Richard Rohr – Transforming Pain

pain

All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain, with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust and the undeserved—all of which eventually come into every lifetime. If only we could see these “wounds” as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become sacred wounds rather than scars to deny, disguise, or project onto others. I am sorry to admit that I first see my wounds as an obstacle more than a gift. Healing is a long journey.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. This is the storyline of many of the greatest novels, myths, and stories of every culture. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.

Scapegoating, exporting our unresolved hurt, is the most common storyline of human history. The Jesus Story is about radically transforming history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing on the pain to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering, that God is somehow in it and can also use it for good, humanity is in major trouble. Because we will suffer. Even the Buddha said that suffering is part of the deal!

We shouldn’t try to get rid of our own pain until we’ve learned what it has to teach. When we can hold our pain consciously and trustfully (and not project it elsewhere), we find ourselves in a very special liminal space. Here we are open to learning and breaking through to a much deeper level of faith and consciousness. Please trust me on this. We must all carry the cross of our own reality until God transforms us through it. These are the wounded healers of the world, and healers who have fully faced their wounds are the only ones who heal anyone else.

As an example of holding the pain, picture Mary standing at the foot of the cross or, as in Michelangelo’s Pietà cradling Jesus’ body. One would expect her to take her role wailing or protesting, but she doesn’t! We must reflect on this deeply. Mary is in complete solidarity with the mystery of life and death. It’s as if she is saying, “There’s something deeper happening here. How can I absorb it just as Jesus is absorbing it, instead of returning it in kind?” Consider the analogy of energy circuits: Most of us are relay stations; only a minority are transformers—people who actually change the electrical charge that passes through us.

Jesus on the cross and Mary standing beneath the cross are classic images of transformative spirituality. They do not return the hostility, hatred, accusations, or malice directed at them. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection! That’s the core mystery of Christianity. It takes our whole life to begin to comprehend this. It tends to be the wisdom of elders, not youngers.

Unfortunately, our natural instinct is to try to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, to try to understand it. The ego insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold the contraries, until we are moved by grace to a much deeper level and a much larger frame, where our private pain is not center stage but a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed and every tear wept since the beginning of time. Our pain is not just our own.

 

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

 

 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publishing: 2016), 199, 120-121.

On Change, and Why We Hate It


Source of image, HERE)

For some time now, I have engaged in a virtual peripatetic dialogue with a young friend, at the request of his father. Although over 40 years separate us, our dialogue makes both of us discover things about ourselves and about life that we di not know much before. And, many times, good questions prove to be more important that answers, be those good ones.

Our dialogue today is about change and why we tend to refuse it, if not hate it, even when we know is absolutely necessary and unavoidable.

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Q – Why is change so difficult? Change, in itself, is good and beneficial in the sense that it allows us to progress and surmount naturally lazy tendencies, leading to the attainment of a broader mindset and generally greater understanding of this thing we call “life”. So, if we know that change is progress, why is it so hard sometimes? I know that there is also a human, emotional element, and, on the topic, Gibran says that sorrow is like a canyon into which joy pours in, so, logically, the deeper the canyon, the more water it can hold. Knowing this, and knowing that joy and sorrow go together and are part of life, why does this concept of change still frighten and sometimes sadden us so?

A – Humans are essentially conservative, complacent beings. This may be, at the psychological level, another implication of the law of entropy.

Change is painful, and that is, probably, another reason we run away from change. Nobody likes pain. Yet, without pain there is no growth nor maturity. Continue reading “On Change, and Why We Hate It”

Christa Black Gifford – Human Pain vs Goodness of God

Christ Black Gifford

What an amazing thought!

What do you think?

Richard Rohr – Pain As a Way of Knowing

Suffering is the necessary deep feeling of the human situation. If we don’t feel pain, suffering, human failure and weakness, we stand antiseptically apart from it, and remain numb and small. We can’t fully understand such things by thinking about them. The superficiality of much of our world is that it tries to buy its way out of such necessary knowing.

Jesus did not numb himself or withhold himself from human pain, as we see even in his refusal of the numbing wine on the cross (Matthew 27:34). Some forms of suffering are necessary so that we can more fully know the human dilemma, so that we can even name our shadow self and confront it. Maybe evil itself has to be felt to understand its monstrosity, and to empathize with its victims. Continue reading “Richard Rohr – Pain As a Way of Knowing”

Richard Rohr – The Sacred Wound

Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. It is first an ordinary wound before it can become a sacred wound. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.”

All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If your religion is not showing you how to transform your pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity. Continue reading “Richard Rohr – The Sacred Wound”

Sermon – Demandingness and the cross on Vimeo

Sermon – Demandingness and the cross on Vimeo on Vimeo

via Sermon – Demandingness and the cross on Vimeo.

Here is my son’s latest sermon. I see he wears a Celtic cross now. Quite good for a Presbyterian.

Conversation with God

titian_rastignirea

Titian – Crucifixion

I said, “God, I hurt”.
And God said, “I know”.

I said, ” God I cry a lot”.
And God said, ” That is why I gave you tears”.

Continue reading “Conversation with God”