I remember clutching to my Curious George doll when I was five years old, tears falling in a cloud of confusion. One hand holding on to my dad’s shirt and wondering why my sister and I were being taken away. That night, I was in so much pain. I still wonder how in one moment, how one person can experience so much loss? Are we destined to feel pain, to lose, to get diseases and die? Is this our fate? These are very loaded questions. Below is merely an opinion in response to those questions…
Pain forces us to look outside of ourselves. Sometimes in the middle of searching for the thing outside of us, we sometimes the thing that lies outside of us isn’t some ideal heaven waiting for us, but that heaven lies in the person next to us. Heaven is the realization that we don’t have to go through this alone. that no matter how hard, painful, diseased life gets that we are part of something even bigger than death — humanity.
Because hollywood is good at finding ways to distort our desire, or because our Sunday School teachers have been trained to believe in non-existent idealism, we have come to believe the lie that perfection lies somewhere over the rainbow. That Oz is waiting for us to find it. Don’t get me wrong, I am open to the possibility that Heaven does exist, but I think its a lot different than we think.
I think its here, now.
When we choose to be there for one another, that is heaven.
Some look at the early parts of Genesis as a narrative about sin and why we experience this groaning within, but I think that that explanation might fall short not only of its context, but also castrate the power of realizing that pain, disease, death are part of our divinity. That to be divine is to experience and embrace what we have come to call our depravity or fallibility.
This doesn’t mean we don’t try to journey on and make sense of why we experience what we experience. To me, that is an essential part of the journey, but to reduce our life experiences down to the cause of sin almost cheapens life down to a process where we fix something we aren’t capable of fixing.
Death, disease, pain and loss are inevitable as sun in the summer. But, they aren’t the enemy.
The Hebrew word for pain is ahahh, pronounced a-haw. It means ‘Oh’ with an exclamation. Its like the ‘Oh’ not again. Or ‘Oh’ I can’t believe this happened. Its an exclamation and epiphany of powerlessness over that situation. Not a bad place to be. It’s a good place to be. Why? Because it reminds us that there is something bigger than now that is happening. That we aren’t the center of the story. That there is more to our own importance at stake. To experience ‘Oh’ is to experience liberation out of our need to be in control.
Notice that the Hebrew word for pain isn’t a way to fix the pain. It embraces the pain as part of the reality, yet it still honestly responds to it. Sometimes we have this idea that to be self-less means to never mention our struggles, but what if our silence is impeding others in their opportunity to be there for you? Your grief is their growth. Your growth is their grief.