Whether you are in pain yourself, living with someone in emotional or physical pain, or trying to deal with persistent pain in a community or the world, the suffering of humanity never seems to stop, does it?
Nature's normal creaking and groaning of tectonic plates seems to parallel the creaking and groaning of humanity's pain as well. Political and theological differences continue to exacerbate world tensions, and the everyday course of events in our own bodies and minds sometimes keeps too good a pace.
You might be saying to yourself right now, "Wait a minute, Ellen, Holy Week is over. The painful stories of Christ's passion and death are over. Why another message about suffering in this hope-filled Easter season - this spring month replete with life and growth and stories of resurrection - in all corners of our lives? Let's move on." (As my husband's mother used to say, "Let's get over it.")
Rev. Ellen Sloan
Of course, there's a forge-ahead, think positive, get-over-it mentality that indeed enables us to get through pain and hardship. After all, we're a country that began with a forge-ahead, fortitude-filled frame of mind. However, that mindset is often apt to put us in a place of denial that we DO hurt sometimes, or in a space where we don't know how to talk about suffering, are embarrassed by a particular disease or addiction, don't want to bring undue attention to ourselves, or just don't even understand how to pray through the pain and see the possibility of hope.
Wrapping up Holy Week in a pretty box and putting it away until next year will not bring tangible and real emotional, physical, or spiritual healing.
The poet and theologian Howard Thurman once characterized life as a "vale of soulmaking." He writes, "All of the experiences of living have as a single purpose - the growth and development of the soul ... They give us a sensitiveness, a depth of being, which puts us in the fullest possession of all our powers; in other words, makes us whole."
All our experiences. Does this mean we must suffer to become whole human beings? Certainly not. However, often in the midst of pain, we do somehow discover a greater depth of being and a personal growth and sensitiveness we'd not found before. Whether the pain is in us, in someone we love, or in the groaning of humanity, praying through it and knowing God is with us in the struggle WILL strengthen our "vale of soulmaking" and move us toward hope and wholeness.
An article in last weekend's NY Times reminds me of the groaning of humanity and the "vale of soulmaking," hope and transformation that occurred following centuries of adversity and pain. The article commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Resolution in Northern Ireland. What a narrative for all of us wondering how to "get through" long-standing suffering. What an image of possibility for diplomats around the globe who continue to forge ahead in hope. What a reminder for us that we too may be resurrected into a new life of peace, calmness and wholeness.
Let's not try to "get over it," but pray and know that we'll "get through it" with God's help - especially as we try to reflect that in our love and compassion for one another.