In my post entitled, “You Can’t Get There From Here,” I mentioned that I am going to write about some of the factors that I believe were key in finding change in my sexual orientation. Here’s the first!
My career as a Physical Therapist gave me a distinct frame of reference in comparing what the people I was able to work with every day were going through, vs. my search for change. So, today the “element of change” that we’ll look at is having perspective.
The Apple computer dictionary definition of “perspective” is:
• a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view: most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective.
• true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion: we must keep a sense of perspective about what he’s done.
Most of the clients who came to the PT clinic were seeking relief from some type of pain. It is hard to describe pain, and it’s hard to measure it. We would ask a ton of questions to help people detail the nature of their pain – “Is your pain burning, sharp/dull, radiating/staying in one place, tingling, etc.?” It was also tough to quantify – each person perceives the intensity of pain differently.
You’ve heard of people with a “high pain tolerance?” It’s true – some people can take certain types of serious pain with little discomfort. Others might hit the ceiling over something that most people would find tolerable. As a PT, learning the type of pain and the intensity of it was important in figuring out what was going on with the client, and how to help them get better. I also learned to ask questions, listen for details, and look for movement cues that would help me quickly figure out a person’s pain tolerance level. And this would make a difference in how to address their particular issue, and how to help them learn to measure their own progress. (Sometimes a different type of pain, even though it is still pain, is actually a sign that things are getting better.)
What I found surprising, though, was the great number of people who had gone through sudden accidents, yet were able to face their circumstances with an attitude of grace. People who had been in collisions with drunk drivers, or who had a tree fall on their car just as they were driving past (I’m not kidding.) I remember one lady who had been ready to celebrate her retirement by taking a cross-country RV trip with her husband, and the day before leaving was terribly injured in a random incident that required significant surgery and rehab. to recover from.
These people all had their lives disrupted – they had to deal with pain, financial difficulty, loss of work or time at school or other plans – and none of them turned bitter, shook their fist at God, or sunk into self-pity. Each day they would take on the best they could. Many of them had a relationship with Jesus, and their faith was a great comfort to them when they had tough times to plow through. It was such a privilege to work with these people.
But what really blew me away was the clients I couldn’t help.
There were individuals who came to PT in tremendous pain – off the scale. They couldn’t sit, stand, or find a comfortable position even to lie down. These people were not faking it. We would try to get them out of the lobby as quickly as possible into the clinic, and I would do everything I could think of to reduce their pain. I’d call my co-workers, and sometimes my PT mentors, to see if they could think of something to do that I might have overlooked.
A few times something might make a difference, but sometimes, nothing we tried was of any help.
Yet these people – every one – would turn around before they left and made sure that they said, “Thank you.” And I hadn’t done anything for them – they were still in excruciating pain. It was terribly humbling.
Thankful for Life
Here I was, driving to and from work with two good arms, legs, hands and mind all functioning perfectly well. I only had a head cold or the flu maybe once a year. I could travel across the country with friends, go out to dinner, take time to pursue hobbies and outdoor activities… I had the world at my feet…and still do.
Even though seeking change in my sexual desires was hard – the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through – there was no way that I could compare the pain that I was experiencing to the pain that I saw people dealing with almost every day when I was at work. And the grace that these people in pain showed me and the other people around them was astonishing.
Think about that second definition of “perspective” again:
“true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion: we must keep a sense of perspective about what he’s done”
Now, I don’t mean to belittle the struggle for change in orientation. What I am saying is that I realized that I could live a lot of life even while I was going through this journey. It wasn’t an all-consuming or debilitating state or circumstance to find oneself in. There was plenty to be grateful for.
Being thankful for all that God had given me was a sustaining ingredient in this process – and it’s good for anyone to think about no matter what you’re going through. It wards off spirals of negative thoughts, frustration, etc. At times it can take determination to show gratitude – especially when one is worn down by chronic struggles. But I’ve found that it’s never a cop-out, it always pays off, and helps me remember that life is bigger than one issue. And, of course, that God is big enough to handle it all.
One of my favorite passages that helps me to keep perspective is 1 Peter, vs. 3 – 9:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Such great reminders in those words of what is really going on “behind the scenes” in our daily lives. When we chose to follow Christ, we have a living hope through His resurrection, a non-perishable inheritance, and we are shielded by the power of God through our faith in Him. Even our trials work in our favor – for by them our faith is strengthened.
I love Him, although I have not seen Him. And I am filled with great joy, for I am even now receiving the goal of my faith – the salvation of my soul. And nothing on earth can top that.