Today we stepped nervously into the mall. I was holding our three year old baby Emerald by the hand while she confidently led us to the ear piercing stand in the center of the building. She knew exactly where she was going and exactly what she wanted to do.
For days I had questioned her over and over again. Are you sure you want to get your ears pierced? It’s gonna hurt. Are you positive that you don’t mind the pain? Are you really, really sure?
And, every single time, she answered right away with a grin, Yep, I’m sure.
When we got close enough to see the sparkly earrings in their display cases, I felt certain she would back out. When her daddy began signing all of the papers I waited for her to say, No, thank you. I changed my mind.
When I sat her all alone on the tall chair and the little piercing gun came out, I was ready to swoop in and rescue her if she showed just the slightest sign of faltering in her confidence. Her cheeks grew pink. I asked her if she was nervous. No, she answered. This is just the face I make when I’m really excited.
I could see that she was scared. But, she never for a single moment gave into her fear. She knew without any doubt that whatever pain she was about to experience was going to be well worth it on the other side, when she could finally get a glimpse of her newly decorated ears in a mirror someplace.
The first earring went in. Her expression revealed some shock. Definite pain. But, she looked straight ahead and tilted her head to the side to indicate she was ready for the second earring. She closed her eyes tight, and it was done. Not a single tear shed. Not a single exclamation of how that actually really hurt a lot. Just a quiet smile and red little ears that held precious tiny pearl studs.
There is no question that it was a painful experience. But, when it was over, she was transformed. A little bit bigger. A little bit braver. A little bit more convinced that she can do things that are hard.
While I watched her strut around the mall with her newly decorated ears, I couldn’t help thinking about all of the people I know who are going through painful experiences right now. An illness. The loss of a loved one. A deep wound inflicted by a friend. Money troubles. Problems at work. Marriage issues.
It would be so easy to look at the painful circumstances that loom ahead of us and just decide that we will never survive them. To declare that God has messed up and there is nothing inside of us that is remotely tough or determined or ready. We could just bury ourselves in sorrow, burrow into the loneliness and the uncertainty and give up on finding peace or bravery or assurance ever again. We could shout loud to the world that our God isn’t quite good enough, that our faith isn’t quite sincere enough.
Emerald had plenty of time to decide that she wasn’t ready for the pain. There were hundreds of tiny steps between the mall entrance and the site of her hurt and her triumph. But, she just kept walking, holding my hand, reminding herself that the end result would be worth it all.
We have hundreds of chances to give up on God. To give in to the pain. To let our fear rule us. But, there is nothing like holding His hand, walking through the hurt, and coming out on the other side with a new sense of our worth. With a new appreciation for the strength and bravery that comes from knowing Him.
And, all the while, we can remind each other of every mercy that descends from Heaven. Of the big payoff on the other side of all the pain. He is near. He never leaves us or forsakes us. And, with every hurt that we survive, our God story grows. Before we know it, the beauty of Christ is hanging all over us, like the sweet pearl earrings in Emerald’s slightly bruised ears. It isn’t easy. It hurts. It takes a while to look in the mirror and see what God is doing in us. But, it’s there. He is working. And He is making something beautiful out of our hurts.
All day we have been taking Emerald to the mirror so that she can admire the results of her bravery. I doubt she would want to go back and endure the pain again. But, she sure is glad that she decided to keep walking when she could’ve turned back. You will be, too. Keep going. Keep trusting. Someday the pain will be erased forever. But, the beauty will remain.