Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...
Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in the former Mosque (Cathedral) of Cordoba, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recent blog posts have lead to this exploration of the relationship between following Christ and experiencing pain.  It’s a given that the way of Jesus will lead to suffering.  The question is really what our emotional attachment is to this suffering.

Everytime I think I’ve got a grasp on how to approach this question I have to do a double take.  I suddenly realized there’s just this whole other side to it that I haven’t yet pondered.  My friendly readers (perhaps cheifly Billy) will be glad to know that I’m not planning on turning this into a series of 87 blog posts.

Instead, I’ll simply agnowledge that it’s a much more complicated question that I thought.  And make a couple general commments.

#1) There’s a host of suspect motivations for seeking out pain.  For example, we sometimes believe we deserve to be punished.  We sometimes like the attention suffering brings.  And let’s not even get started on all the icky sexual things…

#2) It does seem like suffering might be a way for us to be with Christ.  That’s a good thing.

Most importantly… and perhaps related to number 2…

If I’m right about the nature of victory in Christ, if the idea is that we undercome before we overcome, then it seems like a key aspect of this is taking in that which is painful.  Christ isn’t about waving a wand from the outside, and reversing something.  He is about internalizing a thing; his method of transformation is almost an act of digestion.

It seems like a critical aspect of this is to actual go through the pain, not around it.  Jesus didn’t bypass death.  He went through it.  Transcendence is so much greater than avoidance.  And to transcend a thing, we must be in the middle of it first.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “Digestion”

  1. I’ve been tumble-drying these thoughts in my head recently, too–reading about codependency, which is definitely relevant to me, and wondering how much of that is psychobabble designed to wrest us from the pain we’re to experience and transcend, and how much of it is actually helpful for transcendence. But I like what you’ve said here. Especially the digestion bit. Kind of gives a new slant to the eucharist.


  2. I think it isn’t so much wanting or even liking the pain, In identifying with Christ ie our desire to be more Christ-like we see that pain as perhaps a temporal gateway into a unique closeness with Jesus that we would not be able to have if not for a trial or some sort of suffering brought on through those acts of identification.
    Not that we usually give that much thought to it at all, but just usually look for ways to avoid anything to do with discomfort, because our God is a God of love and how could a God of love want to cause or be party to suffering?

    Maybe embracing suffering is the wrong syntax to use, Counting it all joy whenever you suffer for my name… That joy, borne out of walking in obedience I guess isn’t really about the middle of it but really the outcome of it… Certainly not a light subject of discussion 🙂


  3. I particularly like the first sentence of yours, JT. That’s well put. And yes, it certainly is not a light subject… 😉


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