Pain is both the bastion and the centerpiece of the human soul. We live and die by questioning God, or the universe, or the God that we believe does not exist, and continually ask ourselves the question, “Why must pain exist?” It is the existential question that permeates the hearts of atheists and believers alike. And for those of us that have sustained great trauma, the pain is more like a boulder than it is merely a fleeting or situational experience. It is a millstone we carry despite our many desperate attempts to understand it and kill its long and unrelenting tentacles. Even in understanding its root, only something more than us could possibly eradicate the darkness that spreads as a result of it. The beginning of the journey of the soul to God says, “Where were you God?,” the converted soul says, “Why God?,” The weary pilgrim says ,”Help me God.”
It wasn’t long ago that a friend and fellow sexual abuse survivor reminded me that my job had come “at a painful cost.” I know now that as much as I wanted to believe that God’s plans were somehow “cancelled” for me, they never were. How could I ever understand pain if I had never experienced it myself? Empathy for me has become the pearl of great price, the painful cost.
As I step into the pain that I once carried, I realize that the weary pilgrim often retreats into isolation to deal with the aftermath of pain and trauma. If we don’t blame God, if we are converted, if we’ve accepted what’s happened to us, I’ve come to find out that maybe we have forgiven, but we haven’t learned to walk inside the suffering. If suffering has value and meaning in God’s economy, the physical and mental symptoms of childhood trauma mask any meaningful understanding of learning to suffer well. But maybe we are not suffering well because we do not allow ourselves to experience the physical and mental pain; maybe we refuse to be in it or work through it. Maybe we skip that part and then wonder why we just can’t seem to find value in suffering…
I am sure there are many names for the condition that I probably have. But I also know that God has bigger and better names for me than that. Like daughter, and my beloved. I am so well past knowing that God loves me and that there is value in my pain, but I am so far away from understanding how to stop cycling through the vicious teeth-marks that still exist in my soul.
I am certain that there are many people out there like me. People who have experienced various childhood traumas that have defined them. We now know the corruption and reality of what childhood trauma does to us as adults, but we haven’t quite figured out how to contain that.
The everyday stressors of life seem to stress me out more, and the added pressure of raising multiple children so close in age, each with their unique issues becomes a pressure cooker at times.
I wonder how we get inside that pain, offer up that pain, be that pain to know that the one who suffered the greatest pain might call it a blessing so as to suffer along with Him. I find comfort in knowing that Jesus picked Judas knowing that he would betray him. And even in that betrayal, Jesus loved Judas. Can you imagine the pain of that love? I can feel it even sitting here. It is such a deeply embedded pain, indescribable, hard to understand sort of pain. Our Lord loved him anyway, but I know the sting of that pain, I know He understands.
I think some of us understand the pain of Jesus so well but don’t understand the joy. We want to, but we just can’t. Like how I want to make every person I meet love me, and I can’t. How it hurts when people are mean because they can be. How I’ve made it my life’s calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But Jesus also got angry…
Are you skipping over the righteous indignation? Are we holding onto pain that we should have let go? Are we filling our bodies up with poison to overflow because we just cannot get the deadly kiss of Judas out of our souls? How did Jesus do it?
I don’t pretend to have answers to these questions. I don’t write because I do, I write because I don’t. But I know above all else that God is with me.
I am hoping to start a conversation about suffering and pain, a spark, an opportunity to ask difficult questions of each other and God. Because if we don’t ask those difficult questions, we will never get to the other side of that cross. And this rugged wood is just too heavy to bear….