Tuesday Reflections: The Problem With Pain (For Holy Week)

Most Tuesdays, I offer brief reflections, and for the bulk of 2016, I've been exploring the Problem of Pain. In the Church calendar, this week is Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. It's a week to look at the darkest hour--the hour humanity murdered God--but it's also a time to explore the promise of pain. (Psst--resurrection is coming.) Come along?

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The Christ rode in on an ass's foal, the people lining the streets, shouting "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" King, King, King, they shouted, murder in their hearts even then. Jesus was a dead man walking; he was welcomed by the praises of the would-be lynch mob. He knew this, even then.

After the parade, Jesus shared a private moment with his disciples. "Truly, truly," he said, "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Death and fruit; parent and offspring--this is the way of life.

I'm considering this passage of Scripture today (undoubtedly because it is the scheduled lectionary reading), and it's an unpleasant contemplation. Pain? Death? The truth is, I'd rather like to spend the bulk of my life avoiding pain. The crush of the job, the death of a loved-one, cancer, mental instability, abuse--these are only some of the daggers life has to offer. And aren't we taught to avoid the seedy bars, the biker rallies, the places where daggers might be slid through our ribs?

Life isn't that plain and predictable, though. Life hides behind every bush, jumps from alley shadows and stabs with impunity. Pain--even death--is unavoidable. It is a natural part of the life cycle.

But here come the words of Jesus. Pain, he says, is fertile soil. It is the cracking of the coat, the pushing of new life through splitting seed. It is a path--the path walked by Christ himself. Pain and death bring resurrection if we let it.

Easter is coming. Resurrection, too. They always do.

Reflective Exercise:

1. Identify a present pain point in your life. Write it on a piece of paper.

2. Consider how living into this pain, how accepting it as a gift might allow you to see with new eyes. Consider how it might bring you new life, or at least a new perspective on life.

3. How will you use this pain, and the resurrection from it to help others who might be a step behind you on the road of life? Write your answer to this question and keep it in a safe place. Revisit it from time to time.

***Tiny Letter***

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