Difficult Lent – Love, Pain and Balance

It’s been a difficult Lent, for me, at least. Lots of things to ponder, and so little free time to really do it. One thing I’ve learned this Lent is that I am lending more time to work than to the things that matter. Not that work doesn’t matter. It certainly does, and I love my job, and I am grateful, every single day to be able to make a living as a writer. But too much work has taken time away from people, from prayer and from the simple duties I have to the people I love and the God I worship.

And the other simple duty, which is to be make time to really think about things: to use reason and contemplation and be open to instruction.

A hard Lent. Today has been very hard, indeed. So hard, I don’t even have words for it. That’s a new one.

The last time it was this hard, I posted this:

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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  • http://www.lisagraas.com Lisa Graas

    Prayers for you, my sister.

    I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. — Galatians 2:20

  • http://anotherespressoplease.blogspot.com coffeemom

    THanks for posting this Anchoress: the repost and the video. I had forgotten that video but it’s one of my favorites of his, and perfect for this hard last week of lent.
    This has been a hard lent all around. Maybe middle age makes lent harder? I don’t know….but, I’m with you….kind of an excruciating dry scrabble of hard, knocking some of the words right away (I hear the cheering from the peanut gallery on my end…).
    Next week will be harder still, but ah, Easter approaches!

  • Jamie Irons

    Thank you for those beautiful thoughts, so unsparingly expressed. The video, as it echoed your remarks, brought me to tears.

    Only recently I learned of, purchased, and listened to Cash’s “American VI: Ain’t No Grave,” which reverberates with the same sort of deep and painful beauty.

    Jamie Irons

  • Gia

    Thank you so much for posting this. What an inspired piece!
    Each lent seems to bring me deeper into the dual mystery of God’s love and pain, as well. Middle age is for that, if we’re open. (and maybe even if we’re not!)

    Also, since you haven’t posted an email here, I’d wanted to share this wonderful new blogger (my pastor). Here was Mark’s posting about it….

  • Veronica

    I am in too much pain myself to read this through.

    However, I did read the last line: “But now I understand, a little, why some prefer not to believe, at all.”

    Indeed! I envy them sometimes.

  • Kate

    At the age of 60, all of life begins to seem like one long Lent.

  • Veronica

    Kate, no truer words, and thank you for, in an indirect way (since you don’t know me from Adam!), letting me know that I am not alone.

    I will be happy when Our Lord calls me Home. In fact, I am ready to go whenever HE is ready for me!!