I stand at my window peering through the blinds – afraid to be seen and knowing that if discovered I will have visited upon myself the worst of my fears. I batten down the hatches and make no effort to stand out. As always there are children playing in their yards, fathers washing their cars and mothers hanging their clothes on the line – the typical Saturday in a community where (like Cheers) everyone knows your name.
It is true that while others know our names, our stories are as unfamiliar to one another as are the strangers to whom we have never met. I continue watching, knowing that soon the children will scatter and hide, as will the fathers and mothers that tend now to their daily chores. Yes, the scene that unfolds daily here will change, transitioning into a scene full of fear, uncertainty, and chaos. This is what terrifies me…this is the reason I hide behind these walls.
My assumption is correct and soon my prediction comes to pass, the children are frantic, the parents even more so. The shadowy figure that has visited himself upon my neighbors has again made his untimely appearance. Fear now creeps through the streets like slow churning ooze. I step back from the window and hold my breath, praying he does not come to my door.
The streets are empty now; as everyone has taken notice of the thief, they call pain. Soon there is a knock on my door, a slow, steady, and hard knock. He is letting me know (in no uncertain terms) that he intends to come in. I am persistent in my refusal to answer, yet he is all the more – a standoff that I am sure to lose. Pain will have his day whether I choose to invite him in or not. I am reluctant, but complicit, knowing that the sooner I get it over with the better off I will be. I slowly and cautiously begin the process of allowing this unwelcomed visitor into my home.
As the door swings open, pain floods into my home like the warmth of an afternoon sun radiating off the windowpanes. I am rendered speechless; the pain is intense and I am stripped of whatever strength I perceived myself to have. I am lying now at the foot of the door and unable to move, or even cry out for help. Pain now fully enters my home and leaves me begging for death. Those whom have had the unlucky pleasure of entertaining his company will say that in time it gets better. I disagree; the pain is still there, we just don’t feel it anymore.
Pain like medicine is good in small doses; it still tastes bad, but serves its purpose in making us stronger. Unfortunately, when pain is poured and not measured it is deadly. Pain in small doses will let us know we still have life, but too much will leave us wishing we didn’t. So how do we manage when the pain is so great that death is the better option? We don’t! The truth is that pain usually manages us. We see this often in those that have a pulled muscle, a pinched nerve, or a twisted ankle. Watch how they walk…how they carry themselves. It doesn’t take long for the casual observer to notice that something is wrong. We see the limp, we notice how one might favor their hurting members.
If this is true of our physical bodies than it stands to reason that it is likewise true of our non-physical bodies as well. When we hurt…we limp! We favor the part that is hurting until the pain stops, or until we stop noticing the pain (The former to our benefit – the latter to our detriment). When pain makes his home in our heart and becomes for us a new normal, we are in grave danger of losing sight of others and the pain they too have borne. We become less sympathetic, less concerned, calloused and hard hearted toward others who are also hurting, those who just need to know that someone understands and is willing to walk with them, and if able, to share in shouldering that burden. I am grateful that through it all I have “a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” A friend that walked his own road, full of suffering and pain, but still willing to return in hopes that he might shoulder mine as well.
2 COR 1:3-8
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.