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.