hit for us – as a church and as a staff team. In other words, losing them has been and remains painful.
As a church – and perhaps more acutely as a staff team – we find ourselves taken out of our comfort zone and in some ways overloaded as we try to deal with the losses and cover the bases. This has involved a lot of people stepping up and taking on new and extra responsibilities, across the staff team and the church family as a whole.
Recognising this, one of our brainier members recently asked me if I felt a bit like “a rabbit in the headlights”! I found myself a bit surprised by the question – not because I didn’t understand why he might think that, but because actually I feel really relaxed about the situation – and I know why!
It’s because I’m very familiar with the process of pain, recovery and growth, having thought a lot about it and having experienced it in many different ways over the years. So I knew that some people would feel emotional, and there’d be some tears and tantrums along the way as people get stretched way out of their comfort zones. But I also know that Chris and Ruth did not spend the last few years putting together a team of numpties, if you’ll pardon the expression! Furthermore, the actual leader of EBC is Jesus – we’re part of HIS church and since God is Sovereign well... I’m pretty sure we’ll be OK!
With all of this in mind, I feel totally confident that EBC will thrive and flourish. Once we’ve recovered, once we’ve adapted to the overload – and pain - we’re currently going through, we will emerge much, much stronger for it, both as individuals and as a family.
So if you’re a member of EBC’s church family I want to reassure you – the processes work. That is the general process of pain, recovery and growth works. And also the specific processes the Elders and Leaders are leading us through will work. So please don’t feel anxious or concerned or stressed out about the future. God is Sovereign – His will be done.
Or to put it more simply - Don’t worry about pain. It means growth.