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?