Pain is a Brain Freeze…. But the Most Important Brain Freeze Ever

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.


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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.

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