Happy New Year!

“In life, suffering does not seem to be optional. Suffering in silence, however, does.”

Today is the first day of the new church year and so a great time for new beginnings.

As regular readers of this blog (well, better said, those who have attempted to read the non-existent regularly posted content) you have likely noticed that this blog has suffered from a very neglectful mother.

I could offer several reasons for my neglect, and may over time, but presently I’m a bit tired of my own excuses, so, for today, I’m just going to acknowledge my negligence and move on to the subject of the day.

 Happy New Year!

New beginnings are a natural time to take stock of the present.  As Jesus’ words to Martha suggest, we aren’t always so good at knowing our own present reality.

 “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.”

So, did Martha not know that she was worried and bothered?  I’m thinking maybe she didn’t.  When I look at my own life, I see how often I lose touch with my inner world when the external world is not going the way I prefer… or could it be that the outer world isn’t going so well because I’ve lost touch with the inner one?

As readers, we see Martha’s distraction but usually focus more on her resentment of Mary and her anger at Jesus:

 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Interestingly, Jesus does not confront Martha on her resentment, he begins by naming her suffering, giving voice to her pain, tending her inner world instead of addressing her outer unloving behavior.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.”

In the last week, as I have begun to take stock of my own inner world, the phrase “suffering in silence” keeps coming up for me.  When I heard the phrase inside myself, I immediately recognized two things:

My practice of suffering in silence is very, VERY deeply rooted. Even the idea of giving voice to my pain stirs both panic and resistance at a deep level within me.

The second thing I thought of was the Jewish practice of lament. How different are the ways of the people in my faith heritage!  When in pain, they wore sack cloth and ashes. (No wonder I’ve been wearing so much black these days.)  If their pain was profound, they even hired professional mourners to give more voice to their pain than one mouth could offer.  The Psalms are full of lament. There is a whole book on it for goodness sake: Lamentations.

In giving voice to Martha’s pain, Jesus was inviting her to no longer suffer in silence.

In life, suffering does not seem to be optional.  Suffering in silence, however, does.

And maybe letting go of my preference for it is the first step toward healing. Maybe.

On one hand, this doesn’t seem like a very good way to begin a New Year.  Who wants to talk about suffering? Much less name their suffering out loud for others to see and know? On the other hand, I know from experience that truths like these tend to make great soil for new life and growth.

I also know that as a blogger, my greatest gift to you, my fellow travelers, is authenticity. And wrestling with the phrase “suffering in silence” is, quite simply, where I am today as this New Year begins.

So, where are you, my friends?  If you can imagine the compassionate eyes of Jesus looking deep within your heart, beneath the outer shell of “good” or “bad” behavior, what would He see? What comes to mind for you as you take stock on this New Year’s Day?

  • Lori Wenner

    I have missed your blog but the absence of posts has made me appreciate them all the more. You, Janet, have taught me to name so many things including my pain. I am now comfortable sharing my pain with those I trust, I no longer smile and say everything is ok when it isn’t. Thank you for teaching me to experience all of my humanness.

  • marygems

    I agree with Lori- when you do post, what you have written has been a major part of recent growth for me. I have kept your posts in an online journal to read and reflect upon, because they have been of the deep and meaningful variety. I also relate to what you are saying because there is a particular battle that has been going on in my life for as long as I can remember- nearly 60 years- and I have drawn comfort from your authentic sharing.
    I never worry about how regularly someone posts- it is quality not quantity that is relevant.

    Like Lori, I too have learnt not to put on my happy mask when I am truly far from happy.
    It has been liberating to share honestly with certain trusted friends.
    They tell me that i am teaching them to be authentic- well- i am learning it from you, and from others who blog with such gifted and evocative expressions of the reality of what we get to deal with in life.

    Experiencing our humanness is important. God told me clearly, some years ago, that until I allowed myself to feel the pain, i couldn’t feel joy.

    Dear Janet- may I pray this for you today, dear sister-in-Christ?
    My prayer for you is that God will be your God in every circumstance. I pray that in every season of your life you will seek Him, rely on Him, press into Him. I pray that you will be rooted in God your God, so that when things do not make sense, you will know deep that HE IS GOD, and HE’S GOT THIS. I pray in the name of Jesus, Who is the WAY, the TRUTH, the LIFE. Amen.

  • Bill DeForest

    On special occasions, like with today’s resolute resolutions or best intentions, we lay it out there for the whole world to see; like the lolling, slobbery grey-pink tongue of a dog; not the most lovely part of us but one that still needs sunshine and warmth.
    It’s hard to argue with pain-that’s why it’s so effective-but, pain may be unspoken but it’s never hidden. Like the hound licking its chops, pain curls and probes and seeks its own level-usually close to some tolerable threshold. It’s the naming, in community, which robs it of power: Jesus named it and thus brought Martha into community with him. When we name our pain in community; when we dare to speak its name, the bark may still startle us; the bite is not nearly so bad.