Repurposing Our Pain

photo at by Mathieu Nicolet

My ten year-old came to the car with his toes only half in his tennis shoes and his foot hanging off the back. He was completely breaking down the heel of his shoe. He knows how much I hate that.

"Sam!" I said, "You're tearing up your shoes!"

"I know Mom, sorry. But they're too tight," He responded.

He had been in sandals the last half of the summer, but this morning was cool and crisp to the skin. "It's too cold for my Chacos," he said.

He grunted as he shoved his left foot into the black and red Adidas. At the next stoplight I reached back into the floorboard. I went to put my finger on the tip of his big toe and felt the joint instead, rounded over and rubbing against the end of his shoe.

"Baby!" I cried. "You're shoes are way too small!" He stared at me a moment without expression then raised one eyebrow and cocked his head sideways as if to say, "Yes. I just told you that." He looked over my head and said, "Mom. The light is green."

I refocused my attention on the asphalt ahead and said, "We'll go after school today and get you some shoes that fit." My son doesn't like to shop but he quickly agreed.

I picked him up at 3:15 and we drove to the Shoe Carnival. I hadn't been to this particular store since he was much younger- younger like he wanted shoes with Velcro and lights.

The sales associated measured his foot and reported he would need at least a size seven. My son stood next to me and we looked at the shoe selection running tall up the wall. I noticed we were almost shoulder to shoulder in height. Taking his time, he studied the various styles and colors.

He talked about what he liked and didn't. I listened and nodded and added commentary when he asked for it. He reached forward and pulled a neon green tennis shoe from its nook and looked it over.

Then he suddenly turned and said to me, "Mom, I'm sorry. Am I wasting your time?" His question caught me off guard- like a hard, unexpected punch in the stomach that steals the breath.

I looked at him horrified and shouted, "Noooo!" (I'm pretty sure I shouted, because he looked around to see who might be staring.) "Sweetheart! I am sooooo happy to be here with you! This is not a waste of my time- You. Are never. A waste. Of my time!"

My reaction startled him and he laughed. "Okay. Mom. Got it."

He was fine with the answer but I was reeling, "WHEN did he get big enough to worry about wasting my time? And WHAT have I been doing (or not doing) to even give him that frame of reference?"

While my thoughts went wild, he pointed out a navy and white Nike he liked. He asked me to pull down a size seven that was just barely out of his reach. I took the box down. I knelt on the floor beside him as we unpacked the paper and arranged the shoestrings. He laced them tight and stood up. Still kneeling, I gawked at his enormous feet before me. I thought a seven sounded big, but I had no idea the reality of it. My eyes moved up his ankles to his black socks and just above them, his blonde hairy legs.

My nostrils stung and the sinus cavities under my eyes burned. Gone were the days of helping him wriggle his tiny feet in black shoes with Lightening McQueen on the sides. Sharpness seized my chest as I realized life is traveling at the speed of light. I felt like I might be having a new kind of heart attack, the type where the center of a person completely caves in.

Dizzy with awareness, I reached out and placed a hand on top of each of foot and squeezed them like I was checking the fit. Really, I just needed to feel him, make sure he was the boy I birthed. I took a deep breath, swallowed the lump in my throat, and looked up at him from under my baseball cap. I asked as casually as I could, "How do they feel?"

He grinned with his big green eyes and said, "Great!" He found a long aisle and put them to the 'run' test. I listened to his feet pound on the store floor and waited for him to return. He came around the corner and said, "I want these!"

We loaded his old shoes into the box and paid for the new ones. He wore them out into the sunshine. I noticed the brightness of his yellow hair as he walked ahead of me with his head down. His hands were shoved in his pockets and he was admiring his new kicks.

I was admiring him-...his strong frame, his gentle spirit, and his wisdom. I reminded myself, "He is just becoming more of who he has always been."

But we are becoming different together. It's not a bad thing, it's just a thing I didn't see coming (even though my friends with older boys told me it would come). And there are these moments when he asks if he's wasting my time while I buy him man shoes that I become keenly aware of the shift. It jolts me like a lightening bolt.

I am grateful for the quick, bright crack of light, because it wakes me up and makes me pay attention.

Rather than mourning the past, I am resituating. I am turning away from the distractions of too much work and worry these past few months. I am praying for discernment, because my son has opened up something real regarding time- his and mine.

This weekend I will not waste time. I will leave the laptop behind and turn the phone off. My son and I will ride four-wheelers through the woods because he's asking me to.

I'm repurposing the pain of time passing. I am celebrating the crisp weather that sent us shoe shopping and the love I feel for my son that sometimes threatens to undo me. That love reminds me that I'm deeply alive.

Is there some pain in your life today that could be repurposed?

Is there something you are mourning that you could see as a new chapter?
Is there someone you are trying to change that you could choose to free instead?
Is there somewhere painful you've been that has equipped you to reach out and help someone else who's there now?

These are opportunities if we choose to see them. Viewed from a slightly different perspective, pain can stand us up and get us walking again.

If you need help repurposing pain, I invite you to check out our 64-day purpose program free.