Sunday, May 20, 2012

Suffering, revisited

Today was a day of suffering for me, for reasons I will not go into here.

I forced myself to spend 15 minutes in quiet contemplation this afternoon, only to spend most of it sobbing, alone out on my front porch. I felt as if I were buried under a pile of rubble and could hardly breathe. This is how depressed people feel all the time. How fortunate that I can sit with it for a while and then move on to another place.

I have come to a new understanding of my suffering. It puts me in touch with the suffering of others, that is common to all humanity, and so it has value that I didn't see before. Actually, it is a pearl of great price. I believe that all my compassion started in suffering. I could be a very wicked and cruel person without having been through that painful forging of my soul! Thank goodness there is a purpose for my suffering, because my personality type is such that I will never stop being aware of the great tragedy that is so intertwined with all life.

As I was crying this afternoon, I thought of Berta, who has lost a son, who told me this morning that it had been a rough week for her. Perhaps she also had spent time crying out on her porch.

Then I got on Facebook this evening to check on my 20 or so friends and family, and found that my best friend from high school had had a very difficult week and asked for prayers.

I also read today's installment of the Upper Room, which featured a scripture passage from Lamentations.

But perhaps the way the Holy Spirit best cared for me today was in the words of two of our church elders, who are taking a spiritual formation class that I am in (one of them is leading it). Shelley said that my words in the last class had stayed with her all week, and then her husband piped up and said he even had a dream about it! So I know it was the Holy Spirit's work in leading me to say those things.

In the last class, I had been asked to read this scripture: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength." I then went on to explain my interpretation of this passage: Love comes first! It must precede everything else. It comes before rules and commandments, and it comes before judgment. I said that I could overcome my human nature by looking at other people with the eyes of love, through God's eyes. When I was able to do that, it completely transformed my image of them -- particularly people who gave me difficulty, whom I disliked or was in conflict with.

I was reminded of these statements I made just last week, and it revealed so clearly my sinfulness today, the cause of most of my suffering. I was not using those eyes of love today, let me tell you!

This spiritual formation class is such a breath of fresh air. It's completely what I need in a group study, and so different from the painful experience I had in Disciple Bible class, where my own theology clashed dramatically with that of most of the rest of the class. My problem is I can't be silent when I disagree so passionately. What I disagree with the most vehemently is another's small-mindedness that places limits on God's love and compassion, and narrows the field of God's beloved to "the saved," only those who meet certain criteria. Let's just say, if the discussion turns to religion and politics, most of the time I'm in deep trouble, because my views are quite different from those of most church-goers to my small, rural, church community.

But I do love them all anyway! I may not like them all, but that's another story.

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