Finding Release From Pain

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  ― C.S. Lewis

After I finish a time of meditation and prayer, I am going to confront a close friend about her life-long addiction to pain-killers and other prescription drugs.  For many decades now she has used and abused a medical system that is all too willing to promise temporary relief from painful symptoms — at a great cost financially, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Having sacrificed her body, mind, and spirit to drug experimentation, she is now nearly incapable of decision making, only to groan and moan that the pain is still present.

To read more, click on the title below —

“Release From Pain”

Jesus heals hurting woman...

“Jesus heals hurting woman…”  from Steve Soukup in Favorite Bible Art

The Purpose of Pain

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.  (Colossians 1:24)

We live in an culture where countless resources (time, talent, and money) are spent trying to escape suffering.  Whether it be the pharmaceutical industry manufacturing drugs to relieve pain, the entertainment industry developing technology to relieve boredom, or the lottery and casino industries creating a false illusion of relief from financial hardships – we are constantly sold the idea that suffering (in all forms) is a terrible enemy to be avoided at all costs.

The Christian view of suffering runs counter to the world’s.  Paul says he rejoices in his suffering.  We don’t know everything that Paul suffered – but from what is revealed, we know that he suffered profoundly – physically, emotionally, relationally, even spiritually.

Yet, Paul saw purpose in his pain.  He believed his personal suffering benefited his brothers and sisters in the church, strengthening the body of Christ.  His willingness to choose the hard road of faith in spite of his suffering has been an inspiration to others throughout the ages who would likewise suffer much.

I think of the suffering a good friend is facing right now as she agonizes over the decision to choose the familiar, seemingly comfortable path of addiction or the long, arduous road of recovery.  I pray for her, and her friends and family who are suffering with her and making choices themselves whether their support is investing in her recovery or contributing to her addiction.

I pray that the pain we are experiencing now would have purpose – that it would strengthen us individually as believers, draw us closer to the body of Christ, and lead us to a deeper relationship with God.

A world of pain and love by Marco Piunti

“A world of pain and love by Marco Piunti” from  Nina Kassai in Pencil + Paper + Idea

Pleasure in (watching) Pain: “The Poetics of Aristotle – IV”, part one

In the first three sections of The Poetics of Aristotle  (which I reflect on here , here and here), Aristotle addresses the form (genre), the objects (characters), and the manner (perspective) of poetics (drama).  Section IV digs into the foundation for poetics.

      Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he  is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated.

We learn things by “acting them out”.  Acting things out also brings us pleasure, whether we are the actors or the audience.  I remember from way back playing school with my uncle Geoff.  He always had to be the “teacher”, which was fine with me.  I found pleasure following his lead and acting out my part.

Aristotle continues —

We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. The cause of this again is, that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general; whose capacity, however, of learning is more limited. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, ‘Ah, that is he.’ For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the colouring, or some such other cause. 

Inside the Acting for Film & Television Campus by vancouverfilmschool

People are drawn to both drama and melodrama that acts out human misery.  From the agony of Oedipus killing his father and sleeping with his mother to the latest Jerry Springer episode which depicts, well, people wanting to kill their father and sleep with their mothers (or something like that),  we like to observe others facing moral dilemmas.  More than this, we enjoy watching actors struggle while we’re curled up in the theater seats munching on popcorn and leaning back in the recliner eating ice cream.

Aristotle goes on to examine two aspects of poetics —

      Poetry now diverged in two directions, according to the individual character of the writers. The graver spirits imitated noble actions, and the actions of good men. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons, at first composing satires, as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men. A poem of the satirical kind cannot indeed be put down to any author earlier than Homer; though many such writers probably there were. But from Homer onward, instances can be cited,—his own Margites, for example, and other similar compositions. The appropriate metre was also here introduced; hence the measure is still called the iambic or lampooning measure, being that in which people lampooned one another. Thus the older poets were distinguished as writers of heroic or of lampooning verse.    

So basically, as a writer of classic drama, you could go in one of two directions.  You could take the “nobler” route, and write of the heroic deeds of gods and men or you could offer “lampooning verse” and playfully expose their weaknesses.

The question I would raise is – “Does the noble path still exist for the contemporary playwright?”  I honestly don’t know enough about modern theater to know how others approach it.  Speaking for myself, I firmly believe all human beings are created in the image of God and, though this image has been seriously stained by sin, there is still the possibility of redemption (and thus nobility).   Certainly, just as the Greeks praise their gods in hymns, we can praise God in songs, dialogue, and action.  So, yes, we can produce plays that imitate nobility.

And we certainly produce satire that lampoons flaws in human figures as well as the false images of God so prevalent in culture.  I just wrote a scene in “Liberty” today I called “An Earnest Faith Healer” that was based on a performance I saw in the freshman talent show at Hanover combined with a story I was told when I attended seminary.  I didn’t find much pleasure in writing it, as I was portraying a very true-to-life example that is so tragically wrong you have to laugh to keep from crying.

I will leave off here and pick up the latter part of section IV in a later post…

(image “Inside the Acting for Film &…”  from vancouverfilmschool, some rights reserved)

Some Good Writing on Faith in WordPress

candle

I spent some time this evening exploring posts tagged “Faith” in WordPress. Before I share with you my findings, I should probably disclose some of my criteria for selecting “some good writing on faith.”  I’ll name three.

1)  Good writing on faith stays true to the (broad) parameters of the Biblical narrative.  I’m not looking to promote a particular theology here, but I do find truth best represented in God’s Word written (the Bible) and, most fully, made flesh (Jesus Christ).

2)  Good writing on faith conveys the Spirit of humility about what can be known, and a sense of awe about God’s wondrous creation.  The Bible says we are “stewards of the mysteries of God”.  Good stewards don’t explain away the mysteries, but learn to “contain the contradictions.”

3)  Good writing on faith reveals something extraordinary about the ordinary.

With these search tips in mind, I went on my quest and this is what I found….

The Parable of the Unscrupulous Judge” (21st Century Faith) examines a key ingredient of faith in the story Jesus told of a persistent woman.

Already/Not Yet.  Maybe.  We’ll see.” (Faith, Fertility, and the F Word) shares a brief cautious yet hopeful expectation of a pregnant father.

A Prayer for Guidance” (musings of a recent college graduate) uncovers an old prayer and lets it come to life in new ways.

“-pathy” (stay gold.) wonders about the uniqueness of feeling deeply the pain of others.

Glorious, Not Tidy” (It Goes Without Saying) describes a simple, yet profound revelation one busy mom receives in a conversation at church.

The Faith of God in Himself Now in Us” (Immortality Road) contends that the source and substance of the faith in us is God’s.

I Have In My Hands…” (Peaceful Partings) leaps from a quote by author Annie Dillard into the a well-worded reflection on good and worthy intentions for writing.

(image “Candle light” from Alesa Dam, some rights reserved)

The Death (and ultimate life) of Ivan Ilyich

In the eleventh post of Christmas, I truly give to you…

the death of ivan ilych

Leo Tolstoy’s short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich is at times an excruciating book to read.  Ivan Ilyich’s callous social climbing, care-free lifestyle and heart-less unconcern for his family are difficult to bear.  When he becomes chronically ill, one almost cheers for his payback, but we are made to instead endure his unending complaints and cries for relief.  At one point in his suffering, he scolds his wife –

“For Christ’s sake let me die in peace!” he said.

She would have gone away, but just then their daughter came in and went up to say good morning. He looked at her as he had done at his wife, and in reply to her inquiry about his health said dryly that he would soon free them all of himself. They were both silent and after sitting with him for a while went away.

“Is it our fault?” Lisa said to her mother. “It’s as if we were to blame! I am sorry for papa, but why should we be tortured?”

It seems nothing can be done to relieve Ivan Ilyich’s suffering (and insufferability) and it only grows steadily worse.  As the end draws near, he spends three full days simply calling out a monosyllabic cry, “Oh!”

He is lost – alone – in his struggle.  But just when it seems he will go to his grave suffering alone, his neglected son enters the room.  He becomes aware of his son’s presence.

At that very moment Ivan Ilych fell through and caught sight of the light, and it was revealed to him that though his life had not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified. He asked himself, “What is the right thing?” and grew still, listening. Then he felt that someone was kissing his hand. He opened his eyes, looked at his son, and felt sorry for him. His wife came up to him and he glanced at her. She was gazing at him open-mouthed, with undried tears on her nose and cheek and a despairing look on her face. He felt sorry for her too.

“Yes, I am making them wretched,” he thought. “They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die.” He wished to say this but had not the strength to utter it. “Besides, why speak? I must act,” he thought. with a look at his wife he indicated his son and said: “Take him away…sorry for him…sorry for you too….” He tried to add, “Forgive me,” but said “Forego” and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered would understand.

In his deathbed confession – to his family, and to God – Ivan Ilyich finds the grace to die in peace.  The pain is still there, but he doesn’t focus on it.  He chooses instead to take the self-less path of gratitude for those who surround him, who care for him, who make it possible for him not to die alone.

As a pastor, I have seen many people at the verge of death and I’ve seen some as they died.  Some die peacefully.  Others resist.  It isn’t always the case that those who are right with God and others die a more peaceful death.  Sometimes the suffering is still agonizing.  But it makes a big difference when we can clear our slate by asking for and accepting Christ’s forgiveness and making the most of whatever time we have remaining.

I like the way one prayer I’ve said puts it,

Give us your grace, O God, to live as those prepared to die, that we may go forth to live so that, living or dying, we may always walk with you.

How about you?  Are you ready to die so you can fully live?

(image “The Death of Ivan Ilych” from  Dottie B., some rights reserved)

*****

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you…. “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the second post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake.”

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Some of the Best Christmas Blog Posts for 2012

– In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “I Wonder as I Wander

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the sixth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress