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A Way Through the Pain

Our theme this Lent has been “A Way Through...”  And just last week I stumbled once again upon a marvelous video clip along these lines that is an interview with noted researcher/speaker Brené Brown, in which she explores why we come to church and the purpose of faith from her own experience of coming back to the church in the middle of a mid-life crisis.  A self-confessed workaholic academic, she had for years deadened the pain and grief of life by burying herself in research which, down deep inside, she thought would ultimately provide all the answers to all the questions, even those in her own life.  But now she was running upon issues in her work and life that she could not research away, and she found herself in therapy and going back to church; though, as she was to find out, for all the wrong reasons. 

“I really went because this is hard and this hurts and in all the midlife unraveling books, they say go back to church, so I went back to church thinking that it would be like an epidural, that it would take the pain away, that I would just replace research with church and church would make the pain go away.  But what I discovered was that faith was not an epidural for me at all, it was like a midwife who just stood next to me and said ‘Push’.”    

This is a truth we see throughout scripture, from the laments of the Psalmists and Jeremiah, to the travails of Job.  But in Lent and especially Holy Week it stares us straight in the eyes.  For here, in Christ, we see God most present and raw and vulnerable.  “We like to think of Love,” Brown says, “as unicorns and rainbows, but then you see Jesus and you think, ‘Oh my God, love is hard.  Love is sacrifice.  Love is eating with the sick.  Love is trouble. Love is rebellious.’”   Here we see a love that does not take the pain away, necessarily, but one who refuses to abandon us in the midst of our pain, one who cries for us and with us until we make it through to whatever life there is to be found with it and on the other side.

It’s when we make God/faith/love out to be something more than that, that we run into trouble, suggests Brown.  She recounts a story of attending a funeral when she was an older elementary age child.  The funeral was for a toddler who had died in a tragic accident at home.   At the funeral the minister said this was not a time to grieve, that to grieve would be selfish, that we should be celebrating that this child is now with God.  Brown states that she left the funeral confused and fuming, but that her mom set her straight in the car ride home saying, “I just want to be really clear with you that this is not a time to celebrate, that if you are sad, its ok, because God is grieving today too.  God is crying today also.”  And Brown thought to herself, “Well that changes everything.”   God weeps.   Love weeps.   We may not think it’s enough, but once we experience it, states Brown, we come to understand that it’s real, it’s true, and it’s enough to see us through. 

As we come to the final weeks of Lent, as we dare to turn our eyes upon Jesus on the cross, let us see a God who is willing to die for us, one whose example calls us to repentance and sacrifice.  Yes, let us see all of that and more.  But let us also see a God who now and forever more will not abandon us in our pain, but one who will come along side us, not necessarily to take the pain away….but to see us through.

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the March edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at 7:00 AM
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