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Holding On

Many are the deep pains, disappointments, and hurt that we carry with us. Some of us have carried these pains, disappointments, and hurts over a very long period of time. Some of us have held on to them for so long that we have been fused into one with them to the point where you cannot tell where our pain stops and joy begins. Some of us have also masked them or swept them under the carpet because we feel handicapped bringing them to the fore to deal with them. I could go on and on about how we have individually dealt with pain.

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Problem of Pain identifies two types of pain. First, the kind of pain that causes some discomfort but one may not necessarily object to it because it is geared towards making one feel better - an injection, for example. Second, a physical or mental experience that creates great discomfort and which one dislikes. This comprises suffering, anguish, tribulation, adversity, or trouble. And these are what cause the problem of pain.

Both the first and second cause some pain, but the pain of the first pales in comparison to the second.

Many years ago, I visited a patient in hospice. When I arrived, I met the patient’s daughter-in-law who was, fortunately, a hospice volunteer. She had come to visit her mother-in-law. I introduced myself to the lady and sought to learn more about the patient.

She narrated a very painful story about the patient and her children. She had four boys, and one of them died by way of murder-suicide, killed himself and his two children amid a nasty divorce. The other three, who are now all grown and in their 60s, have nothing to do with their 95-year-old mother. They don’t talk to her, nor do they visit her. They simply manage and pay for her medical needs.

My immediate response was, "Wow! What happened?"

The boys had an abusive father who didn’t limit his abuse to only the boys. He also abused his wife. I was told that the man was stout, and with the mother being a diminutive woman, he towered over her and the boys. After years of abuse, the woman found the strength to divorce the man and move on with the boys.

But for a very strange reason, the boys had been angry with the mother throughout their teenage and adult lives. They have held on to the suffering, anguish, adversity, and torture from their father and they blame the mother for not leaving the marriage as quickly as she could. The son who committed murder-suicide was gravely affected by the abuse, and it was believed that the lingering effect may have played a role. They simply couldn’t let go of the pain from their abusive father.

It was as if their pain had so much hold on them and determined for them what their choices in life ought to be. But then the question is, to what end?

Experiences such as this remind me of the power some of our abusers have over us, and so some of us have developed different kinds of mechanisms to deal with those effects. Some feel they are better off not talking about the pain at all - they remind us of a bygone era, and of the kind of people we don’t want to be. They remind us of our anger towards the people who have hurt us the most. They remind us of so many different emotions - to the point where we simply cannot trust anyone. 

The part of my interaction with the in-law that really got to me was when I asked if the woman would be interested in receiving Holy Communion. She responded that I had to call her husband to check with him. And so, I called the husband. And when he picked up, I introduced myself and asked if the mother would be interested in Holy Communion.

His response was that if I said the words "Holy Communion" and his mother smiled, that meant she would like it. I couldn’t believe that such a huge chasm could exist between a mother and a son, which led the son to make such a suggestion on behalf of his mother.

I know that I couldn’t. And even if I could, I wouldn’t because my mother is so precious to me. And I would want to believe that despite everything else, I can make a decision that I know would be of spiritual importance to her.

There are times when we move as far away from our pain because we don’t want to deal with them. But how do you move away from a particular pain when the pain is not an object? Yes, you may move away from those who inflicted the pain, but can you move away from the pain itself? The pain may last for a lifetime, but can you carry them all through your life?

Remember - on Good Friday, Jesus was hanged between two thieves. I learned that many Christians live their lives like we live on the cross between two thieves. The thief on the one side is robbing us of peace because of what happened in the past. The thief on the other side is robbing us of the peace of what we fear is going to happen to us in the future. For that reason, we appear stuck - stuck with our wounds, stuck with our pain, and stuck with the scars that we carry with us.

The tragedy is that oftentimes we hold on to our trauma in such a way that we refuse to live. But God tells us to live every day, in the moment, with absolute certainty that He is sufficient for that day. Listen to Ecclesiastes: “He who considers the wind will not sow he who considers the rain will not reap.” There is no better time to do anything, there is always a time to let go. 

On May 11 of this year, we will be launching the Christ Church Center for Spiritual Nourishment. It is a new center with the goal of providing additional avenues where each of us will have the opportunity to deepen our spiritual lives. There will be an opportunity for you to take a stab at your spiritual autobiography. There will also be a chance to partake in trauma-informed care.

Remember Jesus’ words: “Come to me all you are laden and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” This is an opportunity for you to come lay your burdens down - not as a form of spiritual bypassing, but as a genuine way towards healing.

There’s an adage that says you spend a lot of your time telling God about your troubles. Sometimes you need to tell your troubles about God. Let your troubles and pain know that you rely and depend on a living God. Let your weariness know that you trust a living God. Let your hopes be rekindled in the God of our salvation who takes up our burdens.

This isn't an attempt to minimize anyone's pain, rather, it is an invitation to lay them down.

As we all reflect on our pain, may we be reminded that we should never be ashamed of our pain and that each of us has faced some painful and difficult times before or still dealing with some difficult challenges. 

This is Easter’s blessing; you are where you are because you are stronger than you think. Strong enough to lay your burdens down because you no longer want to hold on to them. 



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