Pain Matters

In the past 24 hours, I have discovered Madeleine L’Engle.  Her books are all over this house and my friends speak of her as one would of a close friend, but until today I was ignorant of why.  Yesterday I started (and today I finished) reading Two-Part Invention, which is essentially the autobiography of her marriage.

The beauty was overwhelming at times.  By the end of the book, the tears were spilling over and falling down my face, unheeded, as I was allowed a glimpse into something so rare, so intimate.  Love and pain so intermingled as to profoundly change a life, two lives, all lives that will be touched by the story…  That is something I often find lacking in my own little world.

I took my journal and drove to the River’s edge, where I sat and pondered and soaked up the sun.

Why can I sometimes feel another’s pain yet lock up my own?  Why do the tears come so easily for something that is so peripheral to my own being?  When did pain become so important?

C. S. Lewis is one of my long-time favorite authors, though I still feel I have much to discover in his writing.  He makes it clear in one oft-used quote (which I shall not include here) that choosing not to feel actually kills in the end.  For a long time, I knew that to be true pragmatically but did not understand how it was coming to pass in my own life.  I did not understand, because I had chosen to shut myself off from the hard, painful emotions.  In so choosing, I also shut down my capacity to feel joy and love and anticipation.  I shut off the conduit of grace in my life.

That conduit has been reopened, partially by my own choices and partially because grace cannot be blocked forever.  So I am learning to cry – it feels like for the first time.  I always used to fear that if I began to cry, began to grieve the losses (real and perceived) I’ve experienced in my life, that somehow I would not be able to stop.  I feared crying would paralyze me, incapacitate me, render me useless.  And there is nothing I hate more than feeling useless.  At least there used to be nothing I hated more…

But crying does not last forever, and sometimes it is only in crying out to God that I open up my deepest fears to Him, to deal with as only He can.  Ultimately, it is an unwillingness to feel heart-rending pain that will drive me away from God, not to Him.  Pursuing God (and being pursued by Him) does not occur in a vacuum – it occurs in real relationships with real people bounded by real time with real feelings and issues and problems, because that is simply the reality of life in a fallen world.

So now.  Pain comes; I cannot control that.  But I can choose to respond with wisdom, I can choose to grow as I walk through pain, rather than shutting it off and stunting myself emotionally and otherwise.  And someday, perhaps this practice in feeling pain will make feeling joy all the more exquisite.  I long for that day.

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~ by Susanna on July 26, 2012.

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