I finally figured it out.
It will sound crazy to most people, I’m certain, but then, most of the time when one of us flawed humans utters the phrase, “I’ve finally figured it out”, the rest of us tend to don hard hats, hip waders, or whatever other analogy you like to signify the expectation of flawed reasoning, outright falsehoods, or else the kind of rhetoric once found primarily on internet sites like Angelfire and Geocities, usually centered 20 point Times Roman set to blink. Nothing makes a crazy point crazier than blinking text.
So here goes. For the last several years, I’ve been living with fairly constant pain. I think I know why this is happening to me.
On the surface, the problem seems to be that I had some teeth extracted, and when I did, terrible things happened to my jaw, which has in turn caused me to suffer from TMJ. That’s the non blinky text response.
The real reason, I think, is to teach me about character, and about parenting.
I don’t believe things happen for no reason. I’m in good company; Einstein said that God doesn’t play dice with the world. Of course, if He did, we’d be in for something of a bumpy ride, but I get the point Al was trying to make; we aren’t subject to random acts of a whimsical deity. Scripture has a lot to say on this, and I feel that the Bible is somewhat more authoritative on this point. I like Proverbs 16:9 most: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
We’re not always given to understand things. Why a son commits suicide, why a father is lost in an accident, or why people suffer from terrible illnesses. There’s always going to be someone who’s got it worse than I do, someone who’s situation defies even the most seasoned of silver lining detectors. I can never explain why, and I don’t try. You see, I tend to look at these things like rainbows.
In order for a rainbow to be visible, you have to have just the right density of water vapor refracting towards the viewer at an angle of 42 degrees. We see that rainbow because our viewing angle permits it, but that’s not what’s creating the rainbow; the rainbows are there all the time. There are thousands of potential rainbows, viewable to anyone able to stand at just the right angle. In fact, there are some angles which allow one to see a complete circle of a rainbow.
Along those lines, I believe that our lives, and the ultimate good to which our Father leads us are like those round rainbows. We can’t see them all the time, but for an omniscient Being, able to see everything from every angle…well, you get the idea. Rainbows everywhere, even in places that, from our perspective, seem dark.
But that’s not what I came to understand. What I’ve learned is that I am a brat. I am a terrible person who suffers from that most common of afflictions: I believe that life should be easy. And for the most part, it has been.
I get angry at the guy who cuts me off in traffic, forgetting that the universe was not designed to protect me from the actions of my fellow brats. Rather than forgive the knucklehead in front of me, modeling the actions of my savior, I allow myself to act callously, and I shout and holler. Pitiful, really, when my trivial first world problems compare to Christ’s forgiveness of his executioners, of us all, even from the very cross.
And so that brings us to these headaches. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the course of the last four or five years. For example, I’ve learned that our personas are not indivisible singletons. We are lights, just as the Lord described us. Those lights, like rainbows, are comprised of many different shades, different components, which vary in strength sometimes. I have felt myself, that part of me which is me, shine on a few rare days like a torch, and gutter on my worst days like a votive candle in a high wind.
I’ve learned that pain is as multifaceted as our personas. Some pain can be dealt with, can be worked through. Some pain is as death; debilitating to points beyond reason, to lead to moments where the desire, the need for relief becomes the only coherent thought left. Pain can affect you in ways that you would never expect. I’ve lost balance, lost vision, lost the ability to reason, to control my emotions.
Through all of this pain, however, I’ve not yet learned the one lesson which I now believe to be the reason for this suffering. I’ve never learned to suffer joyfully. I’ve never learned to place others over my own torment, and I believe that I will continue to suffer at least until I do. I may suffer beyond this lesson, but that’s inconsequential.
Rather than take to my bed, I must learn to continue working for my family, to continue to, at the barest of minimums, be there for these little people who are little for so short a time. I must show them that suffering does not relieve us from the obligations to our Lord and to each other; I must show them that it is possible to suffer gladly, and to do that, I must stop attempting to find the strength within myself, but rely upon the strength of He who made me. In Christ, all things are truly possible.
So, summary time, the pithy little wind up to send you on your way, like an after dinner mint. Never been good at those, but I’ll take a swing. Before I do though, I would say one other thing. I don’t have the first clue of what kind of hardships that you, dear reader, are facing. I hear stories, regularly, from people in all walks of life that shake me down to my boots from empathy. I am in no way trying to tell you that what I’ve come to realize is an explanation for me in any shape or form applies to you. I can’t see that rainbow that the disparate facets of your life, of your pain, are casting to glorify God. I can only see a faint arc of my own.
Nietzsche said that that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think Nietzsche was ahead of his time; he’d have had a great page on Angelfire. He didn’t think about celery, and he didn’t think about time. Time both strengthens us all, and eventually kills us all. Which time is doing to you presently depends on your point of view. Like rainbows.
And celery, well.. Think about it.
Anyhow, summary: I suffer for the same reason that we forge steel; to strengthen me, to brighten me so that I may better reflect the glory of our Lord, and to teach me. This isn’t crazy.