Lent: the searing lesson

This trembling mystery: love cannot exist without pain.

Love brings the pain; it lets pain in. The key to all that makes us vulnerable. And alive.

And hurt.

And alive.

Pain can exist without love, but not the reverse.

All creation is loved into being. Did that make the Creator vulnerable, too?

At the Incarnation, God-with-us came helpless, for us, with us, to us.

The reassuring love…

But did Christ also need to come to tell us God hurt?

To show us the hurt, and expose the pain – to show God alive, and hurt?

Once the great pope, John Paul II was found, embracing the Tabernacle in his arms, and crooning a Polish song as a parent would use to comfort a child. When asked about it, he replied, “I don’t know how else to comfort Him…”

Was the tree of knowledge off-limits to keep us from knowing love the way God knew it – love so full of the ache of longing, of such be-longing – as might break our hearts and leave us broken. So, broken.

Saved, but broken. Mended, but never whole.

Did wisdom bring the awareness of love, and love the knowledge of hurt?

Did God try to shield us from knowing what He knew – the way we know (the way we’ve learned) – how to bring it; the pain.

This Lent has brought it – the searing lesson I am better for learning but wish I had never known:

Everyone I have ever loved I have hurt.

Awful knowledge. Unendurable. Knowledge to make one appreciate doubt and the easier way; the way of no cross.

Because if I love, and I make hurt, I am culpable. My fault, my own fault, my most grievous fault.

O save me.

Knowing all I can’t undo, I can only ask for mercy, and can only be mercy in return.

Which is insufficient.

Whom we love, we hurt, because we know we can.

And understanding that brings the deepest hurt of all.

Self-loathing can be treated and contained, like most outbreaks, but containment does not cure.

The knowing – the “happy fault” of Adam – is too much to be borne, a travel-case so over-packed and heavy I cannot lift it. I am impeded and thus imperiled. There is no way forward without the God who has loved me without causing pain, even as I’ve loved him back the way I’ve loved all my own – imperfectly; faulty love that has come with a scourge – too, too often with a scourge.

I asked for a fruitful Lent. It’s not even half over.

Be careful what you ask for in prayer. God takes you at your word, and He is an abidingly patient but thorough teacher, with unsoundable depths.

There is no hurt so deep, though, that Jesus is not deeper, still. The trembling mystery of love that I cling to.

But now I understand, a little, why some prefer not to believe, at all.

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • ricki

    Thank you, Anchoress.

    I needed to read that today. I see a lot of people around me who are going through a time of hurt and your thoughts on Christ coming into the world, and the idea of the tree of “Knowledge” being tied up with hurt…somehow that helps me.

    The story about John Paul II and the Tabernacle made me cry a little, too.

  • http://www.spiritualthingsmatter.com Viola Jaynes

    Oh Anchoress, somehow I feel your heart in this post, and somehow I can relate. My prayers are with you…and me…and all of us that desire Him.

  • roro

    what a reversal! That God needs and can be comforted. I never thought of this.

    Doesn’t the mystery of love reside in the intuition of our oneness, that eye-contact across our individual incarnations, with the pain that results from this separation somehow the condition without which the desire to unite would have no meaning? I mean, that is why it hurts to love, because the bridging of the gap is always imperfect. It doesn’t require particular failures or moral shortcomings to create this remorse. Comprehending the eternal heartache is as simple as watching a loved one board a train.

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  • SueC

    Oh Anchoress,
    I am so thankful,humbled and enriched when I read you at your most vulnerable points. You have kept me mindful during Lent and opened yourself (and your readers) to the considerations that would challenge even the strongest person. What a gift you have. Prayers to you and to all of us who pause to deepen our belief, love and need for the Loving Creator who wishes to cradle us and our pain in the palm of His Hand.

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  • http://www.justgrits.wordpress.com Obis_Sister

    You are always in my prayers.

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