“Pain provides an opportunity for heroism; the opportunity is seized with surprising frequency.”
By R. Havard, M.D.
Appendix to C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain
My parents named me Constanza Aileen which means “consistent light bearer.” Every year for Christmas, my mother searches for an ornament for each of her five children that reflects the meaning of his or her name. When I was eight or nine, she found a series of light-up lighthouses for me. I rolled my eyes each year when I received yet another lighthouse. I wished the series would end and return surprise and mystery to my ornament opening experience. But, my mother held strong. She made sure I understood the significance of lighthouses and how it related to my life.
I put off writing my story for many years in an effort to dig deep into my experiences to find a unique piece of wisdom worth saying that no one else has said before. Without something unique, I thought I would just waste my time writing and would have no right to ask you to waste your time reading. I encountered frequent disappointment when I found numerous writers and speakers verbalizing the very truths I naively thought were original. What I found is this: The commonness of our experience of truth and beauty does not diminish but only increases their light.
We do not ignore the beauty of a single rose simply because others exist. However, we often pass by without a glance because we are too distracted by busyness as we isolate ourselves in the frantic pursuit of goals we will never reach. Fortunately and unfortunately, there are opportunities in life that destroy little bits of things we hold dear. Some “opportunities” are big enough that they consume everything we strive toward, everything that propels us forward, finally freeing us to stop and see the truth and beauty all around us. The opportunity is pain—it is the fire that refines distorted lumps of earth into pure gold.
We deceive ourselves into thinking we have no impurities. And, as chunks of impurities crumble in the heat of the flame, we often reach for other impurities to fill the gashes left in our form. Instead of surrendering to the purifying process we attempt to harden our resolve. With any luck (or providence) the flames will continue to increase until they reach a temperature that shatters our hard shell, revealing the pure essence underneath. Often, only the heat of a flame can reveal the lies saturating our hearts.
In her article on creativity in the Huffington Post, Carolyn Gregoire writes, “An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and — most importantly for creativity — seeing new possibilities in life.”
Sharing our stories of failure and triumph in the midst of pain builds lighthouses in our dark world—lighthouses call sailors home while warning about dangers underneath the surface waiting to destroy in the dark. To this day, I hang 20 lighthouses on my Christmas tree to remind me of the truth in those blinking lights.
I pray the story of my fire brings you comfort in knowing that you are not alone in the flames.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior;”