Rest and Wounds

After falling last Thursday on the ski slope in Austria, I could barely move. My fall was a mere 150 meters of skiing above the gondola, which I needed to enter in order to get down the mountain, for only the top half is presently up and running. It was getting dark, and every turn made my insides feel as if they were being pulled apart, so much so that I briefly considered sitting on the snow and waiting for help to come.

As the nature of my injury became clear, I did what I’m prone to with everything: research. I visited countless internet sites to discern the finer points of distinction between three possible injuries. What was troubling me was that fact that only one of these three was ‘self healing’. I agonized over this, because I’m one of those people who like to know what’s going on, whether it’s good or bad. Unfortunately, though, my twenty minutes of internet medical training left me ill equipped for an accurate self-diagnosis.

By Monday afternoon, I’d decided that I needed to speak with someone who had more knowledge about these injuries than me. Fortunately, there’s a ‘ski injury specialist’ whose office is within walking distance of the school. He treats members of the Austrian national ski team, so I suspected he might have seen an injury or two in his time. What’s more, he speaks English. That settled it. I made an appointment for Tuesday morning, and was in the examining room by 9AM. (that the whole thing cost me less, by paying straight cash, than it would have cost me out of pocket with my current insurance is another story… for another time).

He looked, poked, assessed range of motion. I explained the injury. “It is not the serious kind” he said. “It will heal on it’s on.” Relief, immediately becomes a question: “How long until it heals?”

“You will know” he says.

“How?” I ask.

“It will stop hurting.”

“But right now I can’t even do a sit-up” I say.

“Your body is telling you to not do sit-ups then. The pain is there for a reason.” And then he said this: “All healing requires pain.”

I walked home, both gladdened by the diagnosis, and pondering that last statement: “all healing requires pain.” I thought of the painful revelations I’ve tried to avoid facing in my life, revelations about hurt, loss, rejection. Try though I have (and still do, at times) to silence the pain, it rises to the surface, revealing my own need for grace and transformation. But facing the pain, and letting the pain do it’s healing work, is as much a necessity for the soul as the body.

Jesus faced the pain of loss in the garden, and it worked towards both his perfection and our healing.

Helmut Theilicke, the German theologian (I won’t tell you which denomination :-) said, “the problem with the church in the West is an inadequate view of suffering.” I might say that there are many other problems as well; inadequate Christology, consumerism, idolatry of wealth and materialism. But Helmut’s right in saying that we have inadequate view of suffering, because we’re trained from the earliest age to build a pain free life.

We learn that every time we’re told that there’s a new drug available for your malady. We learn that when we self medicate away the pain of our isolation. We learn that when we make choices based on self-preservation rather than integrity.

The gift of pain is the shaking and alterations it brings to our lives, precisely so that we might be healed from whatever it is that is robbing us from wholeness. I feel better today, but still can’t do a sit up, so I’m forcing myself to stay of the slopes. Pain is the teacher and the lesson is simple: relax and let go of your demands to master the hill. You’ve a different plan now… but it will still be good.

Cheers…

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Dan

    “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither; so that there was neither hammer, nor ax, nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was building.” This temple represents the church of God, who are called God’s temple, a spiritual house, Jesus Christ being chief cornerstone, and all the saints as so many stones. Particularly by Solomon’s temple is meant the church triumphant, as by the tabernacle the church militant; by the exact fitting, squaring, and smoothing of those stones before they were brought thither, represents the perfection of the saints in glory. Heaven is not a place to prepare them; they are all prepared before they come there. They come perfectly sinless and holy into heaven. The world is the place where God hews them, and squares them by his prophets and ministers (1 Kings 5:6), by the reproofs and warnings of his word, which God compares to a hammer, by persecutions and afflictions. There shall be no noise of these tools heard in heaven, but all these lively stones of this spiritual and glorious building are exactly fitted, framed, and polished before they come there.

    Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture #148
    Attachment

  • http://ejoymiles.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    I like this. A lot.

  • Kevin

    While I can see where he was coming from, it seems that Thielicke lived through two of the most horrific wars of the twentieth-century, so I wonder if his view of suffering was not only influenced but heavily biased by his own experiences. I agree that life is found through the pain and suffering of death, a natural reality from which we are often heavily insulated, but I am wary of anything that smacks of the absolute when it comes to the specific form of such suffering. Is one’s own experience of suffering diminished simply because there are others who have more greatly suffered? Furthermore, if we have become insulated from the suffering of life, how can one remedy such a situation without resorting to self- flagellation and/or monastic asceticism? True, Christ suffered, but was his suffering the purpose of his ministry or simply an incidental reality, the product of happenstance?

    • Dan

      I’d say Christ’s suffering was ordained from the beginning of time, or at least from the point of the fall. Hopefully you don’t think it was merely “happenstance”?

      • Kevin

        Christ came to bring salvation, right? Did he necessarily have to die in order for us to be saved? Is it death itself or an unswerving devotion to bringing about the kingdom–which resulted in death–that saves?

      • Dan

        I agree with Richard.

    • raincitypastor

      Oh… it’s death all right. I’ve neither the time nor space to articulate this, but the reality is that, from Genesis 3 onward, everything points to the death of Cross as the the necessity for a new creation. But suffice it say that Jesus own words declare it in John 12:24. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies… contextually, he’s speaking of his impending death as necessity if there’s to be resurrection life because resurrection life, of necessity is life out from the dead.

      • Kevin

        He was describing the salvific nature of the Kingdom, that when life is poured out freely and lovingly it is found in abundance. Are we called to resurrection life or to life eternal? The first, as you say, is life coming out of death; the other is life undefined and unconstrained by death. The power of the Kingdom of God is such that death no longer holds sway over life, but does that boundless and eternal quality necessarily see life still precipitate death? Must life be exhausted completely in order to be found in abundance (the cross) or is eternal life simply inexhaustible (loaves & fish)?

      • Dan

        man i don’t know how to place things in the right place on this blog. So…

        I agree with Richard

      • Kevin

        It’s just a question, Dan; I’m simply asking why it is that we believe what we believe. In terms of my original question, and in regards to Thielicke’s criticism of Western suffering, my primary concern is any view of suffering that veers towards the absolute, placing one’s suffering in comparison to others and assigning value descending from who has suffered the most. Sure, there are people in this world who have lived through horrors that I can’t imagine, suffered for Christ in ways that I can hardly stomach, but does that render my own experience of God and my own suffering inadequate? I worry that out of a fear for Christianity spreading without the cross and without death that we will become so fixated on these two aspects that we will ultimately perceive the entirety of Christ’s life as nothing more than a protracted funeral march. I’m not asking that we knock down any theological fences, simply that we not settle for Sunday-school answers within those fences.

      • Dan

        Kevin,
        I have pondered my faith pretty in-depth since college, and in that time one of my favorite discoveries is the covenental aspect of the Bible narrative, and in turn, my place in that narrative. I think the Bible is pretty clear that God has had a plan and a people from before the beginning of time. Being a covenental God He makes promises, and since He is God, there is no breaking of those promises (covenants). So even though I don’t in any way discount Jesus life and all He did for the people He encountered face to face, He was born to die, to “encounter” His people through all time. Otherwise He wouldn’t have had to come to us. Since He is eternally existant, the ONLY reason for/need for the incarnation was to die, to save us; fulfilling His covenant to save His people.

        I don’t really follow you in terms assigning more or less value to people’s suffering, so I won’t try to comment. In terms of your first comment though, “why it is that we believe what we believe”…
        …I would hope it’s because of God’s revealed truth in your life, that He gave you through the Holy Spirit, through the hearing and reading of His Word. I believe it is important to read the confessions and catechisms too, because they were written to explain why the church believes what it believes. If a person has a kind of a theoretical belief as opposed to a solid, scripturally-grounded belief, the tougher questions become harder to answer. Let scripture interpret itself, in other words–don’t over-think things–and the theoretical becomes a lot more stable, and the guidance the Bible provides becomes more trustable.

      • Kevin

        Good for you, Dan; I’m glad that you’ve done some good thinking since college, since so many seem to shut down once they leave the academy. And while you’ve come up with some great conclusions, here, perhaps this is where one might find the rub between you and I: I’m not here to answer questions nor to have my questions answered. I am here to live in the question of God, for I believe the question of God the be the sole impetus of human existence. And while I find both Christology and soteriology fascinating, my initial question had little to do with either directly. Let me see if I can’t rephrase my concern in such a way that it makes a little more sense:

        Is it possible for someone to participate in the salvation offered through Christ’s death without succumbing to literal death on a cross, nails and all? I would say yes, that the cross becomes a metaphor in our lives for any number of struggles, and that we are not only saved but sanctified through seeking God in the midst of these struggles. If we take a step away from literal crucifixion as the source of salvation, though, how can we judge between one’s suffering and another’s, how can we say that any one experience of suffering more or less adequate than another?

      • Dan

        Kevin,
        There’s been some sleep, so I’ll try again. And all I have is this: when/where did I say that one person’s suffering is more or less “adequate” in their Christian journey?

  • RJ

    All healing requires pain. I have experienced two great pains in life and I have found this to be incredibly true. I never really liked the Psalms (I typically don’t understand poetry), but I recently read through the book and found great encouragement in the many accounts of anguish and crying through the night. It is not a hopeless pain, but one rooted in the faithfulness of God no matter the circumstances–for that I am grateful. Thanks for the post.

  • Dan

    Kevin’s quote: “Is it possible for someone to participate in the salvation offered through Christ’s death without succumbing to literal death on a cross, nails and all?”

    Kevin,
    Maybe I am just too dense to understand what you are asking. Are you asking if I think people need to literally die on a cross to “participate” in Christ’s salvation? I feel strange answering that, as it doesn’t seem possible that you are asking it. Am I being Amelia Bedelia here, taking what you are asking too literally?

    The Bible definitely touches on “bearing our cross” which is obviously metaphorical.
    And, again quoting you, “If we take a step away from literal crucifixion as the source of salvation”…

    Why would we step away from that? It’s the literal crucifixion that saves us. Jesus literal crucifixion/death…

    …I just had to interrupt/stop myself because I am responding to statements/questions I have to admit, as I read them over and over again, I don’t understand, and it is making me crazy in my attempt to respond.

    Sorry about my confused and disjointed stream of consciousness. I decided, probably unwisely, to post it anyway. If anyone else can help me out here, please do.

  • Dan

    Kevin’s quote: “Is it possible for someone to participate in the salvation offered through Christ’s death without succumbing to literal death on a cross, nails and all?”

    Kevin,
    Maybe I am just too dense to understand what you are asking. Are you asking if I think people need to literally die on a cross to “participate” in Christ’s salvation? I feel strange answering that, as it doesn’t seem possible that you are asking it. Am I being Amelia Bedelia here, taking what you are asking too literally?

    The Bible definitely touches on “bearing our cross” which is obviously metaphorical.
    And, again quoting you, “If we take a step away from literal crucifixion as the source of salvation”…

    Why would we step away from that? It’s the literal crucifixion that saves us. Jesus literal crucifixion/death…

    …I just had to interrupt/stop myself because I am responding to statements/questions I have to admit, as I read them over and over again, I don’t understand, and it is making me crazy in my attempt to respond.

    Sorry about my confused and disjointed stream of consciousness. I decided, probably unwisely, to post it anyway. If anyone else can help me out here, please do.


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