Category Archives: suffering

Goodbye Death

Its hard to say definitively that I’ve said more goodbyes than your average 30 year old, but I suspect I may at least be above average in these stakes.

The more I say it, the more it feels like death, even if I know it is not a forever-farewell.  Maybe it is the very fact that I’ve turned 30 that makes this process harder?  Something to do with my biological clock perhaps???  Or maybe just that, as a spring reaches the point of no return, I’ve said so many in such a short space of time that I’m fast approaching the “I’m-done-with-this-can’t-do-it-anymore” point.

Whatever it is, it sucks.

And yet…

The pain of goodbyes and changes is in direct correlation with the joy of love.  It hurts only because we love.  Okay, so I’m sure that it is not always purely altruistic – I might cry when you leave because I’m lonely and don’t want to be – but a large part of it is because of love and our pain serves to help us see and appreciate that we love and are loved.

If we allow ourselves to ignore the pain of goodbye, we are in denial of love.  If we focus only on the pain of goodbye, we miss the joy of love.  To engage fully with the relationship between love and the pain of farewells, is to celebrate the power of resurrection life.  Jesus did not merely ‘come back from the dead’, he passed through death, he went beyond it and broke its power over us.

We need no longer fear.

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Filed under fear, love, perspective, suffering

The One where I attempt to talk about Hope.

I’ve been reading Luke’s gospel.  Twasn’t my idea, but I’m doing it.

As I sat on my sofa with my feet on the old repose-pieds, I experienced one of those wonderful moments where you discover all over again – from your head to your toes to your heart to your tears – that Jesus is the most incredible person who ever lived.  This particular experience was poignant and somewhat unusual in that all the while knowing in my knower that who he is is true and real and that nothing makes sense otherwise, I also had the question : “But… are you big enough?”

In the face of suffering in the world – from personal loneliness, to 2 year olds with throat cancer, to earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear emergencies all in one small nation – is the truth of Jesus big enough?

Questions like this can be easily answered but seldom satisfied…

In my faltering grasp of what the voice of God sounds like, I think he spoke to me about hope as suffering.  I was reflecting on the passage (that makes it sound awffy spiritually mature of me – it was kind of by accident which is what makes me think it wasn’t just my own ‘wisdom’!  Plus the savvy amongst you will note its not even IN Luke so really I wasn’t even concentrating properly!) where Jesus talks about taking up our crosses and following him and assures us we’ll know suffering.  Fun.

Maybe I’m over-emotional by nature, or maybe its this weirded-out nothing-in-my-life-is-the-same-what-the-flip-am-I-doing-in-this-country-again?-ness that’s making me even more so sensitive… But there’s something in beauty and goodness that really hurts sometimes.

You see, beauty and goodness awaken and feed hope.  And hope is the voice that -as Emily Dickinson wrote – ‘sings the tune without the words’ even when all around is yelling and screaming “Impossible!!!!”, it is the light that should not be hidden under a bushel when all around is enveloped in darkness and despair, it is the feet that keep climbing, one step at a time, when the crowd is going the other direction.  It’d be easier – less painful – to give in and give up.

Hope is a longing for the fulfilment of who I am, of who I was created to be, of Who I am created to know.  To hold on to these realities is painful because that fulfilment is still to come – its like being in labour (I imagine!) – painful!  But it is sure and certain that the end result will be worth it.

Sigh…

I don’t feel I’m quite communicating it.

But anyway – hope as suffering.  I really don’t like that Jesus says we’ll suffer – I never have.  I guess I feel that if I were in a country where I’m physically persecuted for my faith or where my life was at stake etc, that that reality would have much more meaning and immediate effect and my super-Christianness would kick in.  Whereas tucked up in relatively comfortable (however an admittedly nuclear-energy-making:S ) corner of Western Europe its hard to engage with in any sort of real way.  I’ve heard too many John-P-esque insinuations that God gives you cancer for the hell of it (or, er… sorry, His glory) to hear ‘you will suffer’ in a faith-filled ‘God-is-good-and-he-reigns’ kind of way.

But as I thought about the pain hope can inflict, I figured that that’s the kind of suffering I’m up for – not that my personal inclination should dictate interpretation!  But, you know what I mean?  As we breathe and drink and eat and sing and shine Hope, as our hearts and souls bleed its very essence where we live and work and do life, we suffer and yet we live.  We crucify our way of life so that He might live in and through us, so that Hope is filled and Joy comes with the morning.

Pregnant pause….

Eugh.  That’s the best I can do in trying to explain it.

But I guess He’s big enough to sort that out.

 

 

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Perhaps

He hadn’t always been like this.

She tried to get up from the floor, but he pushed her down again, swearing and barely able to focus both eyes on her face.  His breath was foul as he pleaded with her to forgive him.

“I can’t let you up til you forgive me” he slurred. “It was an accident, I’m sorry!  You have to…”

He trailed off, slumping onto his knees then sidewards to lean against the wall.

“I didn’t mean to…”

He hadn’t always been like this, but this time wasn’t the first.

He reached out an impotent hand towards her as she pulled herself up on the kitchen chair, mumbling incoherently as she made her way out of the kitchen towards the hall cupboard.  By the time she got back to where he was with the blanket, he was already asleep.

She won’t leave him this time either.

They had grown up together, become best friends and later married – every girl’s boy-next-door fairytale.  She wasn’t interested at first, but as they grew up she discovered that the loyalty, passion and gentleness he possessed was not easily found in any other person she’d met.  His capacity to love and care for the ‘unloveable’ was astonishing, his ambition and compassion for others startlingly beautiful.

But something somewhere went wrong.

She wonders if it would be quite so hard if she didn’t believe he was made of greater stuff, for greater things.  If she’d never known him before, she would have no idea how to hope for the future.  If she didn’t know who he really was, who he could really be, would it hurt so much to see him so far from that?

He gurgled and shuffled in his sleep.  Instinctively she reached out to him in case he should slide onto his side, but he stayed put, his hair matted and mussed on one side like a child’s after a good night’s sleep.  He would make a great father, if only…

That’s why she stays.  The picture of him as he was, as he could be – that exquisite bittersweet morsel of hope in face of his bad choices, in face of his persistent rejection of her and the life they once had together, in face of his inability to say no to the voice that wants ‘just one drink’.

To stay and hope is as painful as to give up and go, but perhaps this way she can be the one to try and win him back with her love and care.

One day it’ll be over.  Either he will be won over by her love, her efforts, the truth… or he will go too far and she’ll be forced to leave.  If she has to leave, all concerned will still bear the consequences.  She too, in her love for him, in her hope for him, already suffers the consequences – she may be removed, but she will not be absent.  Maybe if she leaves he will be forced to face his own consequences.  Perhaps he’ll feel the loneliness, the futility of doing life for himself alone, the pain of what he has brought about.  Perhaps then he will change.

But perhaps he will get used to the absence of her light – his eyes will become accustomed to the darkness he has chosen and soon the memory of light will be nothing but shadow, nothing but the absence of light, nothing.

No! Love always hopes.

One day she does leave, though.  Perhaps there are children involved, perhaps she can no longer bear to see them suffer the consequences of his bad choices, perhaps he starts to hurt them.  But she herself cannot carry him any more – she cannot hope alone.

Perhaps someone else, something else will shine.  A candle lit somewhere on his behalf – a hope, a wish, a prayer.

Love always hopes.  She will always hope.

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Certain People

Its bad news when you have more blogs in your ‘drafts’ section than you do actually published so I think its about time I got back up on here for a rant.

I had a most unexpected chat today with a friend I hadn’t seen in a good while.  This friend’s family circumstances are nothing short of heartcrushing.  A daughter with profound learning difficulties and a husband who was diagnosed with MS a few years ago who has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and even more recently severe osteoporosis (with the bones at the top of his spine crumbled to nearly nothing.) and bouts of ill health herself recently.

Often when I think about suffering on the individual/family level (as opposed to worldwide hunger etc), this family’s circumstances come to my mind.  I question how and why God could let it all happen to one family?  It is frightening the depth to which I am shaken to think that Certain People say that THAT would be God’s will. How the bleep can Certain People say that God gave her those circumstances?  That God causes such suffering “for His glory”?  Seriously… what kind of bleeping “glory” is that?

It makes me sick.

I asked my friend today how she reconciles all that she is facing with her faith in God, does she see Jesus in the midst of it all?  Without a second of hesitation she replied “Oh yes… constantly.”  No fake smile, no ‘God knows best’, no ‘there must be a reason’…  In fact she claimed that even when she meets Jesus, the last thing she’s gonna care about is ‘reasons’.  Her hold on the umbilical cord of her relationship with God is unbroken and unshaken even by circumstances of this life – this life which is significant but by no means the full story.

Her response fills me with hope and beauty and life and faith… is that not the glory?  That in, through, above and beyond this world – this life – which is broken and f*cked up, God is… God is! He doesn’t need to inflict suffering to show us what a nightmare things would be without him, how much better off we are or how powerful he is.  We don’t need to claim that in order to be ‘good Christians’ or submit to that kind of masochistic “sovereignty” or to show how much we know things are a mess without him…  We bloody well know he’s powerful and sovereign and that we need him because God is who He is!

Eugh.  I know I’m hardly being very gracious or even coherent, but do you know how popular Certain People are becoming even though this is what they are saying about El Roi ‘The God who sees me’???

(I also wonder what Certain People would say about this family seeing as the wife is the main breadwinner because the husband can’t be?)

I think Certain People should just shut the hell up.

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Filed under God, grrrr..., perspective, suffering