Sunday, May 18, 2008

Common Pain

Stood outside in the pouring rain
Different People with a common pain
A simple box in the hard red clay
where we left him to always remain
-Ryan Long

This verse hits me hard every time I listen to this song. I think about the concept of common pain a lot. It seems to me that more often than not what we have in common with those around us is the way we've hurt. I think we shy away from those conversations because they make us uncomfortable and that bothers me because in my experience that only way to deal with pain is drown it in community. I can't imagine hurting alone, I think most hurt comes from being or feeling alone.

My mom has no feeling in her fingers, she can't. She takes things out of the oven with her bare hands. I apparently saw her do things like that too much growing up and not long after I got married it bit me. My wife and I had been slow cooking a roast all day and she asked me to take it out of the cooker. Now, I had seen my mom take a roast out of the cooker like a million times and she never used a pot holder. I grabbed the lid on the cooker and it burnt the crap out of my finger tips, but what hurt worse was the steam that came rushing out when I picked the lid up, it burnt the entire back of my hand. It hurt, bad. The thing is, looking back on it I have trouble really remembering the feeling. I know it hurt, but I don't hurt now thinking about it. That is the chief difference between physical and emotional pain.

I think those preachers who talk constantly about hell in order to scare people into salvation are focusing on the wrong aspect of hell. It would suck to burn for eternity, but I think the thing that makes hell, hell is the separation from God. Being burnt is bad, being utterly alone is worse. Its like the fiery furnace those guys in the old testament were thrown in. I imagine that was as close a representation of physical hell as there as ever been. The thing that kept it form being painful was the presence of God.

I once heard a very smart pastor say that the two things that most deeply penetrate the heart of man are beauty and pain. I think I only partly agree with that, it seems to me that pain is just the absence of beauty. Like dark is the absence of light or cold is the absence of heat. I think that in a fallen world pain is the default. A heart that wasn't created for this world hurts when the world is all it has. The things of God -community, fellowship, love - infuse our hearts with beauty. In His absence there is only pain.

I'm constantly amazed by our (my) ability to love. We can love so hard and so completely that the recipient of that loves becomes a part of us. That's both beautiful and dangerous. I think its a beautiful picture of the trinity. I think we can love like that because we were created in the image of a God that loves like that. The problem is that we often (and should) love people that aren't going to be around forever. We are going to have to say goodbye. I've often thought that fellowship and community are all I currently know of heaven. I'm thankful that goodbye is all I'll ever know of hell.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


...let your love cover me
like a pair of angel's wings
You are my family.
- Ryan Long-

I've been listening to a lot of Ryan Long's stuff lately and its really spoken to me in several ways. Of all is songs Family has meant the most to me over the last couple weeks. I do want to talk about the idea of common pain, but first I'm going to do something that I promised myself I wouldn't do when I started blogging. I'm going to talk about people, and I'm naming names. When I hear this song certain images come to mind. I think of grave side services, hospital waiting rooms, mountian tops, beaches, cookouts. I think of worship and discussion - car rides and quiet conversation. I see my life, good and bad - pain and joy. I see everything I am and all that I'm not. Who I am and who I hope to be. The thing about the pictures this song brings to mind is that in them I'm never alone. I have family. Oddly enough the people I'm going to mention here aren't officially family.

I met Claire in the sixth grade and loved her instantly. There is so much about her that I love, but I think the thing that I love the most is that she is beautiful. In every way, Claire is beautiful. I hope I don't need to explain that because I don't think I can. I'm not only talking about pysical beauty, she is, but its not the point. I don't know how to explain it and I should have thought it through before I got into it. I guess the bottom line on Claire is that she is the kind of beautiful that affects you - touches you - moves you. I am different - better - because I know her.

I've know Aaron for a long time. Since before High School. Aaron is a great man. He's a great husband (That probably has a much to do with Sharron being amazing as it does with him), a great father, he's a great pastor. He has without a doubt been set apart by God to do special things. God's anointing is all over him. The thing is I don't really care about any of that. I know he's great, its obvious that he's different, but to me he'll always be the guy I played ball and rode wave runners with. He is my friend. That said, I don't think that its a coincidence that Aaron has been there in some of the most powerful moments of my life. It may be just a numbers thing, but I think God has used him in my life in a very intentional and powerful way.

I guess I met Lindsay in High School too, but I didn't get to know her until she started dating Daniel (who I'll get to in a minute) a couple years ago. Lindsay is the only person on this little list that didn't know me before dad died. That has always been huge for me. I let the devil convince me that most of my other friends loved me for who I used to be. They know what I was like before I was broken. Lindsay doesn't and I want her to see what I can be. She knows and has accepted that I've been hurt and I'm comfortable with her seeing that in me. The thing is, she's been hurt too. (I think in one way or another we all have). Lindsay, more than anyone else I've ever know, hurts gracefully. I don't mean graceful like a ballerina. I mean graceful like Jacob's wrestling match with God. At times its difficult to tell who's holding on to who (whom?). She is all wrapped up in God's grace. In that grace there is healing. She has taught me how to hurt gracefully and in that brought healing to my life.

Daniel has been my best friend since the 5th grade and is the only person I've ever given that title to. We have done life together. Every phase, aspect, and major event of my life has been influenced by him. He's been an inspiration, shield, and balance. I respect Daniel. He's done more with less than I would have thought possible. He's the reason the rest us us don't have any excuses. The beautiful thing about Daniel is that he doesn't see it that way. When the rest rest of us talk about the bad hands we've been dealt he doesn't complain, I used to think it was because it didn't want to be negative, I'm pretty sure now its because he doesn't see negative. With Daniel there is no bad or good pitches. He just takes whatever is thrown at him and knocks it out of the park. Its fun to watch. I think the reason he and I get along so well is that he balances me. I'm all over the place. I am an extremist. He is steady. Daniel brings calm - peace. I dare you to be in a bad mood when he's around. I should also mention that God talks directly to Daniel. He's never said that, you can just tell. I'm not sure what else I can say. You won't find him on my family tree, but he is my family.

Well, that took longer than I expected. I'm going to save the common pain discussion for later. I know you can't wait.