I’d like to invite you into a current struggle I have.
I have this ideal that sometimes I keep and sometimes I don’t (and I’m breaking it right now as I type at 9:22PM). The ideal is that I give myself an hour of no screens before I go to bed and right after I wake up.
It’s beautiful because it’s painful.
Two types of pain I’ve observed:
a) The pain of pain. By this I mean pain that’s buried under the surface of our everyday (normally busy) lives. At some point we’ve got to give that little pain groundhog a chance to pop up.
b) The pain of boredom. If you’re used to a regular American pace, and all of the sudden you don’t have any input or stimulation, it may feel painful — at least it can for me.
What I’ve found is these are actually really important places to hang out, that having a rhythm of quiet and stillness is crucial to healthy human existence.
America is swell in many ways. I’m glad to be here. I consider myself fortunate to live in the country that I do. But one flaw that bothers me is how we worship busyness and constant activity. The one who stops is lazy; the one who knows their soul’s interior is a hippy person who probably isn’t a productive, contributing member of society.
We need people who pause and who know themselves, because we need healthy humans and that’s just what it takes. Just like we need food and water and air, we need some type of reprieve built into our rhythm, a time to reflect.
I’ll take it step further.
As you look inside and find your true self, this is synonymous with knowing God.
This journey always seems to line up with pain and God most certainly wants to meet you at the place of pain within you.
I'll admit I have bias toward the melancholic, but I really think I've taken that into account when I say all this. I don’t mean to say there aren’t beautiful things about the world, about the humans in it. You can have joy in excessive amounts and even happiness a good deal. So let me make an important distinction…
Pain is the path and joy is the destination.
If pain and suffering are real, then joy is extra real. That's more important that I can explain (or even know). I think that from some eternal perspective pain and suffering will dissolve like the doodle of a shaken Etch A Sketch. The joy will stay.
So, pain is not a goal in and of itself. I just can't help but notice its ubiquitousness around growth, enlightenment, human existence. To not observe and account for it somehow is to put one's head in the sand. I’ve also noticed that humans, myself included, have about 8,000 ways of avoiding pain, iPhones included.
So I'll say again: God to means to meet and enlarge and enlighten us in the pain place.
This is more like listening than shoveling, more like noticing than lifting. It’s our job to embrace reality, what really is, to become aware that God is already calling us.
If you can stand it, here’s a prayer to try. If for some reason you made it this far, I’m asking you for sixty seconds to say this to God and then just stop. Pause. Notice, listen without any agenda.
God, I’m asking you to show me the pain within me and meet me there.
*insert 60 seconds here — if you think you don’t have sixty seconds you’re a liar and you’re not that cool*
I don’t actually think God needs asking, and I don’t actually think God is waiting on us to be active in our lives. I’m just making a touch of room to become aware of what God is already doing (and even ‘what God is doing’ is a human idea, but it’s all I have, so I’ll have to go with it).
Maybe you can find this space when you go to bed or wake up. Maybe you’d like to make it some other place. Maybe you’d like to blow it off for more time. God is patient.
Jesus, thank you that you call, you call, you call if only I can listen, listen, listen.