And yet… Suffering!
I wrote yesterday about how pain is just pain, and I (and maybe you, too.) can sometimes run in fear, make an idol of it, turn it into something it is not.
I am not contradicting myself today. I am holding another equally powerful truth in tension with what I wrote yesterday.
The experience of the thing, pain and loss… these are perhaps the most important thing there is. It might be that the ultimate, most important question is not saome bizzare thing that turns out to equal 42. It might turn out that the most important question is this:
Life hurts. What now?
The experience of suffering was important to Jesus. And being the loving Man-God that he is, he didn’t hog it all for himself. Jesus was quite eager to share.
People who have made a careful study of Jesus’ reactions sometimes talk about how he found a third way where it only seemed like two options presented themselves.
This might turn out to be true.
But if it is, it doesn’t mean what I used to think it means.
I used to think that Jesus had this way of outsmarting suffering. The third way was some option that didn’t involve hurting. He was a bit of a stage magician, on this understanding. Always giving us the illusion of hurt. But if we studied his hand directions, if we just new his little tricks, we would find out that it didn’t hurt at all. As if he some divine advil to dull the pain of the cross. As if he had some visualization techniques to help him focus past how he’d just been cut off from God after an eternity of unity.
If any of what Jesus said or did is to mean anything, then none of that last paragraph can be true. The point is that Jesus suffered for us and that he suffers with us, a convinving simulation simply won’t do.
It is with some reluctance I have come to be in touch with these truths. If Jesus 3rd way was just about outsmarting the sources of evil, I was all over that. I had been using my brains to minimize my suffering for my whole life.
Jesus call is that I use my brains to full engage and embrace suffering in the most powerful way possible. And that’s maybe where the apparent contradiction begins to boil away.
I am greater than my suffering in Christ. And Christ in me, is greater than my suffering. (Are these two ways of saying the some thing.)
Suffering is required. But only because of what it will do to me, and what it will do to others. Suffering is the eroding torrent. If I chose to, I can with stand the onslaught and be left, reshaped and transfigured once the suffering is gone.
But a part of the pain is choosing the pain. The act of submission is the first step in allowing myself to be made into the image that my maker intended for me.
And that? It kind of sucks sometimes.