Posts Tagged ‘Pain’

What does it mean to be “born again”?

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

People many times call with tragedy or pain right there.  Right in the midst of their life … a pain that takes our breath away.  A loss.  A crippling doubt. Fear.

And what I know of Christianity is that it has to work there too.  I know this …. Weddings are easy.  Funerals are hard.   And somehow through the very painful we are born again.

Amanda Haines shared a beautiful blog post, written in the midst of great pain.  A moving testimony to “born again”, what New Church calls “regeneration”, re-creation.

When He breathed, my chest rose.

I was trained to argue, but His breath came when I lay with nothing to say, how broken I was.

I had nothing with which to entice anyone to come to my rescue. I made no argument and no fight; I wasn’t budging in my own power, because I had no power with which to budge.

The presence of God, Spirit, warmed my blood and assembled my bones. I crawled to the bed, like one who heard a voice in the desert, saw fire in the bush.

A path cleared in me. I whispered, “I am free”— lungs full of air. I was newborn.

The weight of legions lifted, taste of forbidden fruit gone from the mouth, sting of death removed.

The Bible from class was on the bed, and I drank it like hindmilk. I was broken but filled. The hush in my spirit, this was freedom, the presence of God.

Freedom is peace.

The first of many births I would witness was my own. I was born into the light.

I would have waited on that linoleum floor until I starved, waited there to be raised from the dead, or be made dead, whichever.

I can’t explain the difference in what was happening in my head and in my heart and in my body. It was all taking new form.

I didn’t lie down so that when I stood up I might believe. I lay down to die because I was done with moving about in a body that had no life.

The fact that the presence of God was so obvious, like Road-to-Damascus obvious, was absolutely shocking to me. I had never felt so pursued or so loved, and love is what got me up off the floor.

As my eyes came open to something so simple as love, that God loves me, I was overcome with new desire: more than for a warm body—for skin on skin; more than for the taste of home— biscuits and gravy on a family morning; and more than for any drug to numb my pain.

I didn’t know who I was, filling with such delight, the allure of God. His meeting me on the floor was my release from being bogged down in self-awareness and loathing. He released me from feeling required to entice love, to always make an offering.

I became aware of God who loved me first.


Embracing the Right Kind of Pain

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Figuring out the right kind of pain to embrace is a challenging task, first made challenging by the fact few enjoy pain, and second made challenging by the need to differentiate between stupid pain and redemptive suffering.

One of the hardest challenges of pastoral leadership centers on the above.  Ministry – (and we are all called to it, ordained or not) – will pull us towards pain. There are certain areas where I find myself more clearly called, more definitively settled than before I was a pastor.  And that seems to be accompanied by a sober acceptance that in so doing, there will be pain – pain of disappointment, pain of disharmony, pain of lost connections. Not all is bleak however. Far from it. Immense joy is there as well … a more settled, smiling conviction that this is the path,  that there is no “unknowing” once we know.

That “knowing” is neither clairvoyance nor smug assuredness. At its rare and hopeful best it draws more from an unfolding, modest, faithful, grudging surrender – an embodied message we pass on more than a position or strategy we develop.

As one pastor phrased it, “Sometimes the difference between where you are and where God wants you to be is the pain that you are unwilling to endure … In fact, I will argue all day long that your potential in every area of your life is equal to the pain you are willing to endure.”

Choices towards growth and opening entail a commitment to lean into the pain so to speak.  Maybe that is why Christ so frequently warns us of the costs in following his model of drawing alongside suffering. And that is the only path towards a living church. Swedenborg warns again and again, failure of religion will not come from intellectual dissent but from a misplaced heart.   Getting our heart in the right place … our life’s work, pain included.

The Only Way Through It, Is, Well, Through It

Friday, April 8th, 2011

In the hours before the horror of the Easter Story began to unfold, Jesus sat with a number of disciples and asked them to “Stay and watch with Me.”  He also prayed, prayed in a way known to the broken, known to those facing overwhelming pain and disappointment.

Within that prayer, one section is especially noted in the Gospel of Matthew. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

It is easy to read this prayer as a plea for the cup of suffering to pass from Him.  But there is more there on a closer reading. Note – the Cup will pass, but it will only pass with it drinking.  Restated, the only way through is through.  This is knowledge we can possess at our core.  (see the following clip from Harry Potter)

Yet we live in such a way that we would never choose that – of course one would reject suffering.  Of course we would push the cup away.  But the Divine plan includes a falling, a falling that is needed for life to spring anew.  That is the right kind of dying.  Of course it is often accompanied by pain.  But faith is the understanding that there is a Knower, there is a purpose which we can only glimpse as we enter the valleys of life’s journey.

I been been witness to this death over and over again in people whose courage is simply breathtaking.   In the midst of the storm, of course they don’t see it as such and resolutely push back on any accolades.  But those are the very still, quiet, strong souls who somehow keep it all together and here I speak of a “keeping it all together” on a much broader plain than their individual lives.  They are the community of saints in a certain respect who balance the lives of those around them in unforeseen ways.