Don't waste your pain...

There were a lot of tears this past Sunday in worship - from me and from many others - as we looked our various wounds and fears in the face with the trust that in God's grace our pain isn't wasted. I know people who waste their pain. They neither learn from their mistakes nor profit from their suffering, but keep doing the same old things over and over expecting different results. As Fr. Ed Hays says, they refuse to learn the wisdom of their wounds. 

I've been told that there are some folk at church who are worried about me because I've been sad for so long.  My grief is deep, to be sure, and palpable. What's more, I made a decision sometime during Advent not to waste it or medicate it or distract myself from it. My hunch has been that I have been called to grow closer to Christ through this grief. And while I haven't known exactly how this would happen, I knew it would be revealed if I was patient and still and waited on the Lord. As another tradition likes to say: when the student is ready, the Buddha will appear.

Sometime during Lent I noticed a shift within - I was still agonizingly sad and often weary beyond words - but it was starting to feel less and less like a burden.  And when I read this from Richard Rohr last week, like the Apostle Paul, the scales fell away from my eyes. Not that I grasp everything this means, but I know it is part of the puzzle for me:

Many people rightly question how there can be a good God or a just God in the presence of so much evil and suffering in the world—about which “God” appears to do nothing. Exactly how is God loving and sustaining what God created? That is our dilemma.

I believe—if I am to believe Jesus—that God is suffering love. If we are created in God’s image, and if there is this much suffering in the world, then God must also be suffering. How else can we understand the revelation of the cross and that our central Christian logo is a naked, bleeding, suffering man?

Many of the happiest and most peaceful people I know love “a crucified God” who walks with crucified people, and thus reveals and “redeems” their plight as his own. For them, Jesus is not observing human suffering from a distance; he is somehow in human suffering with us and for us. He includes our suffering in the co-redemption of the world, as “all creation groans in one great act of giving birth” (Romans 8:22). Is this possible? Could it be true that we “make up in our own bodies all that still has to be undergone for the sake of the Whole Body” (Colossians 1:24)? Are we somehow partners with the Divine? At our best, we surely are.

Part of what I understand this to mean is that as I weep and grieve - as I lament the agony of those I love and reel against the pain so many suffer - I am actually growing closer to the Lord. My tears are an intimacy that I could avoid, but what a privilege to pray with my whole body and be embraced by God in my sorrow.  I am going to be sitting with this revelation quietly for the remainder of Lent into Easter.  Like the Mary the mother of our Lord, I need to be still and know that God is near as I ponder these things in my heart. In fact, I am more and more clear that Mary has much to teach me during this season.


Anonymous said…
Hey RJ - I've been quiet lately (seminary doesn't leave enough time for surfing and commenting on blogs) but this really resonated with some stuff I've been working at lately. I am, hm, developing a better appreciation for traditions other than my own, even if I'm still rooted where I have landed. Thanks for your wisdom, and for being in the right place at the right time when I first turned up.
RJ said…
I am so delighted to hear from you again. You continue to be in my prayers. Keep me posted on the unfolding, yes?

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