Last week, some people I love very much felt immeasurable pain as the shadow of death passed them by. As it left, it took more than the warmth from their skin. It stole something that could never be replaced.
I won’t (and probably shouldn’t) go into detail. Suffice it to say–there’s darkness here. The kind that stains your nails to give lasting proof that you were hanging on by your fingertips.
Jesus said the world is a painful place, and that we shouldn’t expect it to change. As if we haven’t known that since the Garden. But we’re all the same, aren’t we? Each one of us, like Adam, lies and says, “It wasn’t my fault, so don’t throw me into it.”
The truth is, whether it was the taste of liquor, the flavor of a lie, or the zest of a cuss word flying out our mouths–each one of us has tasted the fruit we should not have tasted.
One by one, we pick up Sin, place it between our teeth, and bite hard enough to draw blood.
I think I know why babies cry so much when they come out of the womb. It’s terrifying to open our eyes and see both ourselves and the world exposed by light. It shows our weakness, our helplessness, our inadequacy and brokenness.
We enter and exit the world through blood. When you think about it, it seems fitting that the bookends of brutality would be as such.
And what of the middle? The hinge of the universe?
Blood dripping from the wrists of a perfect man spat upon, beaten, stripped, called a king in mockery, a friend of whores, a charlatan, a hypocrite, a weak little liar. But those scoffers were liars just like us.
And the bloodied man? He was God, passed into and out of the world through blood just like you and me. And perhaps his ending was filled with more of the stuff than any other just so that he could show us it’s all worth it.
Like a father tasting the food he’s trying to get his son to eat. “Mmm,” he says with a grimace. “It’s good, see? Daddy’s eating it with you. Come on, son, just trust me. It really is good for you. I know it doesn’t taste the best, and that the cake over there would be much more appetizing, but you’ll get sick if that’s what you eat, and I love you too much to let you hurt yourself.”
It’s a poor metaphor for an infinite God.
I suspect God’s thoughts have less to do with our hurt and more to do with our holiness. Our worship. After all, that was why he made us. To worship him.
I think he knows that us worshipping him in pain is much better than us numbing ourselves with a false sense of self-sufficiency.
I don’t think we should dwell on pain. I don’t subscribe to the idea that stories should end badly to be artistic, or that paintings should be dreary, or songs in a minor key. Because the world is not all negativity. Sometimes endings are happy, and sometimes pain comes about for no reason other than plain brokenness.
We can anesthetize ourselves with imagined evil just as much as we can with fake goodness.
God calls us to a life of reality. A life of balance. A life that admits Truth.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” -Romans 12:15
We tell stories of pain because feeling the pinch on our skin often breaks our delusions. As we walk through life, so consumed with daily tasks like taking the trash out, cleaning the litter box, and making sure there’s enough groceries to go around, we lose the sense of what matters.
Sometimes all it takes is pain to open our eyes to the treasure we have in our loved ones’ eyes, and in the arms of our Savior. Once there, we find the goodness. And anything that gets us to God’s goodness is worth it.
Circumstances that bring us to him may not be our favorite. They almost certainly won’t be God’s best. But God has given us freedom, and with freedom comes a little pain, and immeasurable life and mind-blowing love.
“It’s worth it,” he says with his arms forced wide. “It’s worth it because I’ve finished it.”
Jesus gives us hope in pain. What a miracle.