While I was in Mexico, a friend asked me if I could choose one thing to be remembered for when people looked at my life.
Without hesitation, I knew.
Articulating the full scope of what I think that means and entails has been a whole different challenge that I am continually epically failing at.
But a few days ago another friend reminded me of something I said many years ago, “I don’t want to have a washing machine until everyone on my block has a washing machine.”
I had completely forgotten I said that, and most of the time I feel so far from that statement, yet I think it’s the simplest way to say what I actually want to live.
Does my love prefer the other or does my love just make me feel good?
I’m getting to this point where I’m thinking: Is there any other kind of love other than suffering love? Is love still love unless it’s been tested and tried through pain? Pain seems to be apart of the wonderful journey of loving. And I think that simply sharing pain is what heals us in the end. It’s why sitting in silence over tears somehow speaks louder than any of our words. Those that learn to share pain with us rather than try quick fix solutions are really what we’re all looking for, right?
We’ve constructed comfort so that we can avoid the true rhythms that shape our world. That’s why some love to re-enter the real. From sleeping out in nature, enduring all the rain, chills, to the worn-out moments of exhaustion, sleepless nights, and yet they taste, see, and smell real beauty.
We don’t eat seasonally. We don’t know the tides or ways the stars are shifting in moving the sky above us. We like our gates and white picket fences to keep people out. We like our space heaters. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. Meanwhile, I don’t think we’re recognizing we’re air-conditioning ourselves out of the persistence that life requires.
But back to the point. Pain is necessary to go through to not only be a good human being but to also be a beautiful person.
You meet people, you look them in the eyes and you just know that they have experienced the breath-taking journeys that entail the ups and downs of life. You know they have experienced enough failures to realize their fragility. These are the people who have realized what life really is. Most of them have faith too.
And then there’s Mary of Bethany in the Bible. What is it that she did that made Jesus say that every time the gospel would be preached her story would be shared?
I’ve never heard the gospel shared with her story. A prostitute pouring out perfume upon him, preparing him for burial. But if she’s a prostitute this isn’t only a perfume that would be valued at about a years worth of income- it also was her means of income. She was recognizing his death and saying, “Let me join you in this.” Basically, “If you go down I’m going with you.” She gave everything she had. Some translations say that she broke the flask. She took all she had and said, “You’re about to give all you have, this is all I got. You’re about to be broken, me too.”
And I think that’s the true invitation. He’s calling us to join him in his death. She knows his mercy- otherwise, she never would have been bold enough to sit at his feet. She never would have approached him pouring out her livelihood to him unless she knew his tenderness and lovingkindness.
And before he even invited her to suffer with him, she realized the call: join him in suffering love for the whole world. A life poured out so that others can taste the very same tender lovingkindness.
True compassion involves joining others in experiencing their pain. It is not feeling from afar, but joining in. Love joins in the pain. And I think that is what actually heals us.
Love wants to enter into the experiences of those they love. And when you enter into humanity, it inherently requires pain. God knew this, and the climax of entering into pain was to the point of death.
Song of Songs says it best:
“I’ve made up my mind. Until the darkness disappears and the dawn has fully come, in spite of shadows and fears, I will go to the mountaintop with you— the mountain of suffering love and the hill of burning incense. Yes, I will be your bride.”
Until we reach the point where darkness disappears completely we live in this interlinear state of bliss in the beloved and also joining him in his love for the world. Somehow pain is required in the process of loving the other- we will watch them go through hardship, watch them lose themselves, and he is inviting us to hurt with them through it all.
In the same way that when we share a smile, an adventure, or a cup of tea with another it is as if we are hugging God, when we cry with another, sit in silence over loss, and struggle when there is separation, we carry his cross.
Because when love is all about us we dip out real quick when it no longer brings comfort. But when the best for the other is at stake, we will go to great lengths to join them in it if it's love.
So if you’re heart is breaking at rejection, if it hurts to watch your friends go through it, then you’re in the right place.
But he always lets us taste the mercy before we break.
If I'm honest with myself, I've never had to face anything hard. I didn’t grow up with abuse, under the poverty line, or with some of the problems often faced by those growing up these days. Yet, we all have different levels of pain based on our experiences.
And here I am, now recognizing how desperate I am. I am just as capable of losing myself as the next person.
I went into the year at one of the highest points in my life, when I felt the closest to God, felt the most strong. Yet, I let a toxic relationship define me and ended up incapable of getting out of bed for many months.
How’s that for humbling?
I choose to believe that one day the darkness will flee, and how beautiful will it be to know I was apart of the story. To know that I got to be with Him on that cross.
I think there’s no other form of love other than suffering love, but what comes after the breaking is the sweetest of scents.
I'm banking my life on the fact that it will be well worth it.
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